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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Red Reading Boots: The Tapper Twins

by Melanie Heuiser Hill

I’m generally a reader of “traditional novels,” by which I mean novels that have chapters with titles, paragraphs with grammatically correct sentences, and perhaps the occasional complementary art under the chapter number. I’m intentional about expanding my horizons and reading graphic novels, hybrids, and the like…but I still have to be intentional about it, I’m afraid. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the comfortable, traditional format, even as I’m often wowed by the untraditional.

book_1_smallThe Tapper Twins Go To War (With Each Other) came across my radar and was accompanied by positive reviews from people I respect a great deal, so I requested it at my friendly local library. It came. I stood in the library, flipping through, shocked at what I saw.

I must have the wrong book, I thought. It was the only explanation I could think of. So I looked up the recommendation again. I had the right book.

I handed it to my thirteen-year-old daughter, who is much more…open. And I listened to her laugh in her room that evening while she read it. The next day, she handed it to me and said, “Must read, Mom!”


“You’ll love it. Besides, it’s a New York Book.”

I love New York Books.

The story of Claudia and Reese Tapper, twelve-year-old twins, and their war is told as an “oral history.” It looks much like a screen play in many places. (Geoff Rodkey is, in fact, a screenwriter.) But it also includes computer screenshots, gaming digital art, text messages between the parents, and doctored photos. There are handwritten “edits and additions,” lots of arrows drawn with these edits and additions, and many references to Wikipedia-told history. It is, in short…well, quite different than my usual traditional novels.

bk_tappertwins1Then I read it. And I laughed out loud. In my office, all by myself. Laughed and laughed. Loved it. I’ve spent quite a bit of time around middle schoolers in recent years and Claudia and Reese and their friends beautifully capture the diversity of maturity, zaniness, and crazy energy of this age group. Claudia is a pulled-together, bossy, know-it-all who is thoroughly exasperated by her twin brother. Reese is such a twelve-year-old boy, and therefore sort of bewildered by his sister. Their friends are variations on similar themes. The dialogue is spot on, the escalation of the conflict true to form, and the relationship between siblings, friends, and the middle school as a whole is pretty perfectly depicted. Through computer screenshots, gaming art, text messages, doctored phots…..

Claudia interviews the combatants and serves as the primary narrator of the story of the war, which starts as a series of pranks and escalates to serious (though not frightening) proportions. She includes the testimony of her clueless parents (hilarious all on their own), the inept nanny, the allies, bystanders, and enemies. She is the one who draws the arrows and makes the corrections and additions to everyone’s testimony.

book_2_smallThe relationships are complicated and the misunderstandings numerous. But the novel circles back in a very good way—and there are some “teachable moments,” actually, if a parent/teacher-type doesn’t ruin it by calling attention to them. Kids can learn a lot about how things look from different points of view, how social media can complicate things in ways you can’t predict, and how embarrassments can turn into more or less than that depending on how we react to them. I’m glad my social media newbie read it.

Picking up my copy of The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York tomorrow! I’m a fan!


Beautiful Books: an interview with designer Marty Ittner

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallFor young writers who aspire to write information books of their own, or readers who will enjoy the experience of reading more, we’d like to help them understand how a book designer works.

Marty Ittner designed Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall and graciously agreed to answer bookologist Vicki Palmquist’s questions.Flourish

When you start the process of designing a book, what provides your inspiration?

The design process actually begins in the middle of a book’s life. The project has already been conceived, researched and approved by the author and publisher to make sure it is a story worth the investment. So when the designer first receives the text and photos, it is important to honor the life of the book and the author’s vision. Therefore most of the inspiration comes from coming to know the story, and how to tell it visually. Simply put, inspiration comes from within the book itself.

How do you physically organize your ideas for the book layout?

At first I will do some rough pencil sketches in my Moleskine notebook, alongside the notes taken from initial discussions with the book team. But by and large the ideas are collected digitally in InDesign (a page layout program) and Photoshop, a program which enables adjustments to photographs such as adding color to an old black and white photo.

Do you start by knowing the book will be a certain size and number of pages or do you decide the size and number of pages after you’ve examined the content and created a rough design?

National Geographic’s marketing and distribution teams determine the size and number of pages before it reaches the designer. These specifications are based on a long history of publishing and reviewing similar books and products.


There’s a lot of space on many pages where there is no printing and no photographs: white space. Why is this important to you?

That’s funny, because to me this book is brimming with color and images, compared with books that are designed for adults, which have much more white space. I wouldn’t fill an entire room with furniture or survive without sleep. Space is simply the absence that allows us to see what is present.

You’ve used a graphic, screened back to 15% or 20% of a solid hue to lay behind the primary elements on many pages. What does this do for the reader?

On the first sketches for the book, I included some exotic vines and leaves that were meant to set the stage for Jane’s time in the jungle. The book team liked the idea and decided to take it further by hiring an illustrator (Susan Crawford) to draw the specific plants found in Gombe National Park, where Jane was studying the chimps. At first the reader may only see them as a background, but eventually may develop a curiosity to find out more, much like Ms. Goodall’s own work and notebooks. We went so far as to include a page describing each plant, some of which provide food and shelter for the chimps. In this way, the reader can discover more about life in the jungle, and the interdependence of all species.


On some pages a photo covers the entire page. On other pages, a photo may take 1/12th or ¼ of the page. How do you make decisions about how big the photos will be?

In children’s books, we use what’s called “tracking”, which is that a photo must be on the same spread as its mention. For example, the photo of Jane with her stuffed toy Jubilee would run next to the text “her father bought her a large stuffed chimpanzee”. This can sometimes be tricky, but fortunately I love solving puzzles. The other factor is the quality of the image. We will highlight good images by running them large and minimize photographs that don’t have the best quality.


Do you work on a grid?

Absolutely! Structure and form are the underpinnings that make a book cohesive—creating a rhythm that is inherently felt. The regularity of the grid creates an ease of entry for the reader, as their eyes are not jumping around.

What computer program do you use to lay out the book?

Adobe InDesign.

ph_knifeDo you do any of your work by hand?

I love the feel of a book as an object. So when designing, I always print and trim out the pages with an xacto knife to see how they will look in the final book.

When a reader picks up Untamed, how do you hope the book’s design will affect them?

It was a great honor to work with National Geographic and Anita Silvey to tell the important story of Jane Goodall and her beloved chimps. It touches on compassion, the environment, animal rights and the strength of a remarkable woman. My hope is that the design delights and carries the reader through the whole story. In this way, we can hope to inspire a new wave of compassionate conservationists.


Skinny Dip with Anne Ursu

11_25UrsuWhat keeps you up at night?

My cats biting my feet.

Describe  your favorite pair of pajamas ever

A student got me sushi pajamas. What could be better?

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Figure Skating. However, this is very unlikely.

11_25MonsterWhat’s the first book you remember reading?

There’s a Monster at the End of this Book

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Power Rangers, much as I’d like to.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Pet! Most of the time. There was a French teacher who hated me.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I’m not sure about the first, but I remember doing Where the Red Fern Grows, and crying on the book report.

11_25ShadowThievesWhich of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

I think Shadow Thieves. I don’t know who could play Charlotte and Zee, but I would love Johnny Depp to play Philonecron.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

You actually get to be a writer. Also, you’ll have that stuffed bear for at least thirty more years.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Next to my son.


Marion Dane Bauer: Animals in Stories, Animals in the World

11_24_puppyby Marion Dane Bauer

Who doesn’t love a puppy? Well, admittedly there are some folks who don’t, especially considering how difficult both ends of such creatures are to keep under control. So let’s rephrase the question: Who doesn’t love a puppy in a children’s story? Or even a frog or a toad, for that matter?

Something happens to a story when it is populated by animals, something easy to feel but difficult to define. Perhaps it’s what a sales rep for one of my publishers once referred to as “the aw factor,” not awe but aw-w-w-w! He predicted my upcoming picture book would be successful because it had “the aw factor.”

Animal characters are so completely themselves, so utterly without layers or complications. The big, bad wolf will always be big and bad. Lassie will always faithful and true, making her way home. And we respond to each with our whole hearts, hating or loving.

I once had a student, a mature woman, who refused to read any story that threatened injury or death to an animal, no matter how well written, no matter how well earned the story’s traumatic action might be. But that same reader was not in the least offended by On My Honor, my novel in which a child dies. I suspect she is not alone in her response.

11_24RuntTo take her side, at least for a moment, I’ll admit it is entirely too easy to elicit tears through an animal’s death, especially when the animal is somewhat peripheral to the story. I used such a plot device myself in a long-ago novel, Rain of Fire. Perhaps, were I to rewrite that story, I would still decide to kill the fictional cat, though I’m aware these days of my own increasing caution about such dramatic/traumatic plot turns. In part that may be because I have learned to employ more subtle devices. Maybe the shift has come, too, from growing older and wanting the world around me to be a bit . . . well, gentler, I guess.

In Runt, my novel in which the characters are members of a wolf pack, animals die, too, and the deaths are affecting. The difference, however, is that I entered the story knowing some death must occur if I intended to represent accurately the reality of the wolves’ lives. And as with any other strong action, to be effective—to be drama rather than melodrama—the plot moment must rise out of the necessity of the characters, not be imposed from on high.

11_24MamaOwenBut what about the picture-book lamb that goes out into the world and gets lost from his mother, the story I demanded be read to me again and again and again when I was a preschooler? Or the baby hippo who is separated from his pod during a tsunami and ends up bonding with a giant male tortoise, his real-life story presented in my picture book, A Mama for Owen? Or what about another of my picture books, If You Were Born a Kitten, in which I lead up to a presentation of a child’s birth through first depicting the births of various animals? How does the animal nature of the characters impact us as readers?

11_24Little-CatAnimals, the living ones as well as those that rise off the page, seem to call forth a purity of response from us. They capture our whole hearts: Jane Goodall’s chimps, the dog who lies at my feet as I write this, the little cat mother in my upcoming verse novel, Little Cat’s Luck. They all touch into the most tender, the most human part of ourselves.

And because they are so fully themselves, we become more fully who we are capable of being, caring, generous, grateful.

Blessed to share our planet—and our stories—with other species.


Changing Science Fiction Forever

All-Story Magazineby Vicki Palmquist

In its October 1912 issue, All-Story Magazine published a short story by Edgar Rice Burroughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Do you remember the plot? John Clayton is born to parents who are marooned on the west coast of Africa. His parents, Lord and Lady Greystoke, die on his first birthday. John is adopted by Kala, an ape, who mothers him as one of her own. He is that child who is unaware he is human. He goes on to be a man more comfortable in the jungle than he is among the gentry, his birthright. He grows up and marries Jane Porter but he returns to his loincloth-and-knife existence as often as he can.

For many years, Tarzan of the Apes with its nearly flawless male hero was one of the books constantly named as a favorite among teen readers. Reading the book, one could imagine oneself living outside of society and any imposed restrictions and expectations. The jungle seemed like a hospitable place which, although very dangerous, offered opportunities to prove the mettle of your existence.

These books can be viewed through a nostalgic, historical lens as being written at a time when Burroughs, proud of his Anglo-Saxon heritage, wrote with the colonial viewpoint of white English supremacy. Today’s readers will find his attitude dated, if not repugnant, and yet the Tarzan books are a part of our growing-up as readers and their influence on an entire genre of fiction continues to be acknowledged.


Dr. Jane GoodallTarzan of the Apes does, indeed, have a tie-in with our Bookstorm™ this month, Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey (National Geographic).

In a 2012 interview on Big Issue, Dr. Goodall wrote: “I read the Tarzan books and of course I fell completely in love with Tarzan. I felt he’d married the wrong Jane—it should have been me. I was very jealous of Jane. My mum saved up to take me to see a Tarzan film at the cinema but a few minutes in I got very upset and had to be taken out. I said: ‘That wasn’t Tarzan.’ Johnny Weissmuller was not how I imagined Tarzan at all. And to this day I’ve never ever watched another Tarzan film.” (Photo: Dr. Jane Goodall, taken by jeekc in 2007, Creative Commons license.)


Music of the DolphinsIn literature and in science, children who are lost or abandoned in the wild are called “feral children.” There are a number of stories and books, offering evidence of our fascination with this concept.

Gilgamesh, Romulus and Remus, and Pecos Bill are classically represented as children raised by animals.

You may have read the following books or you’re adding them to your TBR pile now.

  • Mila in Music of the Dolphins by Karen Hesse
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • Mowgli in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Blue Lagoon by Scott O’Dell
  • Valentine Michael Smith in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was raised by Martians. This is not precisely fitting with the definition of feral children but, having never met a Martian, I’m not sure.
  • Even Gilligan’s Island had an episode with a “jungle boy,” played by Kurt Russell

Here’s an article about “Feral Children: Mind Blowing Cases of Children Raised by Animals,” written by Mihai Andrei for ZME Science


Edgar Rice BurroughsMarried, with two children, Burroughs tried his hand at many endeavors and didn’t succeed at any of them. The pressures to provide a living for his family spurred him on to submit a story he wrote for publication.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first published story was “Under the Moons of Mars,” featuring John Carter, which appeared in All-Story Magazine in 1912. It earned him $400. He’s credited with “helping to lead pulps into their golden era of publishing.” 

He sold Tarzan of the Apes to the Prank A. Munsey company for $700, which is $17,164 in today’s money. He had a hard time finding a book publisher, but once A.C. McClurg and Company published Tarzan, it became a 1914 bestseller.

Edgar Rice  Burroughs himself wrote, “In all these years I have not learned one single rule for writing fiction. I still write as I did 30 years ago; stories which I feel would entertain me and give me mental relaxation, knowing that there are millions of people just like me who will like the same things I like. Anyway, I have great fun with my imaginings, and I can appreciate–in a small way–the swell time God had in creating the Universe.”

Here is Chapter One of John Taliaferro’s biography, Tarzan Forever, The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan.


Facsimile Dust JacketDid you know that the town of Tarzana, California is located on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ former 550-acre ranch, which was named, not surprisingly, Tarzana Ranch?

Burroughs had another wildly successful book series beyond Tarzan, set at the Earth’s core! Known as Pellucidar, there are seven books, which also have a fervent following. In one of the books, Tarzan finds his way to Pellucidar, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

The original dust jacket was hard to come by for collectors. In 2014, Phil Normand of recreated that original dust jacket and sold it to collectors for $50.

Are you a fan of the Tarzan books? Leave a comment to let us know why they appeal to you.


Packing List

by Lisa Bullard

9_10SpiralNotebookI generate a flurry of lists for every road trip: A “bizarre attractions to stop and see” list. A “things to tell the cat-sitter” list. A packing list.

I love lists. I love them so much I have a whole journal full of different sorts of lists—I write down everything from household repairs to my bucket list. And I don’t keep lists because I’m one of those super-achiever types who expects to get all those things accomplished.

Instead, I make lists because I manage to forget even the most obvious of things if I don’t make note of them. Sometimes when the temperature is below zero here in the winter, I actually forget to breathe while I’m walking outside.

Okay, I don’t really write down “breathe,” because I’m not quite that hopeless.  But I do write down most practical stuff.  My lists are the best way I’ve found to successfully de-clutter my brain. By making them, I clear out space for my imagination to play.

And then whatever quirky, catawampus ideas were previously shoved to the corners of my mind have room to grow, to end up on their own lists. These get filed away under headings like “great ideas for a book someday,” or “awesome oddball character possibilities.” They are the best resource I have when I need a prompt to get me started on a new writing project.

In honor of this kind of list-making, the type that feeds the imagination, I offer you a “list poem” activity here. It reminds students not to forget four important things: namely, the other senses—sound, touch, taste, smell—that writers too often overlook. It also reminds students to “feed” their imaginations by noticing the many things that they are thankful for this Thanksgiving season.


Books about Boxes

Boxes have many stories to share, stories to inspire, and stories to help us learn and be creative. Here are a few of the stories that boxes have to tell. You might well expect to find books about creative play and cardboard boxes, but there are books for a range of young readers here and boxes comes in many shapes and colors.


365 Penguins

written and illustrated by Jean-Luc Fromental
Holiday House, 2012

A family find a penguin mysteriously delivered in a box to their door every day of the year. At first the penguins are cute, but with every passing day they pile up and they cause the family significant problems. Who on earth is sending these critters? This book holds math concepts and environmental concerns within its story, which is quite fun. Ages 4 to 8.

Beryl's Box


Beryl’s Box

written by Lisa Taylor
Barron’s Juveniles, 1993

When Penelope and Beryl must play together at Penelope’s house, Beryl isn’t interested in Penelope’s plentiful toys. She wants to play in a cardboard box, imagining all sorts of adventures. Penelope is intrigued and soon the girls become friends. Ages 3 to 6.

A Box Story  

Box Story

written by Kenneth Kit Lamug
illustrated by Rabble Boy
RabbleBox, 2011

The author and illustrator uses pencil drawings to convey all the ways in which a box is not just a box. Ages 3 to 7.

A Box Can Be Many Things  

A Box Can Be Many Things

written by Dana Meachen Rau
Children’s Press, 1997

An early reader about a box that’s being thrown away and the two kids who rescue it for their own adventures, slowly cutting the box up for the supplies they need, until there isn’t much left of the box. Ages 3 to 6

Boxes for Katje  

Boxes for Katje

written by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Stacy Dressen-McQueen
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003

A heartwarming story about a community in Indiana which, upon hearing about Holland’s struggles to find enough food, clothing, and practical items after World War II, sends boxes of supplies to Olst, Holland. Ages 5 to 10.



written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel

In this graphic novel, Cam’s dad is feeling depressed and there isn’t a lot of money to buy Cam something for his birthday. He gives him a cardboard box and together they work to create a man from the box. It magically comes to life and all is well until the neighborhood bully strives to turn the cardboard man to his evil purposes. Ages 10 and up.

Cardboard Box Book  

Cardboard Box Book

written and created by Roger Priddy and Sarah Powell
illustrated by Barbi Sido
Priddy Books, 2012

If you’re in need of ideas and tips for making your own cardboard creations, or even if you are full of ideas, you’ll be inspired by this book that helps you figure out how to make some amazing but simple cardboard contraptions. All you need is simple household art supplies like a pencil and glue and scissors. And maybe a little paint. Ages 5 and up (with adult supervision).

Cardboard Creatures  

Cardboard Creatures: Contemporary Cardboard Craft Projects for the Home, Celebrations & Gifts

written and created by Claude Jeantet
David & Charles, 2014

What else can you do with cardboard? Sculptures, of course. There are clever animals to make here, designed by an architect who has her own shop in Paris where she sells her intriguing cardboard art. You and your children can make these things, too! Ages 5 and up (with adult supervision)..

Christina Katerina and the Box  

Christina Katerina and the Box

written by Patricia Lee Gauch
illustrated by Doris Burns
Boyds Mills Press, 2012

When Christina Katerina’s family buys a new refrigerator, her mother is excited about the refrigerator but Christina Katerina is excited about the box. She can do all kinds of things with a box, including a castle and a playhouse. Ages 3 to 7.

Harry's Box  

Harry’s Box

written by Angela McAllister
illustrated by Jenny Jones
Bloomsbury, 2005

When Harry and his mom come back from the grocery store, he grabs the box the groceries came in and sets off for adventure with his dog, traveling the high seas, hiding from bears, and everything he can think of before he falls asleep to dream of more! Ages 3 to 7.

Henry's Freedom Box  

Henry’s Freedom Box: a True Story of the Underground Railroad

written by Ellen Levine
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Scholastic Press, 2007

This is the true story of Henry Brown, a boy born into slavery who is forcibly separated from his mother to work in his owner’s factory. As a man, his wife and three children are sold away from his life. He makes plans with other abolitionists and mails himself in a box to freedom in Philadelphia. Ages 5 and up.

Meeow and the Big Box  

Meeow and the Big Box

written and illustrated by Sebastien Braun
Boxer Books, 2009

For the preschool set, this book about a cat who creates a fire truck from a box is filled with bright colors and textures, and just enough text to read aloud. There are several more Meeow books. Ages 2 to 4.

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes  

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes

written by Eve Sutton
illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Parent’s Magazine Press, 1974; Puffin, 2010

A rhyming text for beginning readers which also makes a good read-aloud, this dynamic duo tells the story of an ordinary cat who likes to hide in boxes while cats around the world do astounding things. Ages 3 to 7

Not a Box  

Not a Box

written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
HarperCollins, 2006

Narrated by a rabbit, this story of the many possibilities of a box (It’s NOT A BOX! Oops, sorry.) are drawn with a simple line that inspires anything but simple ideas. New York Times Best Illustrated Book. Ages 3 and up.



written by Alice McLerran
illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1991

A rhyming text for beginning readers which also makes a good read-Based on a true story from the author’s childhood, the kids in Yuma, Arizona use found objects, but particularly boxes, to create a city where they spend endless hours playing and making up stories and creating memories that will last a lifetime. The book has inspired children around the world. There’s a park in Yuma to commemorate the site of the original Roxaboxen. Ages 4 to 7.

Secret Box  

Secret Box

written and illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin, 2011

There are secret messages hidden in secret boxes to be discovered in secret places … a wordless book provides beautifully crafted images with intricate details that provide much to think and wonder about, ultimately encouraging the reader to create the story. There’s time travel, magic, and puzzles within this book. Good for ages 4 and up.

The Secret Box  

Secret Box

written by Whitaker Ringwald
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2014

When Jax Malone receives a gift in a box for her 12th birthday, she and her friend Ethan soon discover it’s not a gift but a cry for help from an unknown great-aunt. Setting off to solve the mystery of the box and provide the requested help, the kids are soon on a wild, crazy, and dangerous road trip … a fast-paced tale and the beginning of a series of books. (The author’s name is a pseudonym, by the way, a mystery in itself.) Ages 8 to 12.

Sitting in My Box  

Sitting in My Box

written by Dan Lillegard
iilustrated by Jon Agee
Two Lions, 2010

From the safety of a cardboard box, a little boy reads a book about Wild Animals and—behold!—they come to visit him. How many animals can fit in the box? It’s a cumulative story and the wording makes it a good choice for a read-aloud. Ages 2 to 5.

Tibet Through the Red Box  

Tibet Through the Red Box

written and illustrated by Peter Sís
Greenwillow, 1999

When the author was little, his father kept things inside a red box that his children were not allowed to touch. When the author is grown, he receives a letter from his father, telling him the red box is now his. The red, lacquered box holds secrets about his fathere’s experiences in the 1950s when he was drafted into the Czechoslovakian army and sent to China to teach filmmaking. At the time, Czechoslovokia is a secretive country behind the Iron Curtain. The father is soon lost in Tibet for two years, where his adventures must be kept secret but are shared with his son. The book’s illustrations are inspired by Tibetan art. Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe Horn Book Award. Ages 7 and up.

What to Do with a Box  

What To Do With a Box

written by Jane Yolen
illustrated by Chris Sheban
Creative Editions, 2016

What can’t you do with a box? If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure. Read this out loud to your favorite kids and watch the ideas light up their eyes. Ages 4 to 7.


Skinny Dip with Maurna Rome

What keeps you up at night?

My mad dash attempts to finish a video, write an article, apply for a grant, or get to the last page of a terrific book often keep me up at night. 

bk_ElDeafo_NewberyWhat is your proudest career moment?

My proudest career moment changes each year as I discover the unique talents of a new bunch of students. My most recent would be finishing a read-aloud of the Newbery novel, El Deafo. My “kids” were gathered around the promethean board as I shared each page of the graphic novel with our doc camera. The conversations about friendship, the 70s, smoking, hearing impairments, and fitting in were priceless.

Describe  your favorite pair of pajamas ever.

My favorite PJs are my Dr. Seuss footie pajamas that I bought about 7 years ago. They are perfect for school PJ parties that sometimes take place during “I Love to Read” month.

11-18Skinny_JohnCandyIn what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Does it have to be a “real” sport? If yes, then bobsledding (I loved the movie Cool Runnings with John Candy). If no, then reading aloud while keeping kids begging for more.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was to move to Japan for 6 months, after graduating from college, to teach English. It was a memorable experience that affirmed my life-long desire to travel and learn about other cultures.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

bk_Little-Golden-Book-Four-PuppiesThe Four Puppies, a Little Golden book, is the first book I remember reading. I found a tattered and well-loved copy of it on Ebay and snatched it up. I read it to my students every year, and explain why the author’s message is so important to me (in a nutshell: embrace change and make the most of your situation!).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

The Good Wife. Alicia is a complex character who has a few flaws yet strives to be a “good” person (I wish they could change the title!).


Best Ever Banana Pudding

Best Ever Banana Pudding
Serves 9
A Southern-style banana pudding that's a fitting treat while you're reading Anita Silvey's Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall
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  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1/4 tsp salt
  4. 3 cups 2% milk
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 8 oz vanilla wafers (about 60), divided
  8. 4 large, ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/4" slices
  1. In a large saucepan, mix sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk a small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return all to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. In an ungreased 8-in.-square baking dish, layer 25 vanilla wafers, half of the banana slices and half of the pudding. Repeat layers
  4. Press plastic wrap onto surface of pudding. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, crush remaining wafers and sprinkle over top.
  1. If you aren't familiar with Taste of Home, it's a great source for tried-and-true home cooking.
Adapted from Taste of Home
Adapted from Taste of Home
Bookology Magazine

Interview with Anita Silvey: Writing about Dr. Jane Goodall

For young writers who aspire to write information books of their own, we’d like to help them understand how a writer works.


Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallWhen do you remember becoming aware of Dr. Jane Goodall?

I worked at Houghton Mifflin when many of her books were being published and knew her editor well. The first time I heard her give one of her brilliant lectures, I became a total convert.     

What flipped the switch for you to consider writing a biography of her?

My editor, Kate Olesin of National Geographic, asked if the project would interest me. They had access to photos and could put me in touch for interviews with people who had worked closely with her. Since her 80th birthday was approaching, I loved the idea of a biography that covered her entire life.          

Why was it important for you to write about Dr. Goodall’s life for young readers?

Her passion, her dedication to her cause, and her ability to take a childhood interest, a love of animals, and turn it into her life’s work. I think children need heroines and heroes – and Jane Goodall qualifies as one.

How many books do you estimate you read to write about Dr. Goodall’s life?

Probably around 70 or so, and then I watched documentaries, video clips, and read interviews. You do so much more research for a nonfiction book than ever shows. But in the end, everything you examine enters into what you write.

Where did you look to find info about her childhood, which you use so effectively to establish what motivated her choice of her life’s work?


Fortunately a great deal has been written about her childhood, both in secondary sources and by Jane herself. But to write that chapter I was often taking a scene or idea from one book and combining it with ideas and scenes from another. Writing narrative nonfiction is often like stitching a quilt together, and scraps come from a variety of sources.         

At what point did your ideas for writing this book come together with a single, prominent thread that gave you a focus for Untamed?

By the time I had finalized the outline, I knew the direction the story would take. Solid nonfiction writing depends on a good scaffold. If you don’t get that right, you have to redo and redo until the structure is sound.        

When did you start writing Untamed and how long did it take you before you sent the final copy edits back to your publisher?

We had a schedule from the beginning of the project. I had a year for the first draft; we finished editorial revision in 6 months. I have never worked with an editor as efficient and effective as Kate. She knows how to keep a project on track!   

There are Field Notes at the end of the book that include facts about chimpanzees, biographies of the Gombe chimpanzees, and a timeline of Dr. Goodall’s life, among other things. Did these come out of your research? Did you begin by knowing what you wanted for back matter or did that emerge after you gathered your information?

Some of these I knew I needed, like a timeline. But the editorial staff at Nat Geo, who work on nonfiction all the time, had a lot of creative ideas – such as fun facts about chimps or the family photo album. Also because of their expertise, the back matter has been designed to be attractive and readable for children.

Untamed, pp.34-35

Untamed, pp.34-35

What was your favorite part of creating this book?

Seeing the bound volume. I knew Untamed was going to be beautiful – but the final book took my breath away.      

What makes you the most proud about Untamed?

Jane Goodall herself and the Jane Goodall Institute read both the manuscript and the final pages, checking for accuracy and interpretation.  I am very proud that Jane Goodall considered the book worthy of this attention – and thought well enough of the book to write an introduction.


Collecting your observations

Welcome to New Zealandby Vicki Palmquist

I never kept a journal. Why? It never occurred to me. It wasn’t within my realm of familiarity. I started writing many stories on notebook paper and stuffed them into folders. But how satisfying to have a journal, specifically an observation journal to keep track of what you see, hear, and think.

As a child, I was a hunter-gatherer. Were you? Did you have a collection of rocks? Leaves? Agates? Animals? Perhaps you still do. Or perhaps you know a child who has these tendencies.

I think of Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffith and Jennifer A. Bell (Minnesota Historical Society Press). Rhoda collected so many rocks on her family’s camping trip that she couldn’t walk—they weighed her down.

Adding to Rhoda’s story, I think of Lois Ehlert’s The Scraps Book and Leaf Man. Author and illustrator Lois Ehlert is renowned for her collections, her “scraps,” and how she puts them to use. A consummate hunter-gatherer.

Then there’s a brand new, absolutely amazing book about creating a nature journal, Welcome to New Zealand by Sandra Morris (Candlewick Press). This picture book combines the record-keeping, visual art satisfaction, and examples of different things to observe in nature that will keep a hunter-gatherer busy for years. I admire this book on so many different levels.

Welcome to New Zealand

Very cleverly designed as a journal, this book shows examples of different types of art, ways to arrange things on pages, labels, and note-taking. There’s advice on pressing leaves, observing clouds and phases of the moon, and making a landscape study. Every turn of the page brings a new surprise and something to try on your own. (And you can do this—none of these excuses about not being an artist—you are!)

Morris writes, “Create a layered map of the birds on the shoreline as the tide changes, like my high-tide journal page here. Working from the top of the page downwards, draw the different flocks as they advance closer.” Much better than ANY video game (and I like playing video games).

Welcome to New Zealand

Examples of crayon, pencil, watercolor, and charcoal drawing will inspire each reader. Plentiful samples of creative hand-lettering encourage the freedom to make your journal quite personal. Morris provides ideas, but unless you’re sitting on a beach in New Zealand as you read this, your journal will be all your own.

And that’ just it. If you’re not in New Zealand, reading this book will teach you a lot about the landscape, the mammals, the trees, the insects, and the seasons.

This book is great for any young hunter-gatherer and observer but any old person will like it, too! It’s a treasure.

Other Resources

Smithsonian Kids has a site devoted to collecting.

Kids Love Rocks Fun Club

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, Advantage4Parents, writes “Why Kids Love to Collect Stuff.

Now that you know about this book (you’re welcome), and you try out some of the suggested activities, send me a sample in the comments. Most of all, enjoy the time you spend with nature and your journal.


Judy Blume

by Melanie Heuiser Hill

ph_blumeI had the extraordinary fortune of seeing Judy Blume a few weeks ago. I was going to say “seeing Judy Blume in concert”—that’s sort of what it felt like, actually. She’s a rock-star in my world. And she was interviewed by Nancy Pearl, no less, so the whole event felt like I’d won a prize and been dropped in A Dream Come True. Both were wonderful—profound, honest, funny. It was such a treat.

Judy Blume played a large role in my childhood/adolescence.  My fourth grade teacher read us Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, of course, and from there I went on to Freckle Juice and Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great. By fifth grade I was reading Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself and learning about anti-semitism, which I knew nothing about; and racism, which was a daily part of life where I was growing up; and lice, the reason we spent hours with our whole class in the nurse’s office being picked over. (If we’d spent as much time learning as we did having our hair picked through, I probably could’ve skipped a couple of grades.)

I think it was probably Sally J. that got me actively looking for Judy Blume books. She’s the first author I remember searching for at the library catalog. I read Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? many times in fifth grade. I was stunned to learn that a girl could wish for the changes brought on by puberty. Puberty hit me early, hard, and fast and I hated the changes it brought. It was fascinating to read about a girl who yearned for her period, did exercises in hope of increasing her bust line (“We must! We must! We must increase our bust!”), and prayed to God to make her a woman.

blumestripMy daughter’s fifth grade English teacher handed her Margaret’s story. Perhaps I gushed too much about how I loved it, because Darling Daughter cared for it not. Our Mother-Daughter Bookclub tried a couple of times to suggest the book—we mothers who came of age in the seventies had fond memories. But as it turned out, the mothers (re)read it, and the daughters refused. Not interested. Not even about the religious stuff, which I was surprised to find was really the main conflict in the story! I’d forgotten all about it—it was all bras and “sanitary napkins” in my memory.

We mothers wondered: was it because we were encouraging the girls to read Margaret that they didn’t want to? Our own mothers were not so keen on the book—Judy Blume’s books didn’t have a great reputation among mothers in the 1970s. Ms. Blume covered all kinds of topics quite frankly and some of those topics our mothers either wanted to cover themselves, or leave as a “mystery.” (Probably mostly the latter.)

But I read a lot of Judy Blume, not having a censoring mother, and I learned a lot from her books. I learned about scoliosis and bad decisions and wet dreams and periods and insecurities and meanness and kindness and family issues/secrets and masturbation and gender and crushes and sex. Well, actually, I didn’t learn much about sex. The “key pages” from Forever were passed around the sixth grade, but I was too nervous to actually read them, which left things a little vague, given that the playground discussion around said pages was…a little vague.

Ms. Blume told us that those of us who grew up reading Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret often ask her for a “sequel” bringing our friend Margaret full circle as she goes through menopause. I would love this book, I must say. But Margaret’s author said, “Margaret is always twelve! Menopause is not her story.”

blume_eventAnd indeed—the book is pretty timeless (with a little vocabulary updated) because being twelve has a timelessness about it. Twelve (and the years just on either side of twelve) is a time of tremendous transition and change, hopes and prayers, insecurity and decision. The details change a little generation to generation, but the important stuff—the stuff of creating and discovering yourself, of growing up—stays remarkably the same.

I’m so grateful to Judy Blume and grateful for the work she still does—the writing and speaking and the stand she has taken on censorship. Her newest book (for adults), In the Unlikely Event, is terrific. I can hear her voice as I read it, which is a tremendous treat as both a reader and a writer. Huzzah to Judy! I say. Huzzah!


Chair of Honor for Vera B. Williams

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root

photo credit: Thane Peterson

photo credit: Thane Peterson

Jacqueline Briggs Martin: Some writers teach us craft. Some writers inspire us. Vera B. Williams does both. As part of celebrating her wonderful life and career we want to take another look at her lovely stories and her busy life. One of the many remarkable things about her books is that they “erupt” (as she said) from the activities of her life.

bk_williams_canoeThree Days on the River in a Red Canoe was based on Williams’ own 500-mile journey down the Yukon River. It starts when a kid notices a canoe for sale in a neighbor’s yard. His mom and her sister and his cousin pool their money and buy it. This is a family that thinks about buying something. There is not a lot of cash lying around. Amber Was Brave Essie Was Smart gives readers a loving family (based on Williams and her sister) whose father is in prison.  

One of her best-loved stories, A Chair for My Mother, grew out of her experience growing up “in a family that had a lot of trouble making a living.” She never forgot that. In a Greenwillow publicity interview she recounted that her mother worked very hard, just as Rosa’s mother, and actually did buy herself a chair so she would have a place to sit when she was tired. Williams said, “I’m very proud of having introduced a kind of character and family and experience to children’s books… people who work for a living in very ordinary professions.”

Phyllis Root: Yes, one of the many things I love about Vera B. Williams is how both her work and her life celebrate everyday people, working class people, people with problems, family, community.

bk_williams_chairJacqueline Briggs Martin: And that focus on community comes from her life, too. Her mother was very community-minded. She was one of a group of people who would gather on the sidewalk during the Depression when a family’s furniture was being repossessed and “defy the bailiff” by carrying that furniture back to the family’s apartment. I love picturing that and think the two page spread in A Chair for My Mother in which neighbors bring pieces of furniture to Rosa’s family after the fire must be partly inspired by William’s early neighbors carrying furniture back upstairs.

Phyllis Root:  Williams said that as a child she didn’t understand her mother’s need for “new cushiony chair.” In A Chair for my Mother Rosa, her mother, and grandmother all work together saving nickels and dimes and quarters in a jar to buy a chair for the whole family. Williams transforms her childhood experience, just as she worked to transform the world—she was a member of the War Resistor’s League and went to prison for protesting the Vietnam War. She not only wrote about what she believed, she lived those beliefs.

bk_williams_cherriesCherries and Cherry Pits, too, is about transformation. As a child, Vera drew pictures and told stories about them, just as Bidemmi does in Cherries and Cherry Pits. In each story Bidemmi tells, someone shares cherries—a father with his children, a grandmother with her parrot, a boy with his little sister. And all of them are “eating cherries and spitting out the pits.” In the last story she tells, Bidemmi, too, has a bag of cherries. She eats the cherries and plants the pits in her “junky old yard,” where they grow into trees full of cherries, and people come from “Nairobi and Brooklyn, Toronto and Saint Paul” to eat those cherries and spit out the pits, which grow “until there is a whole forest of cherry trees right on our block.”

Jacqueline Briggs Martin: And we can learn craft from this story, too. Look at this character description:

This is the door to the subway and THIS is a man leaning

on the door… His face is a nice face. But it is also not so

nice. He has a fat wrinkle on his forehead. It’s like my

mother’s wrinkle. It’s from worrying and worrying, my

mother says. And his neck is thick and his arms are thick

with very big, strong muscles. His shirt is striped blue and

white and his skin is dark brown and in his great big hands

he has a small white bag. This man looks so strong I think

he could even carry a piano on his head. But he is only

carrying this little white bag…

What great information we get about the Bidemmi and her mother from the description of this man who has a fat wrinkle “from worrying and worrying.” Who could ever forget a man strong enough to carry a piano on his head?

bk_williams_morePhyllis Root: Williams believed that if children’s needs are met in “the way of love and adventures, we would have a lot more happiness in the world.” Her book “More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories joyously celebrates three babies whose needs are met, (and includes a white grandmother and her brown grandchild, one of the first times such a family was shown in a picture book).

In an interview in Show Me a Story, Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus, Williams talks about luck, a word that shows up not only in Lucky Song but also in A Chair for My Mother when the grandmother thanks the neighbors for all their help moving into and furnishing their new apartment. “It’s lucky we’re young and can start all over,” she says. Even the grocery whose owners give away watermelons in The Great Watermelon Birthday is named Fortuna’s Fruits.

bk_williams_gingerbreadOur family has been lucky to know Williams’s books for many years. Since we discovered her first—It’s a Gingerbread House: Bake It, Build It, Eat It!—we’ve been making gingerbread houses and delighting in her stories.

Here’s hoping many, many more children will be lucky enough to read and enjoy her books and to grow up in a peaceful world where the grown-ups make sure that every child’s needs are met.  A world Vera B. Williams envisioned, worked for, and made into beautiful, deeply felt books.

Here’s a list of her books, all published by Greenwillow:

  • Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart: The Story of Amber and Essie Told Here in Poems and Pictures (2001)
  • A Chair for Always (2009)
  • A Chair for My Mother (1982)
  • Cherries and Cherry Pits (1986)
  • It’s a Gingerbread House: Bake It, Build It, Eat It! (1978)
  • Lucky Song (1997)
  • “More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories (1990)
  • Music, Music for Everyone (1984)
  • Scooter (1993)
  • Something Special for Me (1983)
  • Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea, with Jennifer Williams (1988) 

And here’s where you can order a 1989 Peace Calendar (365 reasons not to have another war) by Grace Paley and Vera B. Williams. (Extra bonus: the 1989 calendar repeats in 2017, but even if it didn’t, it’s well worth buying for the art and writing and to support the War Resisters League.)


Skinny Dip with Rick Chrustowski

praying mantisWhat animal are you most like?

Sometimes I am a Zen-like praying mantis, sitting and watching the world. And other times I am hopped up like a hummingbird zipping around trying to get a bunch of things done at once or, if I am at a party, trying to meet everyone in the room.

Which book of yours was the most difficult to write or illustrate?

My new book Bee Dance was the most difficult. It is only 250 words long, but it took me 9 years to write it! I should tell you that’s not the only thing I worked on during that time. I did the research about how honeybees communicate and wrote a manuscript. When I read it out loud I felt like it just wasn’t good enough. So I put it away and worked on other projects. A couple years later I pulled it out again and worked on it some more. But it still wasn’t good enough. I worked on other books and forgot about it. Then a few years after that, my good friend Susan Marie Swanson said “Hey, whatever happened to that bee book?”

bk_bee_dance_300pxI pulled it out of the drawer where I keep stories in progress and read it again. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! I learned that if I just focused specifically on the bee dance that would be the way to go. I worked on it some more, and took it to my writers’ group. They helped me make it a little better still. Then I did several dummies to figure out how the illustrations should look. I showed it to my editor, Laura Godwin, and she loved it. My advice to writers out there: sometimes your work might take longer than you think it should. But, if you believe that it’s a good idea, don’t ever give up! I could have given up on Bee Dance so many times. I’m really glad I didn’t.

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

bk_batHmmm. I actually think that the book I’m working on right now would make a cool movie. But I can’t tell you about that one yet….so let’s see, I’ll pick Big Brown Bat. Johnny Depp would make a great bat, I’m sure.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow without sound.” From Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen.

What book do you tell everyone to read?

I really love the Amulet graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi. I would recommend it to anyone, even if you don’t like long-form comics.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

If I am on a tight deadline I work late into the night. Otherwise I like to see the morning sun.

Were you most likely to visit the school office to deliver attendance/get supplies, visit the nurse, or meet with the principal?

None of the above. In my elementary school the library was very tiny and it was in the principal’s office! Who would want to pick out a book with the principal watching? I wonder if that’s why I was never a big reader as a kid. Now I love to read and I usually have 2 or 3 books going at once, but back then I liked playing outside or drawing pictures in my room more than anything else.


Jen Bryant: The Writing Apprenticeship

by Jen Bryant

TRW book cover w sealsSeveral months ago, I was asked to be on a panel for a new-writers workshop. During the question and answer period, one woman commented: “I keep hearing that writing is a craft that requires time and practice to master. I get that . . . but as someone who’s eager to be an apprentice but has neither the time nor money to enroll in an MFA program, how—exactly—do I go about finding someone who’s qualified, willing, and available to mentor me?”

It was a great question—one which we took turns answering, based on our unique personal experiences. That panel made me recall the details of my own (very long, circuitous road) to becoming a published children’s author, and how I found my own “Master writers” from whom I learned a great deal about the art and craft of writing. This is what I told her . . . . .

After spending the first seven years after college as a French teacher and H.S. X-C coach, I began my writing life almost by accident: We relocated in the middle of the school year and I suddenly had no full-time job. I continued to teach part-time, but I also began some freelance writing. I wrote magazine articles and book reviews and compiled quotes for a gift-book company.

At first, I got by using the “trial and error” method (accent on the error!) and working on my own when my baby daughter napped. In college, I’d majored in foreign languages, not English or Creative Writing, so while I had no formal training, I also had very low expectations. In retrospect, this was an advantage: I had no preconceived notions about what was “acceptable” and so moved freely between genres and formats—experimenting, failing, and trying again. That got me through the first couple of years . . . but I got to a point where I wanted to write better.

georgias-bonesI’d published several essays and reviews in literary magazines and I was reading a lot of poetry (and trying to write my own), when I stumbled upon my first professional mentor. While attending a reading at a Philadelphia bookstore, I saw a flyer for a workshop run by a local poet-professor. Disappointed that I couldn’t make the scheduled classes, I asked her if, instead, she’d be willing to meet me for twice-a-month tutoring sessions. She agreed, and thus began my first true writing apprenticeship, held in a bakery on South Street (I can still smell those cranberry scones!)

It would take me pages to explain what I learned from her, but suffice to say that despite my being a “published author” I knew in my heart that I was just starting to learn how to write. She assigned monthly readings, critiqued my poetry drafts, shared her own drafts and finished poems, and answered hundreds of questions.

When she moved away for her job, I continued my writing apprenticeship with another Philadelphia poet. His style was very different, but that stretched me in new directions and made me experiment even more. I learned so much from him, that when he, too, moved on to a new job in Colorado, we continued to exchange work by mail. [** I should note that neither of these poets wrote for children, and that nearly ALL of what I read and wrote while working under their guidance was aimed at adults, not kids. Nonetheless, everything they taught me has influenced and improved my writing for young people.]

11_10Bryant_Jen, Eileen, Jerry

l-r: Jen, Eileen Spinelli, Jerry Spinelli

About this time, I got to know Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, who lived nearby and whose books I’d admired for years. As our friendship grew, they became mentors of a different sort, answering questions about picture books (Eileen convinced me to turn one of my “art poems” into my first picture book, Georgia’s Bones), editors (Jerry connected me with his editor, Joan Slattery at Knopf, who became my editor for the next decade), and bolstering my spirits through the inevitable ups and downs of book publishing. Where my previous mentors had been about skill development, the “nuts & bolts” of craft, the Spinellis were more like gear-greasers, facilitating my foray into children’s literature and cheering each small success.

I was lucky to find these people, I know—but I believe I also made my own luck: I created a workshop tutorial where there was none; I persevered in my apprenticeship through changes in logistics, geographical distance, and personal/ family demands—and I made my writing life a priority.

I truly believe that, with a little persistence, anyone can find a writing mentor, someone (or a series of someones) who can be both Teacher and Guide on their otherwise solitary journey.


Untamed Companion Booktalks

To get you started on the Bookstorm™ Books …

Chimpanzees I Love  

The Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours

Jane Goodall
Scholastic Press, 2001 

  • Uses stories of individual chimpanzees to share information about chimpanzee behavior and their environment as well as the author’s own biography

  • Heavily illustrated with engaging photos

  • Wealth of information presented in narrative, sidebar commentary, picture captions, quotations, and back matter

The Elephant Scientist


The Elephant Scientist

Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson
illustrated by Timothy Rodwell
Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  • Follows Caitlin O’Connell in her study of elephants in Africa in Etosha National Park and in engaging well-organized text shows a scientist at work

  • Elephant behavior is amazing!

  • Heavily photo-illustrated with informative captions



Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships

Catherine Thimmesh
Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  • Rhyming text celebrates the true-life animal friendships that are depicted in very appealing, large color photos

  • Includes backstory of each friendship

  • Stories are from around the world: India, Indonesia, Europe, Japan, and North America

Gorilla Doctors  

Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes

Pamela S. Turner
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008

  • Book opens with an engaging bang: the true story of a single Gorilla, Mararo, who has been injured when caught in a poacher’s trap

  • In addition to the story of the doctors caring for these threatened animals, the book includes background information about gorillas and human intrusion into gorilla habitats

  • Primarily photo illustrated, but also includes several helpful maps

Hope for the Animals  

Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink

Jane Goodall, Gail Hudson, and Thane Maynard
Grand Central Publishing, 2009

  • Survival stories about conservation efforts to bring back endangered species and to protect their habitats

  • Stories are from around the globe and focus on appealing animals (Abbott’s Booby in Australia, Pygmy Hog in India, American Crocodile in the U.S.)

  • Published for adults, but the stories are short (8-10) and photo illustrated (including many color plates) and will engage strong readers 10 and up

Life in the Ocean  

Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

written and illustrated by Claire Nivola
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012

  • Biography of ocean scientist Earle, who lived on a farm as a child

  • Illustrations target ocean life and details of Earle’s story that will catch the eye and hold interest of young readers: aqua suits, submersibles, whales, and a multitude of fish and other sea creatures

  • Includes author’s note and bibliography

Magic Gourd  

The Magic Gourd

written and illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite
Scholastic Press, 2003

  • A folk tale from Mali involving many animal characters—great for read-alouds

  • Illustrated by Coretta Scott King Honoree (for A Hunterman and the Crocodile: A West African Folktale)

  • Back matter include glossary and notes on author’s native Mali

termites on a stick  

Termites on a Stick

written and illustrated by Michéle Colon
Star Bright Books, 2008

  • One of Dr. Goodall’s most important discoveries was the observation that chimpanzees contrive and use tools, which shattered the prevailing idea that only humans were toolmakers and users; this book transfers that important observation into a child-friendly story

  • Appealing illustrations and mother-child narrative will appeal to young readers and listeners

  • Back matter includes helpfully illustrated information about chimpanzees and termites

Tree Lady  

Tree Lady: the True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

H. Joseph Hopkins
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, 2013

  • Picture book bio of Kate Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the U of Californian in science and who transformed the bare desert in and around San Diego into a horticultural oasis

  • Lush, engaging illustrations

  • Author’s note includes additional biographical material for Sessions


Unlikely friendships  

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom

Jennifer Holland
Workman, 2011

  • While short (3-5 pages), each story gives ample information for reports  

  • Stories are from around zoos and animal rehabilitation centers around the world

  • Photo illustrated


Winter Roads

by Lisa Bullard

WRT_12-3SnowWinters add the element of surprise to the Minnesota driving equation. Mid-journey, you can be sucked into one of the car-devouring potholes caused by my state’s radical temperature changes. Or you can skid on a deceptive slick of black ice, and end up straddling a snow bank.

In those moments, you realize that your trip isn’t going to turn out as you thought it would. You might not even reach the destination you had planned.

The writing road is full of sudden surprises too. Even when I think I’ve figured out exactly where a story is headed, my creative brain might pop up one of these “journey adjustments”—an oddball image, a repeated song refrain, a quirky possibility that changes my whole perception of the story.

Often these surprises make no sense at first. But strange as they are, I’ve learned to invite them into my writing. Sooner or later, I come to understand their role in the story—and it’s often something that changes that entire writing road trip.

For one of my stories, this unforeseen “pothole” was an ugly winter hat, which floated into my brain and eventually came to represent an important turning point for my character. In another story, the surprise was a walking catfish—which proved to be a metaphor for the underlying theme of the novel as a whole. I allowed these unexpected gifts from my subconscious to reroute my stories, because I’ve learned that doing so makes my writing all the more compelling.

You can’t force your students’ brains to pop out these intuitive hints on demand. But you can teach them to be receptive to bizarre elements when they do turn up. As practice for that, throw some winter surprises at your students—by using the downloadable “Snowball” activity found here.


Skinny Dip with Steve Mudd

bk_tangledwebWhat’s your favorite holiday tradition?

A Christmas tree!

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Sadly, pet.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

bk-ShaneThe first one I can remember that made an impression on me was an oral report on Shane (with which the teacher, one of my favorites, was not overly impressed).

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

When I have the time and resources, indeed.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Quit worrying so much and enjoy life more.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Eleanor Cameron, for children’s authors. In addition, Ray Bradbury and Roger Zelazny. And Andre Norton.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

A rocking chair or a recliner in my living room.



The Book That Saved My Students and Me

by Maurna Rome

gr_burnoutA rough start to a new school year can be unsettling for rookie teachers. It can produce feelings of self-doubt and immense stress.  Inexperienced educators may question everything from the quality of their undergrad teacher training to whether or not education was a wise career choice. The lack of preparation for managing challenging behaviors, dealing with an abundance of curriculum standards, and building enough stamina to keep up with an exhausting daily pace is enough to make “teacher burn out” more than just a buzz word. 

A rough start to a new school year can be unsettling for veteran teachers, too.  It can produce feelings of self-doubt and immense stress. Experienced teachers may question everything from the quality of the many years of extensive training (masters program, education specialist degree, and National Board Certification for yours truly) to whether or not it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved career choice. The years of experience managing challenging behaviors, dealing with an abundance of curriculum standards, and building enough stamina to keep up with an exhausting daily pace are not always enough to make “teacher burn out” just a buzz word.

500px-PostItNotePadA few weeks into the school year, my colleagues and I were asked to share two things on Post-it® notes: something that causes great frustration and stress and something that brings a sense of calm and “low breathing.” I immediately thought of more than a dozen things that were weighing heavily on my heart. However, I could honestly think of just one thing that had the power to settle me down and make me feel worthy as a teacher. Just one thing that seemed to affirm all the reasons I became a teacher. Just one thing I could count on to bring a sense of peace to my classroom. How appropriate that the one thing that could do so much is a book—a read-aloud book that my students can’t get enough of. This book could be called “The Book that Saved My Students and Me.” How fitting that this book is actually called The War That Saved My Life.  

bk_-The-War-That-Saved-My-LifeWritten by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and set in 1939 England, the novel is a different type of WWII saga. It is a story filled with pain and triumph. It’s about the importance of oral language, kindness, and belief in oneself. It teaches lessons of perseverance, courage, and compassion. The War That Saved My Life is comprised of so many of the same teachable moments that educators like me strive to capture and make the most of on a regular basis.

The story of Ada was mentioned in a previous Bookology article about my “summer school kids.” I knew then that this book was one that would stay with me… and it has!  I was convinced it would be the perfect book to share with my students at the start of the school year… and it is! I hoped my teaching partners would agree… and they did! Each day 150 4th and 5th graders at my school plead to hear more of this story. When students from different classrooms discovered their teachers were all reading aloud the same book, they started discussing the story during recess. In the middle of a spelling test, when the word “trotted” was announced, a student immediately connected it to Ada and exclaimed “Hey, Ada trotted with Butter.” For the next two weeks we challenged one another to use spelling words in sentences that connected to the story. It was surprisingly easy for students and it certainly jazzed up our typical routine for studying words.

A final testament to the power of this book came when I told my students I would be at meetings for several days in a row and I needed their help with an important question: “Should I ask the guest teacher to continue reading aloud Ada’s story or should we put it on hold for a short while?” My 4th graders responded with “We can’t wait that long to hear more! Let the sub read it!” Clearly, they love this book! The same question was also posed to my 5th graders. Their response was different but tickled me just as much as the first one did: “No one can read the story like you, Mrs. Rome. We want to wait for you to come back and read it to us.”

In the world of education where teacher burnout is a very real thing for the young and old alike, there is one thing that has withstood the test of time and is proven to cultivate community, create calm, and contribute to the curriculum: one good book. The War That Saved My Life is the book that saved my students and me!


Bookstorm™: Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed Bookstorm

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallThis month, we are pleased to feature Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey, with photographs and book designed by the incredible team at National Geographic. This book is not only fascinating to read, it’s a beautiful reading experience as well.

It’s not often that a book offers us a glimpse into the childhood of a woman who has followed a brave, and caring, career path, but also follows her through more than 50 years in that chosen profession, describing her work, discoveries, and her passion for the mammals with whom she works. I learned so much I didn’t know about Dr. Goodall and her chimpanzees, Africa, field work, and how one moves people to support one’s cause.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Untamed, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read by ages 9 through adult. We’ve included fiction and nonfiction, picture books, middle grade books, and books adults will find interesting. A number of the books are by Dr. Jane Goodall herself—she’s a prolific writer. We’ve also included books about teaching science, as well as videos, and articles accessible on the internet.

Jane Goodall and Her Research. From Me … Jane, the picture by Patrick McDonnell about Jane Goodall’s childhood, to Jane Goodall: the Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson, there are a number of accessible books for every type of reader.

Primate Research. We’ve included nonfiction books such as Pamela S. Turner’s Gorilla Doctors and Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick’s Primates, a graphic novel about the three women who devoted so much of their loves to studying primates: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas.

Chimpanzees. Dr. Goodall’s research is specifically about chimpanzees so companion books such as Michele Colon’s Termites on a Stick and Dr. Goodall’s Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours are suggested.

Fiction. Many excellent novels have been written about primates and Africa and conservation, ranging from realism to science fiction and a novel based on a true story. Among our list, you’ll find Linda Sue Park’s A Long to Water and Eva by Peter Dickinson and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

World-Changing Women and Women Scientists. Here you’ll find picture book biographies, longer nonfiction books, and collections of short biographies such as Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh, Silk & Venom by Kathryn Lasky, and Rad American Women: A to Z by Kate Schatz.

Africa. The titles about, or set on, this continent are numerous. Learning About Africa by Robin Koontz provides a useful and current introduction to the continent. We also looked for books by authors who were born in or lived for a while in an African country; Next Stop—Zanzibar! by Niki Daly and Magic Gourd by Coretta Scott King Honoree Baba Wague Diakiteare are included in this section.

Animal Friendships. Children and adults alike crave these stories about unlikely friendships between animals who don’t normally hang around together. From Catherine Thimmesh’s Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships to Marion Dane Bauer’s A Mama for Owen, you’ll be charmed by these books.

Animals In Danger of Extinction. We’ve included only two books in this category but both of them should be stars in your booktalks. Counting Lions by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton, is a stunning book—do find it! Dr. Goodall contributes a moving book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink.

Teaching Science. If you’re working with young children in grades K through 2, you’ll want Perfect Pairs by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. For older students in grades 3 through 6, Picture-Perfect Science Lessons will inspire you.

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



From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallThank goodness for public libraries. I’ve been a user and fan for well over 50 years now, but for the last eight months, as I’ve worked with the other bookologists putting together the magazine, I’ve put more book miles on my card than in many years combined.

My local library is the largest in a consortium of nearly 50 libraries in western Wisconsin, which means delivery of special requests happens quickly; that reach and speed has been a key element in my ability to keep up with the necessary book work. This is especially true for the Bookstorm™ books. Before we recommend or write about those titles we like to—at the very least—get our hands on the candidate books, riffle pages, and examine back matter and illustrations. And of course we read. For nearly a year now I make the trip to the library several times a week to see what’s waiting for me on the hold shelf.

This month our Bookstorm™ features Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey, with photographs and book design by the editorial team at National Geographic. The companion book reading for this month’s storm has quite possibly covered more literary distance than that triggered by previous Bookstorms. Not only have I crossed and recrossed the African continent, but I’ve read about animal friendships and inspiring scientists, East African trickster stories, and visited a market in Zanzibar.

golden-baobab-prizeI’ve discovered more than books, of course. I’ve learned about the developing and exciting children’s literature scene throughout the African continent: The Golden Baobab Prize, first awarded in 2009 to celebrate and encourage emerging writers and illustrators of children’s stories; Bookshy, a wonderful blogger who focuses on African literature and book art; Book Dash, a writers and illustrators’ project designed to provide thousands of children with story books at little or no cost, and–most intriguing–Worldreader, a nonprofit that provides e-readers and e-books to schools and students in Africa and also works with African publishers to digitize their titles. 

And of course, I’ve read and thought a lot about Dr. Jane Goodall. As Bookstorm™ creator Vicki Palmquist says in her introduction to this month’s ‘storm, “[i]t’s not often that a book offers us a glimpse into the childhood of a woman who has followed a brave, and caring, career path, but also follows her through more than 50 years in that chosen profession, describing her work, discoveries, and her passion for the mammals with whom she works.”

Thanks for visiting Bookology. Please roam, and enjoy.


Is It a Classic?

by Vicki Palmquist

Loretta Mason PottsWhen I was in my twenties, I worked at an architecture firm. Several of the architects were fascinated by my deep connection to children’s books. One day, one of them asked me, “Which books, being published now, will become classics?” That question has stuck with me, holding up a signpost every now and then. How does one predict a classic?

Whenever someone asks which books were favorites from my own childhood (#booksthathooked), several books push themselves to the forefront—A Wrinkle in Time, Lord of the Rings, and Loretta Mason Potts. That last title always causes a “huh?” People, generally, are unfamiliar with this book.

The next question is always, “what’s it about?” Here’s the thing: I couldn’t answer that question. I didn’t remember a thing about the book except its title. What I remembered was the circumstances surrounding the reading of that book, the way it made me feel.

In sixth grade, I had a teacher, Gordon Rausch, who changed my life. He showed me possibilities. He believed in me. He made learning and research fun. I was often bored in school, but never in his class. Every day was a new adventure. What I remember most is that he read books out loud to the whole class. I remember Pippi Longstocking. I remember A Wrinkle in Time. But he also read Loretta Mason Potts to us.

As far as I can recall, he was the only teacher I had who ever read books out loud. Our class had its share of bullies and attention-getters. No one interrupted his reading of a book. His choices were good, his reading skills were exemplary, and he always knew where to end, leaving us craving more.

Loretta Mason Potts was written by Mary Chase and published in 1958. Thanks to The New York Review Children’s Collection, you can read this fine book, too. They reprinted it in 2014. I’ve just re-read it and once again I understand why it springs to mind as my favorite.

Mary Chase lived in Denver. She died in 1981. You may know her because of another one of her books, Harvey, which won a Pulitzer Prize and became a movie starring Jimmy Stewart. If you know Harvey, you will understand that the writer has a fantastical imagination and a good wit. Both of those are evident in Loretta Mason Potts.

It’s a charming mixture of a Tam Lin story and a Snow Queen story, centering on a family of children, their mother, and their long-lost eldest sister, told in a way that will reach into the heart and mind of a child. It has naughty children, ensorcelled children, a caring but somewhat clueless mother, a mysterious bridge, and a castle occupied by the bored Countess and General, who hover on the precipice of danger.

I am so glad that this book is illustrated. It was the first book published with Harold Berson’s black-and-white line drawings. He would go on to illustrate another 90 books.

There are a growing number of titles in the New York Review Children’s Collection. I have several of them and would put every one of them on my bookshelves if I could. The selection of these books is enchanting. Do you remember reading Esther Averill’s Jenny and the Cat Club? How about Dino Buzzati’s The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily? Or Lucretia P. Hale’s The Peterkin Papers? (I had forgotten all about this book until I saw it on their booklist—I loved that book.) Or Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson?

New York Review of Books Children's Collection

Are these books classics? This, I think, is the interesting question. What is a classic? These books are being published once again … so they’ve withstood the test of time. Although the writing is somewhat quaint, they still hold up as stories that will interest a modern reader. Loretta Mason Potts is a book that has lived on in my mind for decades. I wonder if the other students in my sixth grade class remember it in the same way.

Which books published today will become classics? It’s a question worth discussing, isn’t it?