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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Interview: Candace Fleming

credit: Michael Lionstar

credit: Michael Lionstar

Bulldozer’s Big Day is a perfect read-aloud, with wonderful sound and action opportunities on most pages. Did those moments affect your decision about what verbs to use?

How lovely you think it’s a perfect read aloud. I worked hard at the story’s readability. Not only did I strive for a pace and cadence, but I wanted the story to sound as active as the plot’s setting with lots of bumping and clanging and vrooming. Additionally, I thought long and hard about those working verbs. You know, the shifting, mixing, chopping each truck does. They had to have a double-meaning, applying to both construction trucks and baking. And they had to be in groups of three, because… well… three just sounds good, doesn’t it?

While most readers and listeners will think the “Big Day” is a birthday, you never use that term. Why?

It was redundant.  Readers can see that the big trucks made a cake for Bulldozer’s sixth birthday. They don’t need me to tell them. Interestingly, every time I read the story aloud to kindergarteners they spontaneously burst into the “Happy Birthday” song. I’m not sure I’d get that response if I’d had the trucks shout the words. It’s one more way for them to find their way into the text – and I did it accidentally.

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

written by Candace Fleming 
illustrated by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

There is a perfect turn-around late in the story, when we go from “mashing, mashing, mashing” to a quieter moment, then the suspenseful “lifting, lifting, lifting.” This suggests to me that you are not only skilled at dramatic narrative, but a veteran classroom reader as you quiet the students down from that high-energy mashing to get ready for a resolution.  Do you remember your first author visit to a classroom? What have you learned over the years about reading your books aloud?

I do remember my first author visit. I was terrified. But the kids and teachers were so lovely, I was immediately put at ease. And this strange thing happened. I turned into an actor. Seriously. Standing in front of that library full of first graders, I suddenly discovered a talent for talking in voices and acting like different animals. Me?! I became a storyteller. That’s what I know from years of reading my books – and others’ – aloud. You have to be dramatic. You have to be suspenseful. You have to lick your chops if you’re reading about a hungry tiger, or wiggle your bottom if you’re reading about a puff-tailed rabbit. Kids love it. In truth, so do I.

Were you ever disappointed on a childhood birthday?

You mean that year I didn’t get a pony?

Do you enjoy birthday celebrations now?

Absolutely! I’m especially enamored of the cake. And don’t you dare ask me how old I’ll be on my next one.





Skinny Dip with Emilie Buchwald

bk_FloramelWhat keeps you up at night? 

All that I didn’t accomplish during the day. All that I hope to accomplish the next day.

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

The marathon. The long distance performance inspires me.  I’ve driven a marathon course of 26.2 miles and can’t imagine being able to run it. However, the idea of a long distance journey of the intellectual or imaginative kind is very appealing to me.

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

Since I’m a klutz, the bravest thing I’ve done is to learn to ski after the age of 40. I fell a number of times getting off the lift at our local ski hill before I successfully skied off.  It was worth it to stand at the top of a mountain and experience the panorama—and then to ski very slowly down.

 What is your proudest career moment?

The first time I dared to stand up, go to the lectern, and read my poems before an audience. Like learning to ski, the experience of sharing those poems was worth going through the trepidation.

What TV show can’t you turn off?   

The West Wing.


USBBY Reflections

by Nancy Bo Flood 

Books can help readers heal. Stories can create compassion. Every one needs to find “their story” in books.

flood_USBBY_Logo_1The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is part of The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), a world-wide organization that works to build bridges of understanding through children’s and young adult books.  “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.”

USBBY/IBBY brings together authors and illustrators, editors, librarians, teachers, and readers who support the creation of books that speak to children and their parents whatever their home country or language. IBBY’s Hans Christian Andersen Medal celebrates the best world-wide author and illustrator whose words and images excite imagination, and its Astrid Lindgren Memorial award is given to authors, illustrators, storytellers, and persons and organizations that work to promote literacy. Each award is selected from the nominations of over a 100 participating regional units, such as USBBY.


Kate DiCamillo (r) speaking at the opening USBBY session.

This year’s USBBY conference was held in New York City, lower Manhattan. The conference is kept small, under 300 attendees, so the atmosphere is friendly, like old friends coming together to share new ideas, new trends, and new award-winning books from around the world. What a celebration of books! This year the opening speaker was our very own National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo. She spoke about her journey from writer to published author.


Kate DiCamillo signed books and took the time to chat with each person, even me.

Persistence! Kate affirmed that within each of us we have stories to tell. But to successfully move from that first page to a published book, one needs to believe in oneself, write and re-write, and stubbornly pursue the quest of finding the right editor. With humor Kate described her initial ten years of first thinking about writing before actually having the courage to put pen to paper and write. Then came 470 rejection letters. Now Kate has 22 million books in print world-wide, translated into 41 languages. She calls herself a “late-bloomer.” Her first book was published a few years before she turned forty. Even today, Kate is “still surprised that I ever got published.” When asked why her books are read by all ages of readers in countries on every continent, she imagines that somehow the stories she writes have universal appeal because she writes honestly of experiences and emotions we all share – fears and hopes, disappointments and sorrows. Kate asserts, that “the love of story is in the core of humankind.” Through story we step into the heart of another and walk within their journey. Kate also affirms that “every child has the right to learn to read.”


Susan Cooper signing at USBBY.

This universal love of story was reiterated in a later talk by Susan Cooper, one of England’s greatest storytellers (The Dark is Rising), a creator of many worlds, a writer of fantasy. Susan asked, “is it possible for storytelling, this basic love of story that all cultures share, to be a way to heal the divisions of our world? Through the magic of entering another place, another culture, can we increase compassion and come to accept differences, erase prejudices based on ignorance?” Yes, both Susan and Kate contend, books can build bridges. They can tell universal truths. They can let us walk within the heart and skin of another person and feel “both joy and sorrow as sharp as stones.”


(l-r) Holly Thompson, Margarita Engle, Padma Venkatraman presented a panel on verse novels.

A child might sit in a classroom, on a park bench, or snuggled under bed covers with a flashlight, and become lost in a book. Or a child might sit in front of a tent in a refugee camp or a detention center near a border crossing. Books let us enter new worlds, consider new ideas, rethink old hates. Both Kate DiCamillo and Susan Cooper agree that stories help us laugh and give us hope.

Flood_war panel

(l-r) The war panel: me, Lyn Miller-Lachman, and Terry Farish.


This year at the conference I was part of a “war panel.” The smiling trio in the photo, “the war panel,” presented different perspectives about war and the effects on children. Today over forty million children live as refugees. Here in the United States, more veterans—mothers and fathers of children—die from suicide than from combat. How do their children make sense of war? We need well-written books about war so children can find their stories and begin to heal.

Thank you, Colorado Author’s League, for supporting me with a travel grant to attend this USBBY conference. I encourage writers and illustrators to become a member of this international organization. Throughout the year USBBY is involved in a variety of projects that bring appropriate books to children and parents. As Kate DiCamillo stated: “Every child has the right to read.”


Liza Ketchum: Serendipity


Liza Ketchum

Serendipity is one of my favorite words. I love its dancelike sound and the way it trips off the tongue. According to my dictionary, serendipity means “the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.”

I find the etymology of words fascinating. Even as a child, I liked to study the maps that show the relationship and origins of Indo-European languages. (Here’s an animated version.) So where does the word serendipity come from?

My American Heritage dictionary traces the word’s origins to the English writer Horace Walpole, who supposedly coined the word in a 1754 letter to a friend. Walpole described a Persian fairy tale he had read, concerning three princes from Serendip. The brothers—highly accomplished, smart, and artistic—were banished from their kingdom by their father, the king. Wandering in a foreign land, they encountered a merchant who had lost his camel. The brothers used powers of deduction—which we now associate with detective fiction—to find the camel. Walpole said, “They were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” 

Things they were not in quest of. This phrase made me think of other famous discoveries that happen by accident—such as the penicillin mold that grew when Alexander Fleming left a Petri dish on his windowsill by mistake, or the burrs that attached themselves to George de Mestral’s clothes on a mountain hike, giving him the idea for Velcro. Serendipity also makes me think about moments in our writing lives when incidents, events, and ideas merge to trigger a Eureka! moment.

bk_When-Women-Were-BirdsThree years ago, at a Hamline University summer residency, I opened a new notebook late one night, and scrawled these words: “The Last Garden.” The title had come to me after I read the first two entries in Terry Tempest Williams’ brilliant book, When Women Were Birds, a gift from Phyllis Root. Williams wrote the memoir after her mother died and she uncovered a shocking truth about her life. I had recently lost both parents, so Williams’s topic pulled me in. I was also drawn to the book by its format: a series of short vignettes, forking off a single idea like branches on a tree. Vignettes seemed like a manageable, less daunting way to deal with personal subject matter. But wait—since when was I planning to write about gardens?

That same morning, as we discussed our workshops, Phyllis told me that she planned to ask her students that great question: “What would you write if you knew you could not fail?” It made me think of Mary Oliver, who demands, in her poem “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?” 

For years I had tried to write a memoir about my relationship with my grandmother, and the Vermont house where I spent my childhood summers, but I couldn’t find a unifying thread. When I wrote those words—“The Last Garden”—I realized that gardens—and gardeners—could provide that unity. My husband and I had just purchased a sweet house, down the road a mile from my grandmother’s old place. The property came with overgrown lilacs and tangled, overgrown gardens that concealed peonies, foxgloves, and an asparagus bed. Though I have gardened all my life, I realized this would be the last garden I would create from scratch.

Since that moment at Hamline, the focus of my writing has changed dramatically. In addition to the memoir, I’ve been writing essays and articles about nature and the environment. I’m working on two non-fiction projects, focused on environmental subjects, with my dear friends Phyllis Root and Jackie Briggs Martin. All thanks to serendipity.

Perhaps the best thing about serendipity is that we can’t explain how it happens. Who could predict that the loss of my parents, the gift of a wise book written in an appealing form, and the right question at the right time—would coincide with ideas I was “not in quest of”?

ph_camelMeanwhile, as I wrestle with the memoir’s final vignettes, I can’t help thinking of that missing camel that—as the Serendip brothers predicted—was lame, blind in one eye, and lumbered under the weight of a leaking sack of honey, a bag of butter, and a pregnant woman.

Uh oh. Doesn’t that sound like a picture book, waiting to happen?


Home Away from Home

by Lisa Bullard

10_22I like to play a certain game when I’m traveling. I pretend that the place I’m visiting is my home, and I imagine how my life would have been altered if I had in fact taken root in that other environment.

How would things be different for me if my world swirled amidst New York City’s self-fulfilling energy? If my abode was perched atop a fog-shrouded island in the Pacific Northwest? If I was planted on the lip of a tall-grass prairie, with the world dropping off into nothingness on the other edge of the great grass sea? If I dreamed my dreams in a twig-built hut?

Part of a writer’s task is to create alternative homelands, to build distinctive worlds for each of our characters to inhabit. Once we have our world crafted, we invite readers to make themselves at home there too. We hope that they will want to hunker down into this habitat that we have fashioned and make it a part of themselves; to allow it to take up residence in their hearts and imaginations.

One of the easiest ways to teach young writers about envisioning an environment is to talk with them about the worlds they have wandered through in their fantasy reading. Good fantasy writers are masters at the art of world-building, and students can learn a lot by meandering through the keyboarded landscapes of these writers who have built worlds before them.

Once you have had a chance to help students recognize the importance of “place” in the stories that they have loved reading, start them writing with the Fantasy Land activity found here. It will help your young writers begin to visualize a “home away from home”—a place where they might house their next story.



Flowerpot Cakes

Flowerpot Cakes
Serves 6
We used six unglazed, untreated terra-cotta flowerpots (each with a six-ounce capacity, about 3 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches across the top). Thoroughly wash the new pots in hot water before using.
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  1. 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus more for pots
  2. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  3. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  6. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
  9. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  10. 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. Quick Chocolate Frosting
  12. 1/2 cup crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 10), for garnish
  13. Multicolored pebble-shaped chocolate candies, for garnish
  14. Mint sprigs, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush inside of each flowerpot with oil, and line bottom with parchment paper round. Brush parchment with oil, and lightly dust with cocoa.
  2. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg and yolk, 3/4 cup warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Divide batter among prepared pots, filling each about two-thirds full. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, rotating sheet about halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cakes cool completely in the flowerpots on a wire rack.
  4. Frost cakes with an offset spatula; sprinkle with crushed cookies. Top with candies; "plant" 1 mint sprig in each cake.
  1. At a spring conference we organized back in 2004, Karen Ritz, author, illustrator, and baker extraordinaire, made one of these for each of our guests. They were a hit! We think they'd work well with a construction-themed party or storytime, too.
Adapted from from Martha Stewart's website
Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Diana Star Helmer

What animal are you most like?

My answer to this question could unwind like an endless ball of yarn! But I shall try to be brief.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved cats. Looking back at my life, I can see how I am cat-like. I watch; I always have. When I first went to school, I was an “elective mute” for some time, just watching and figuring things out. (A cat may look at a king, you know.) Like certain cats I have known, I can do things that absolutely must be done, even things I’d rather not do. But I am happiest to simply be, with the sun and the rain and the grass and the trees, and all the mysterious creatures.

bk_Dog'sBestFriendWhich book of yours was the most difficult to write?

My Kindle novel, A Dog’s Best Friend, is by far the most difficult writing I’ve undertaken to date. There are a few reasons:

First, the story’s hero is a dog, and I have lived only with cats. Yet, I felt this character needed to be a dog: dogs seem, to me, to be Everyman.

Secondly, A Dog’s Best Friend is my first long work. I had been writing for newspapers and magazines for many years when I began the novel. I’d become quite sure of my ability to tell an entire story in 600-800 words. I thought such skills would translate easily to novel-writing.


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

bk_threescroogesI cross my fingers and hope that all of my stories would make good movies, because good storytelling is cinematic: visual and concise.

Because most of my novels are about non-human animals, this means animation would be marvelous, and I love animation! The voices could then be any fantastic performers—no famous names required.

A Dog’s Best Friend would be nice as a film because it’s a buddy/road trip, a classic film situation.

Elsie’s Afghan would be amazing because of the magical transformation required.

The Three Scrooges would be a great candidate because half of its inspiration—the Stooges, of course—began as film characters!

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Good heavens, that’s like asking what is my favorite shell on the beach!

I’ll try to narrow it down:

Favorite line from another writer: 


“My life is the poem I would have writ / but I could not both live and utter it.”

My favorite line from the book I’m working on:

“Oh, do not seek wisdom, my dear. If you find it, you’ll never be fit for mixed company.”  

What book do you tell everyone to read?

I seldom recommend books. It seems so personal! But I have mentioned to a few people The Book, by Alan Watts. I have gone back to it many times over the years.


Museum Feast

curated by Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson
Big Picture Press, 2015

by Vicki Palmquist

In a large, folio-sized book, the curators of Historium present a printed-page trip through a museum, grouped by cultures and described in detail so you can understand what you are seeing without being rushed along by the crowd. Much like those rentable museum audio tapes or the placards on the wall, it’s an enhanced experience of the artifacts. Unless you are a well-traveled museum habitué, many of these items will be unfamiliar to you.

There are articles from cultures all over the world over a great length of time, represented for context by a timeline. From one million years ago, a Stone Age hand ax to the early nineteenth century, a stone statue from Polynesia, traveling to Melanesia, The Levant, Ancient Islam, The Hopewell, and the realm of the Vikings.

This museum is open 24/7, without the need for signing a field trip permission slip or paying for parking.

Historium Ancient Egypt

On page 35, a beautifully decorated jug from the Pueblo is explained in this way: “pottery skills and designs were passed from mother to daughter. Each Pueblo settlement would try to keep the location of its clay deposit a secret, to prevent it from being plundered … they often refer to the clay as female.” This kind of detail provides depth for our understanding of the world.

On page 50, there is a double-headed serpent mosaic from the 15th or 16th century, “intended to both impress and terrify the beholder.” We learn that “the craftsmen best known for their turquoise mosaics were not Aztecs but Mixtecs …” which results in a tangential search to find out more about the Mixtecs, just as a bricks-and-mortar museum would do.

I’m not sure I understand why the artifacts are presented against darkly-colored backgrounds … sometimes the contrast makes it harder to study the items, but overall this is a book that will satisfy the curious in your family or classroom. Like all good museums, it is the beginning to a journey of discovery.


Keeping Track

img_RRBJournalI’ve not kept track. Not really. I mean, I can peruse our many bookshelves and make a sort of list, but it would be missing things. What about all the library books we’ve read together?

I was in a book discussion earlier this week with a woman who keeps A Reading Journal. She writes as she reads—notes and quotes, questions and lists, impressions and recommendations, etc. She has, she confessed under my too eager questioning, multiple volumes of these journals. I imagine them sitting with their straight spines and gilded pages all on one bookshelf. I am jealous—not envious, but flat out jealous. She insists their residence is not so neat, that the practice is not that admirable. She says the notebooks are not all the same, that some are falling apart, that she keeps them in multiple places etc. She says this as if she’s really not so organized and diligent, but she doesn’t fool me. She’s been keeping A Reading Journal since she was eleven.

I’ve always wanted to keep A Reading Journal. I’ve never kept A Reading Journal. Not so much, even, as a list of the things I’ve read. I can forgive myself for this, but I’m envious of those who do manage to jot down the titles, even if nothing else.

img_RRBAuthorHenkesHowever…on the heels of meeting this wonderful reader, I read this interview. Because I would read anything having to do with Kevin Henkes, on whom I might have a small writerly-crush. (Sometimes, when I have a rough day, I watch the Meet Kevin Henkes video on his website. It’s better than a glass of wine. I watch him draw Lilly…and my thoughts settle. I listen to him talk about the colors of Lilly and Ginger’s dresses…and I feel like I can go on. He flips through his notebooks showing us how his ideas become books…sigh…and I am inspired and ready to work. I’m easily moved by the keeping of notebooks, apparently.)

I adore this man’s books—especially the mouse picture books. When I think of this wonderful author-artist in his book-lined, light-filled studio creating books for us, my heart is glad. I think I vaguely knew he had a family, though I never gave them a thought until this interview. Here, I learn that he read to his kids at breakfast. “Which was a great thing,” he says in his Kevin Henkes way, “because I would read to both of them and my wife would be making the lunches so all four of us had this shared experience.”

img_RRBmouseWelcomeI sigh. He reads to kids at breakfast and his wife makes the lunches and they have a Shared Experience. Do they know how lucky they are? And then I think: I read to my kids at breakfast some! My husband wasn’t making the lunches while I was doing so, since he leaves before the rest of us are up, but we as a family have other Shared Experiences around books, yes we do! So, Kevin Henkes and I have something in common! There’s that!

Then I learn that they’ve kept a list in the back hall of all the books they read together, “120 and some books.”

My heart sinks. We do not have a back hall. I have not kept a list. I’m sure we’ve read 120-some books together, but I do not have a list in a back hall to prove it. I find myself wondering how the list was kept in the back hall. I imagine Kevin Henkes’ children scribbling titles on the wall, his wife wallpapering with bookcover photos, him slipping small scraps of paper with titles in a chinked wall of rock. Can you have a back hall made of rocks?

I call myself back to reality. It doesn’t matter how Kevin Henkes and his lucky family keep their list. It doesn’t even matter that they’ve kept the list. Not really. What matters is the Shared Experience. I feel sure Kevin Henkes would agree with me. And my family and I have the Shared Experience of books read together—hundreds of books read together, especially if you count all the times we read Kevin Henkes’ mouse books.

img_RRBmouseFlowerThere’s a part of me that wants to recreate the list—find a wall somewhere in the house (I’m quite taken with the “back hall” aspect of this) to scribble all of the titles of books we’ve read together. But it wouldn’t be accurate—it’d be like marking the kids’ heights as they grew on the kitchen doorframe now that they’ve grown. (Another nostalgic record keeping I wish I’d done.)

So I will kvell in the Shared Experience—I’m so grateful for all the time we’ve read together, whether I have a list in the back hall or in a journal to show for it or not.


Two for the Show: What Scares You?

Note to readers: we are trying a new format this month. We want to make our blog more conversational. Let us know what you think.

Phyllis Root:
What scares you? How do you deal with that fear? And why do so many of us like to scare ourselves silly, as long as we know that everything will be all right in the end?

An article in The Atlantic, Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear,” explains how the hormone dopamine, released during scary activities makes some of us feel good, especially if we feel safe. If we know those ghosts in the haunted house aren’t really ghosts, we can let ourselves be as scared as we want by their sudden appearance.

In Ramona the Brave Ramona hides a book with a scary gorilla picture under a couch cushion when the book becomes too terrifying. She’s in charge of how scared she wants to be, and books offer us that opportunity: we can close them if they’re scary, or even look ahead to the end to be sure everything will be fine.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin:
We can give ourselves little doses of scare. Doses that feel like fun because we are watching events happen to someone else.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd, is a deliciously scary experience. On her way home through the forest as it starts to get dark, the little old lady meets two big shoes that go CLOMP, CLOMP. Since she’s not afraid of anything, she continues toward home—but the shoes clomp behind her, as do, eventually, a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, and a hat that goes NOD, NOD. To all of them she says “Get out of my way!” because, of course, she’s not afraid of anything—although she does walk faster and faster. When she meets the scary pumpkin head that goes BOO, BOO! she runs for home and locks the door. Then comes the KNOCK, KNOCK on the door. Because she’s not afraid of anything she answers the door and sees the whole assemblage of clothing and pumpkin head. “You can’t scare me,” she says. “Then what’s to become of us?” the pumpkin asks. The little old lady’s idea for a solution makes everyone happy. Part of the genius of this book is that it invites listeners to join in on the sound effects, giving them an active part in the story as well as an outlet for building tension.

bk_TwoSeussThe narrator in What Was I Scared Of?, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, only has to confront a pair of empty pants (a fun twist on having the pants scared off of one), and like the old lady, this narrator claims he isn’t scared of anything. Still, when the pants move, he hightails it out of there, and each time the pants show up again, whether riding a bike or rowing a boat, the narrator runs from them. When he unexpectedly encounters the pants and hollers for help, the pants break down in tears; it turns out they are as scared of him as he is of them. The narrator responds empathetically by putting his arm around the pants’ waist and calming the “poor empty pants with nobody inside them.” Neither is scared of the other any longer.

This book has always been a favorite at our house. Who would not be scared of such pants? And this list of frightened responses is so inclusive—and so fun to read out loud:

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“Oh save me from these pale green pants

With nobody inside!”

Dr. Seuss’s language in this story frequently makes us laugh. One of my favorites:

And the next night, I was fishing

for Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

I’m not a fishing person, but I might head out to Roover River for a couple of Doubt-trout.

bk_TwoNightmareAnother story in which the fearsome is also fearful is There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. I can’t believe this Mercer Mayer book is forty-seven years old. It seems as current a childhood worry as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. Mayer’s illustrations are perfect—we can almost hear the silence in the illustration in which the kid tiptoes back to bed, after closing the closet door.

Facing your fears and befriending them runs through all of these stories. Virginia Hamilton’s Wee Winnie Witch’s Skinny, an original tale based on research into black folklore and illustrated by Barry Moser, involves actually out-witting a very scary being. With more text and a more story-telling tone, the tale relates how James Lee’s Uncle Big Anthony is attacked by a cat who is really Wee Winnie Witch in disguise and who rides him through the sky at night. As weeks pass, Uncle Big Anthony “got lean and bent-over tired. He looked like some about gone, Uncle Shrunken Anthony.” Mama Granny comes to the rescue with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone.

bk_TwoWeeWitchWhen Wee Winnie Witch takes off her skin that night to ride Uncle Big Anthony, she snatches James Lee from his window and takes him riding with them through the sky where he is both terrified and thrilled. When Wee Winnie Witch returns to the ground and puts on her skin again, she finds that Mama Granny has treated the skin’s inside with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone. The skin squeezes Wee Winnie Witch so hard that she shrivels into pieces on the floor. Uncle Big Anthony gradually returns to his former self, and although James Lee never wants to see a “skinny” again, the thought of the night-air ride up in the twinkling stars still makes him say “Whew-wheee!”

This tale is gripping—and for me, a bit disturbing, or maybe thought-provoking. I was troubled by the thought and image of the Wee Winnie Witch riding Big Uncle Anthony with the bridle in his mouth. But, as I thought about it, I wondered if Hamilton was possibly reminding us of the degradation that slavery brought to black people. So many were bridled and lashed and worked to death. Hard to say. In any case this story has plenty of scare and a strong hero in Mama Granny.

Terrified, thrilled, and brought back to a sense of safety again: these stories do all that but with different levels of bk_TwoHamburgerterror. And because picture books are usually read aloud by a comforting adult and because we’re free to shut them and even put them under the couch cushion, we can choose how scared to be, knowing that we can safely close the book. But like James Lee, we might also say “Whew-wheee!”—then open the book to read it again.

And what kinds of stories do ghosts tell to scare themselves? Read The Haunted Hamburger by David LaRochelle and find out.


Skinny Dip with Amy Baum

gr_sleepy-hollow-moonWhat keeps you up at night?

The Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I had to sleep in my sister’s room for 6 months after that terrifying cartoon.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. I loved Little Bear and his very functional family. Also, I thought it was simply magical that all of the letters spelled out a story. I am still a fan of large type (though that could be my age).

Disclaimer: There was one story that caused many sleepless nights: “Goblin Story” in Little Bear’s Visit. I highly recommend reading this story during a clear, bright day. A big shout out to Kim Faurot at the Saint Paul Public Library Children’s Room.

What’s Your favorite holiday tradition?

Giving Presents for all occasions – I am most certain that there is a holiday packed into every week of the year.

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

Oy, such a challenge. I have dyslexia, but that wasn’t a “thing” back in the sixties – hence I was trundled off to speech therapy. It was great fun. We did a lot of puppet shows with Steiff puppets – and while they were very itchy I was a proud porcupine.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

gr_aaxmanwithlogoYes, shopping, presents and holidays all go hand-in-hand. I have a closet full of cool gift wrap which I buy all year round. I must admit to using gift bags on unwieldy items. Though one can get some swell boxes at The Ax-Man surplus store. It also delights me to watch the painstaking measures some recipients will go to in an effort to preserve the wrapping paper. You people know who you are.

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

Such an unfair question. I would require the capacity of the Algonquin Round Table and I would try to accommodate SOME list of some of my heroes:

  1. Maurice Sendak
  2. Ursula Nordstrom, aside from being a fabulous editor she wrote one of my favorite books of second grade, The Secret Language.
  3. Edward Gorey
  4. ph_wedgewoodMargaret Wise Brown
  5. A.A. Milne
  6. E.L. Konigsburg
  7. Eric Carle
  8. Nancy Ekholm Burkert
  9. Walter Dean Myers
  10. Beatrix Potter – I eat off her Peter Rabbit Wedgewood every day
  11. E.B. White
  12. Tomi Ungerer
  13. Charlotte Zolotow
  14. Dr. Seuss
  15. M.E. Kerr

I am quite certain that I am leaving several important guests out. By the way – I would not cook out of deference of my guests – catering all the way! I do not use my stove – I occasionally dust it.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”– Charlotte’s Web

What book do you tell everyone to read?

The Phantom Tollbooth, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, The Nutshell Library, The Moon Man, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. It depends on who my audience is and what their needs are at the time.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Both – nighttime is for reading and hanging with my faithful dog. Morning is for “catching up.”


Avi: Bags of Cement

ph_CementBagsFor reasons both boring and complex, I currently find myself under obligation to deliver four novels before the next twelve months are out. Two are written, but undergoing revisions. A third has started. The fourth has nothing on paper; only in my mind. Is it an accident that my shoulders have been aching, as if I had been carrying bags of cement up a ladder? 

When friends hear of this they ask, “How you going to do that?” The answer is, by sitting in front of my computer and working from about seven AM until seven PM. I’ll take Thanksgiving and Christmas off. Joke.

There is something to be said for deadline writing, especially when you make your living that way. Yet, I suspect the term “deadline” came about because when you reach the finishing line, you are dead. Then again, one of my sons is a journalist, and he has daily, sometimes hourly deadlines. I admire that, from a distance. He considers my pace “leisurely.”

That said, working obsessively has its own rewards. You do not put up with your own nonsense. Prolixity means more work. Repetition is to be dreaded, and cut. Lean, sharp writing flows. Bad writing is a like a wash-board road. You become so immersed in your story you think about it all the time, which can be very productive. (Wait! What if she does this? Shouldn’t he say that?)

ph_WashboardRoad_smYou can, if you write a lot, move quickly on to the next project because you have no choice. You can’t fall in love with your work because you are not engaged in a life-long relationship. Honestly, when I read about the writers who spend ten years (or more) on a novel, my heart goes out to them. Groundhog Day was a funny, clever movie, but I for one would not like to live my writing life that way.

Moreover, if you are always writing, it is hard to feel riveted to the outcome of your just-published work. Sure, it’s fun to read the reviews (the good ones that is), but by the time that book is being published, I am so involved in the next book, it is not so very important. I feel sorry for the writer who cannot move on until the full cycle (writing-revision-publishing-response) is complete.

And yet . . . and yet, I have the responsibility (to my readers, my publishers, and myself) to make each book good, as good as I can. This is difficult because no book is ever truly done. I can always find ways to make it better. Not so long ago I picked up a just-published book (I had worked on it for more than a year) and read the first paragraph. Instantly I realized I should have added an element to the plot that would have made it a much better book. Too late.

Would I rather work on one book at a time, work on it from start to finish, before moving on to the next? Sure. 

But no matter how you do it, writing is rather like carrying bags of cement up a ladder. The real problem is—I love doing it.


Plotting Your Route

by Lisa Bullard

10_8PaulBunyanUsing an “I’ll just see where the road takes me” approach has led me on all sorts of adventures. But it’s also meant I’ve arrived at midnight and discovered every hotel room in town is rented to lumberjacks.

I still don’t plan ahead for lumberjack influxes—I figure one of those per lifetime is probably my quota—but that experience has forced me to rethink my approach a bit.

I’ve learned the same thing about writing road trips. My earlier, shorter projects didn’t travel enough distance to require planning ahead. I always had a final destination in mind (the ending of a story is clear to me early in the process). But I didn’t worry over the how-to-get-there details. A few unexpected detours just meant more fun.

It was different when I began drafting a novel. I jumped in with my usual spontaneous approach, steering towards the ending but exploring all the intriguing side roads. Then my character dug in his heels and refused to move forward. I suddenly recognized what a vast expanse stretched between the beginning and the ending, and I completely stalled out.

I reluctantly recognized it was time to plot my route. As soon as I had that outline in place, I began writing again at full speed. I’m not a full outline convert, but I now see that a road map can be an important writing tool.

Some young writers are natural outliners. Others are like me, dragged to it only by necessity. You can help these “outline resistant” students develop their outlining skills. For example, you can work together as a class to outline a published story. Or you can outline a “typical” human life or a calendar year for practice.

Sometimes even the most spontaneous writer needs to stop and plot their route in order to make forward progress.


Skinny Dip with Nancy Bo Flood

ph_popcornWhat keeps you up at night?

Popcorn in the brain. Ideas are popping and images are streaming through my brain. I know that if I don’t get up (ugh, really, 3 am?) and write them down, I won’t have a clue in the morning what they were. All those brilliant ideas, gone! I like to read a chapter from my current work just before I go to bed. The thoughts stir up new ideas, sometimes even solutions to problems. Of course sometimes I look at what I’ve written in the middle of the night and there are no treasures, just stale popcorn. Sometimes there are some real jewels, like finding the magic ring in a box of Cracker Jacks.

What is your proudest career moment?

Cowboy Up!Two very happy moments—from this past year. I was asked to read from Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo at the Poetry Roundup session of the Texas Library Conference. Me, a poet? Watching kids race horses around barrels, throw a lasso from on top a galloping horse to snag a dodging calf’s back hoof—now that’s poetry. My favorite is watching the “mutton busting” three– and four–year-olds ride a bucking sheep. That was the inspiration for my favorite poem. When I shared this poem with about 200 librarians at their Texas conference, they all kindly stood up and pretended to ride along. Librarians are heroic. They got right on that imaginary sheep, held one hand up high, and grabbed tight onto a fistful of wool.

My happiest career moments happen when I’m with students, especially the responses I’ve received from Navajo school children. During author visits they give me a big smile and say, “You wrote Navajo Year? That is my favorite book.” The very best moment of all occurred while reading from Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo to a classroom of second-graders at Many Farms Elementary. This little guy wearing a too-big tee shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots, looked at me, grinned, and raised his hand. Then he said, “I am in your book.”

Less than 1% of the books published for children are by or about contemporary American Indians. Childhood is short; children grow up fast. All children need to see themselves in books, now.

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

Equestrian! I have imagined competing on the combined equestrian event which includes dressage, cross-country, and jumping. As a child I wished for, begged for, even plotted for getting a horse of my own. No luck. But as soon as I was grown up and living in the country with room for a horse, I bought a horse, a strong beautiful, calm golden palomino, Natchee. My next dream was to be become a “real rider,” which meant not being scared of the horse. I wanted to be able to walk out into a pasture through wild waving grass, catch my horse with just a rope halter, slip on a bridle, and ride. Fast. Leap over ditches and splash through creeks. And I did. Once I even jumped over a picnic table! Natchee and I were riding in the Olympics.

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

bk_BoFloodWarriorsSwim with sharks. As part of my research for Warriors in the Crossfire, I needed to paddle my kayak over the reef, leave the safe calm lagoon behind, and head to the open ocean. I loved snorkeling in the lagoon. I could see bottom—white sand 30 or 40 feet below with fish of all colors nibbling on coral heads. But in the open ocean, when I looked down, there was blue that continued until it became black. That alone sent shivers up my back. But my main character in Warriors jumps out of his outrigger to save the life of his friend. They had been hunting turtle in the open ocean and, meanwhile, a shark had begun hunting them.

So I paddled out. I put on mask and snorkel and slipped overboard. The rise and fall of the waves made me a bit nauseated. I was so scared my heart was pounding, and I was still holding on to the side of the kayak. I needed to let go and drift around a bit. Every shadow and shift of light under the sea’s surface looked like the silhouette of some kind of hungry sea creature. I kicked away from the kayak and then I saw them. Beneath me. The sleek backs of three reef sharks! I watched them circle around and then one shark slowly come directly at me. There was no time to haul myself back into the kayak. If I could have walked on water, I ph_Grey_reef_shark2would have. The shark was so close I couldn’t think, I automatically did what I’d been taught in those boring diving lessons. I fisted my hand and punched him in the nose. He turned and disappeared. Would he return? With my arms pummeling like a crazed wind mill, I swam to the kayak, without breathing, without caring how much I was splashing. I pulled myself up over the side expecting to feel teeth chomp through my legs. Finally all of me was in the kayak. My whole body was shaking but I paddled back over the reef and straight to shore. I lay on the warm wet sand, closed my eyes, felt the safe, hot sun.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Bugs and Insects, the World Book Encyclopedia, and comic books.  I grew up in a rural farm area of Illinois. We did not have a library or a bookstore. My parents valued education and the first step was learning to read. My older brother could read and I was determined to read, too. But there wasn’t much available. My parents bought a set of World Book and Childcraft Encyclopedias. My dad was a basketball coach and the team earned extra money to pay for “away” tournaments by collecting newspapers for recycling. Dad drove a pick-up truck and my brother and I got to help load tied-up stacks of newspapers into the back of the truck. Our payment was when we unloaded the stacks, we could search through the piles of newspapers for discarded comic books.

I read one book of the encyclopedia at a time, alternating with Bugs and Insects, and comic books. For many years that was my summer reading!


Authors Emeritus: Virginia Lee Burton

ph_VirginiaLeeBurtonVirginia Lee Burton was born on August 30, 1909 in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. She studied art at the California School of Fine Arts and the Boston Museum School. One of her earliest jobs was as a “sketcher” for the arts section of the Boston Transcript.

She married George Demetrios, a sculptor and her teacher at the Museum School, in 1931. They settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they had two sons. “I literally draw my books first and write down the text after “I pin the sketched pages in sequence on the walls of my studio so I can see the books as a whole. Then I make a rough dummy and then the final drawings, and at last when I can put it off no longer, I type out the text and paste it in the bk_mikedummy.”

Thirteen publishers rejected her first manuscript about a dust particle, Joniffer Lint. When her three-year-old son fell asleep on her lap while she read it to him, she stopped sending it to publishers, and thereafter relied on children as her primary critics.

Her classic books have never been out of print and are currently embraced by a fourth generation of early readers. She won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for The Little House. Virginia Lee Burton died October 15, 1968.

For more information on the author, her books, and her design work, please visit Virginia Lee Burton, The Film.



Interview: Eric Rohmann

Bulldozer’s Big Day
written by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Atheneum, 2015

interview by Vicki Palmquist

What’s the illustration tool you turn to more than any other?

Graphite pencil. Simple, efficient, erasable, feels good in the hand, makes a lovely line with infinite possibilities for line variation. Did I mention that it’s erasable? Always forgiving!

What illustration technique haven’t you tried that keeps calling out to you?

Relief printmaking. The technique gives you so much—the quality of the mark, the layering of color look different than anything I can make with any other technique.

What do you do when you’ve run out of inspiration? What gets you going again?

Making something. Looking at something others have made. It’s a big world out there and there is plenty to see.


Eric’s studio

Who is your favorite illustrator who is no longer with us? And it could be more than one person.

William Stieg…and  Helen Sewell, Wanda Gag, Maurice Sendak, Crockett Johnson, Robert McCloskey, Virginia Lee Burton, James Marshall…just to name a few.

Did winning the Caldecott (medal and honors) change how you think about your work?

Yes. It made me more attentive, more dedicated, more aware of my audience. It also took off the pressure of ever thinking about such things again!

How and where do you and Candy talk over a new project?

bk_OhNoEverywhere and anywhere. Bulldozer’s Big Day was begun on a car ride from Indianapolis to Chicago. Giant Squid at an ALA hotel room. Oh, No! in Borneo while walking in the jungle.

If you could sit down with four other book artists, living or dead, and have dinner and a conversation, who would they be?

This is not fair! Just four? Hmmm… William Stieg, Beatrix Potter, M.T. Anderson, Maurice Sendak. 


Laughter and Grief

by Vicki Palmquist

Dragons in the WatersThere are books we remember all of our lives, even if we can’t remember the details. Sometimes we can’t even remember the story, but we remember the characters and how they made us feel. We recall being transported into the pages of the book, seeing what the characters see, hearing what they hear, and understanding the time and spaces and breathing in and out of the characters. Do we become those characters, at least for a little while, at least until we move on to the next book? Is this why we can remember them long after we’ve finished the book?

This column is called Reading Ahead because I’m one of those people others revile: I read the end of the book before I’ve progressed to that point in the story. I read straight through for as long as I can stand it and then I have to know how the story ends. I tell myself that I do this because then I can observe the writing and how the author weaves the ending into the book long before the last pages. That’s partially true. But I also admit that the tension becomes unbearable for me.

When I find a book that is so delicious that I don’t want to know the end until its proper time, then I know that I am reading a book whose characters will live on in me. Their cells move from the pages of the book into my arms and shoulders, heading straight to my mind and my heart.

The Wednesday WarsFor me, those books are The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (but not The Hobbit), The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Dragons in the Waters and Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle, and every one of the Deep Valley books written by Maud Hart Lovelace. 

There are some newer books that haven’t yet been tested by time. I could feel that I was absorbing The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt and Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi and Absolutely, Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick.  There are many, many other books that I admire and enjoy reading but I don’t feel them becoming a part of me in quite the same way.

I suspect that you have a short list of books that make you feel like this. They are an unforgettable part of you.

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken HeartI’ve just finished reading Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony (University of Minnesota Press). It is a funny and absorbing book about learning to deal with grief. That’s a place I’ve lived for the last four years in a way I hadn’t experienced before. When my mother died, my all-my-life friend, an essential part of me was transformed into something else. I don’t yet know what that is.

Isabelle Day is learning about this, too. Her father, her pal, her funny man, her let-me-show-you-the-delights-of-life-kid parent has died shortly before the book begins. Her mother is in the throes of grief, pulled inward, not communicating well. Isabelle and her mother have moved from Milwaukee, where close friends and a familiar house stand strong, to Minneapolis, where Isabelle’s mom grew up. They are living upstairs in a duplex owned by two elderly sisters who immediately share friendship and food and wisdom with Isabelle, something she’s feeling too prickly to accept. There are new friends whom Isabelle doesn’t trust to be true.

But for anyone who has experienced grief, this book will reach out and touch you gently, softly, letting you know that others understand what you are feeling. Isabelle comes to understand that she doesn’t have to feel alone … the world is waiting to be experienced in other, new ways.

It’s a beautifully written book in that the words fit together in lovely, sometimes surprising, sometimes startling ways. There is great care taken with the story and the characters. And yet the unexpected is always around the corner. Isabelle is a complex person. She does not act predictably. There is no sense of “woe is me” in this book. There’s a whole class of what I call “whiny books” (mostly adult) and this isn’t one of them. This book is filled with life, wonder, humor, and mostly understanding.

Isabelle and Grace and Margaret, Miss Flora and Miss Dora, they are all a part of me now. When I am feeling sad and missing the people I have lost, I will re-read this book because I know it will provide healing. And I can laugh … it’s been hard to do that. Thank you, Jane.


Authors Emeritus: Lynd Ward

ph_LyndWardBorn in Chicago on June 26, 1905, Lynd Ward, the son of a Methodist minister, grew up moving around and living close to new immigrants. Ward was a sickly baby and the family moved to northern Canada for several months hoping his health would improve.

Upon the family’s return, Ward, now a healthier child, never lost his bond with the wilderness. While at college he met and married his wife, May McNeer, and left for Leipzig, Germany with her shortly after graduation.

bk_BiggestBearWard’s illustrations show his respect for all people and the effects of his stay in the Canadian wilderness. Among his books are Caldecott Medal winner, The Biggest Bear (1952), The Silver Pony: A Story in Pictures (1973), a wordless picture book, several biographies of famous Americans, and one of Martin Luther. A number of these books were written by his wife, May McNeer.

Among the awards received by Ward are the Regina Award in 1975, the Carteret Book Club award for illustration, and others. Two Newbery winners were illustrated by Ward and another six books with Ward’s illustrations were named Newbery Honor books.

bk_GodsManWard was also an innovative creator of books for adults. He made the first American wordless novel, Gods’ Man, which was published in 1929. He made five more such works: Madman’s Drum (1930), Wild Pilgrimage (1932), Prelude to a Million Years (1933), Song Without Words (1936), and Vertigo (1937).

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, sponsored by Penn State University Libraries, is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident.

Lynd Ward died in 1985.


Slideshow: Block Print Illustration

Eric Rohmann’s wonderful illustrations for Bulldozer’s Big Day were made using block prints, also called relief prints.  This technique has long been used to illustrate children’s books, especially early ABC books such as the The Ladder to Learning by Miss Lovechild, published in 1852 by the New York firm R.H. Pease.


The Bookologist has put together a slide show of some of our more recent print-illustrated books. Many of these are Caldecott medal or honor books. You can find an interesting discussion of Caldecott books illustrated with printmaking techniques here.


From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

Atheneum, 2015

Welcome! It’s the first Tuesday of the month and time to launch a new month of Bookology. Our October Bookstorm™ has as its centerpiece the wonderful picture book Bulldozer’s Big Day, the first time we’ve focused on a picture book for young readers.

Bulldozer’s Big Day was written by Sibert honor author Candace Fleming and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann. We will feature interviews with both, beginning today with our conversation with Eric Rohmann.

Rohmann’s block print art for Bulldozer triggered a discussion between various bookologists about other print-illustrated children’s books, and put together a slide show of some of the stand-outs of the last couple of decades. Have your own favorite? Let us know.

Our regular columnists will be writing through the month about their latest book or writing discoveries; today: Reading Ahead author Vicki Palmquist on Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart, a new middle grade novel by Jane St. Anthony and many other books that deal with “Laughter and Grief.”

Don’t forget to check out our two latest Authors Emeritus posts about Virginia Lee Burton and Lynd Ward, who both used block print techniques in their illustration work.  


Eric Shabazz Larkin, illus.
Readers to Eaters, 2013

October is a month of change in the northern hemisphere, so why not change a world record? Two organizations are looking to claim the world record of most children-read-to-in-a-day.

On October 19, 2015, Points of Light, a Houston-based nonprofit, will attempt to establish a new world record by rallying volunteers to read to over 300,000 children in 24 hours. The campaign book for this attempt is Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, written by Bookology columnist Jackie Briggs Martin!

The current world record is held by the nonprofit Jumpstart, which in association with Candlewick Press, has for ten years run a global campaign, Read for the Record® that generates public support for high-quality early learning by mobilizing millions of children and adults to take part

Noah Z. Jones, illus. Candlewick, 2005

Noah Z. Jones, illus.

Candlewick, 2005

in the world’s largest shared reading experience. This year’s attempt is scheduled for October 22; the campaign book is Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, by Kelly Bennett.

And, finally, it is a truth universally acknowledged that any October issue of a magazine must include something related to Halloween.  We’ve got that covered with this month’s Two for the Show column: “What Scares You?,” in which Phyllis Root and Jackie Briggs Martin discuss the role of fear in books for young readers and spotlight a few books that deliver on a scary promise. Look for their conversation October 14.

As always, thank you for taking the time to visit Bookology.


Bookstorm™: Bulldozer’s Big Day


written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

written by Candace Fleming 
illustrated by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

It’s Bulldozer’s big day—his birthday! But around the construction site, it seems like everyone is too busy to remember. Bulldozer wheels around asking his truck friends if they know what day it is, but they each only say it’s a work day. They go on scooping, sifting, stirring, filling, and lifting, and little Bulldozer grows more and more glum. But when the whistle blows at the end of the busy day, Bulldozer discovers a construction site surprise, especially for him!

An ideal book for a read-aloud to that child sitting by you or to a classroom full of children or to a storytime group gathered together, Bulldozer’s Big Day is fun to read because of all the onomatopoeia and the wonderful surprise ending.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Bulldozer’s Big Day, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read to ages 3 through 7. We’ve included picture books, nonfiction, videos, websites, and destinations that complement the book, all encouraging early literacy.

Building Projects. There have been many fine books published about designing and constructing houses, cities, and dreams. We share a few books to encourage and inspire your young dreamers.

Construction Equipment. Who can resist listening to and watching the large variety of vehicles used on a construction project? You’ll find both books and links to videos.

Birthday Parties. This is the other large theme in Bulldozer’s Big Day and we suggest books such as Xander’s Panda Party that offer other approaches to talking about birthdays.

Dirt, Soil, Earth. STEM discussions can be a part of early literacy, too. Get ready to dish the dirt! 

Loneliness. Much like Bulldozer, children (and adults) can feel let down, ignored, left out … and books are a good way to start the discussion about resiliency and coping with these feelings.

Surprises. If you work with children, or have children of your own, you know how tricky surprises and expectations can be. We’ve included books such as Waiting by Kevin Henkes and Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne.

Friendship. An ever-popular theme in children’s books, we’ve selected a few of the very best, including A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by the Steads.

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