Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Bee-bim Bop

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

So I’ve set up a lit­tle sto­ry­time that cen­ters loose­ly around the themes of food, fam­i­ly, food, com­mu­ni­ty, food, fun, food…. What can I say? I love read­ing and writ­ing about food, so this is an easy sto­ry­time for me to put togeth­er!

I’ve had great fun, in par­tic­u­lar, read­ing Lin­da Sue Park’s Bee-bim Bop! It’s a made-for-sto­ry­time-read because it has that mag­i­cal refrain “Bee-bim Bop” on near­ly every page. So fun to say! Even the youngest among us can join in for Bee-bim Bop! I hard­ly have to cue them….

Almost time for sup­per

Rush­ing to the store

Mama buys the gro­ceries—

More, Mama, more!


Hur­ry, Mama, hur­ry

Got­ta shop shop shop!

Hun­gry hun­gry hun­gry

For some BEE-BIM BOP! 

The plot is sim­ple: a lit­tle girl and her Mama are mak­ing din­ner. They’re mak­ing the tra­di­tion­al Kore­an dish bibim­bap (var­i­ous­ly Eng­lish-ised as bee-bim-bap, bi-bim-bop, etc.) There are eggs to stir fry and flip high…rice to boil…garlic and green onion and skin­ny meat strips to chop…spinach, sprouts and car­rots to slice. There’s a detailed recipe in the back of the book—all sim­ple steps, many quite kid-friend­ly.

Bowls go on the table

Big ones striped in blue

I help set the glass­es out

Spoons and chop­sticks too.  

The illus­tra­tions by Ho Baek Lee match the ener­getic rhythm of get­ting sup­per on the table—three gen­er­a­tions and a dog dance around each oth­er get­ting every­thing togeth­er. Then they gath­er around the table, paus­ing for a qui­et moment of thanks. And then they make the bee-bim bop!

Bee-bim means “mixed up” and bop is the Kore­an word for rice. Each one makes their own bowl with rice in the mid­dle, and all the top­pings that have been prepared—a lit­tle meat, lots of veg­gies, an egg, and spicy kim­chi, too—on top. Every­thing is stirred togeth­er and a deli­cious col­or­ful meal results.

When I read this book I always ask, “Who here has eat­en bee-bim bop?” If it’s a younger group (under three) they all eager­ly raise their hands.  Such won­der­ful­ly open palettes—especially since many of their par­ents haven’t tried it! Tod­dlers seek­ing out new foods and fla­vors! Ter­rif­ic! This is what hap­pens when you take your kids to sto­ry­time, my friends!

At the last sto­ry­time I did, a lit­tle boy turned the ques­tion on me: “Do you like bee-bim bop?” he asked, giv­ing the bop extra empha­sis, and bop­ping my knee as he said it. I had to admit I’d not tried it, though I was sure I’d like it because I like all the things in it…. He all but rolled his eyes. It was obvi­ous I lost a lit­tle cred­i­bil­i­ty with him.

I thought about mak­ing it from the recipe in the book, but my hus­band and I decid­ed we would go to a good Kore­an place known for its authen­tic­i­ty for our first go around. It was deli­cious, just as I knew it would be. I hope to recre­ate it in my own kitchen this week.

Hur­ry, fam­i­ly, hur­ry

Got­ta hop hop hop

Dinner’s on the table

And it’s BEE-BIM BOP!



Pass the Ps Please – an Evening with Dav Pilkey

Pos­i­tiv­i­ty, prac­tice and per­sis­tence… a pow­er­ful approach to over­com­ing a mul­ti­tude of chal­lenges and unbe­liev­ably bad school expe­ri­ences. The one and only, Dav Pilkey, shared sev­er­al heart­felt sto­ries to inspire kids (and adults) dur­ing his recent stop in St. Paul as part of his “Dog Man, Do Good Tour.”

Dav Pilkey's Do Good Tour

With humor and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, Dav explained that as a kid with both ADHD and dyslex­ia, read­ing was any­thing but pleas­ant. To make mat­ters worse, his 2nd and 3rd grade teach­ers showed lit­tle com­pas­sion or under­stand­ing for fid­gety, day dream­ing, class clowns like Dav.  One of those teach­ers actu­al­ly made fun of him in front of his class­mates for read­ing slow. Unbe­liev­able, but true.

Dav Pilkey and several of the boys from Room 212Giv­ing tremen­dous cred­it to his mom for instill­ing the three “Ps,” Dav point­ed out that we all need some­one in our life who believes in us. Some­one who makes us want to be bet­ter peo­ple. Some­one who ulti­mate­ly helps us make the world a bet­ter place. Dav’s mom taught her son to ask him­self one impor­tant ques­tion any­time he was faced with some­thing bad, “How can I turn this into some­thing good?”

With an obvi­ous tal­ent for draw­ing and lots of time in the hall­way after being removed from the class­room, Dav did just that. Tap­ping into his cre­ativ­i­ty, famil­iar­i­ty with unkind teach­ers and a pen­chant for pulling pranks, he would go onto to make a mul­ti­tude of books loved by kids every­where (80 mil­lion have sold world­wide!).

Although it makes my heart hurt to think that he, and oth­ers like him, have to suf­fer through so many mis­er­able years at school, being a part of Dav’s audi­ence was indeed a treat. And although I sup­pose some teach­ers take issue with the neg­a­tive car­i­ca­tures of the evil edu­ca­tors found in his books, I am grate­ful for Dav and for his work. I am grate­ful that kids who deal with ADHD and/or dyslex­ia can see them­selves and all of their tremen­dous poten­tial, in some­one like Dav Pilkey.  I am grate­ful he had such a wise and car­ing mom.

I was for­tu­nate to be able to share this momen­tous event with six boys from Room 212. Their lev­el of excite­ment, smiles, screams and sheer delight, could quite eas­i­ly be com­pared to the thrill and fren­zy of fans who greet­ed the Bea­t­les on a Feb­ru­ary day back in 1964. The pho­tos and mem­o­ries are price­less and I can only hope that Dav’s mes­sage leaves a last­ing impres­sion. We could all use a gen­er­ous help­ing of the three Ps!

Several of the boys from Room 212


Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
October 2019

Nikhil and the dust jacket for Grumpy MonkeyThis addi­tion to Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­tures the theme “If you read it, they will come.”

As Con­nie (Gigi to her grand­chil­dren) explains: “Our read­ing team hit a bump in the road! On a recent trip to Col­orado, I intro­duced the pic­ture book Grumpy Mon­key (writ­ten by Suzanne Lang and illus­trat­ed by Max Lang) to Priya (now 2½) and Nikhil (now 10 months). This is a fun­ny, sweet sto­ry about allow­ing your­self to have a bad day every once in a while for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son.

Nikhil absolute­ly did not want to sit on my lap to look at the book. He did, how­ev­er, want to man­han­dle the bright red shiny dust jack­et.

Grandpa and Priya reading Grumpy MonkeyPriya did not want to sit and read either, though she was intrigued by the title. She kept repeat­ing, “grumpy mon­key” as she put­tered around the porch with her arm­ful of toys. It wasn’t until Grand­pa picked up the book, began to read aloud, and clear­ly enjoyed the sto­ry, that Priya couldn’t resist com­ing in for a look. Hence the moral of the sto­ry: If you read it, they will come!

With the addi­tion of Grand­pa, our read­ing team has now grown by one. And Priya’s dad reports that since we left, Grumpy Mon­key is Priya’s most request­ed bed­time sto­ry. It seems she has added Jim Panzee, Marabou, and Nor­man to her list of beloved book friends.”

Con­nie is a for­mer buy­er for Cre­ative Kid­stuff stores in Min­neapo­lis. She cur­rent­ly lives in Mon­tana, where she enjoys the great out­doors with her fam­i­ly and one extra-ener­getic dog. She is the author of sev­er­al pic­ture books, includ­ing Rare and Blue: Find­ing Nature’s Trea­sures, forth­com­ing from Charles­bridge on June 16, 2020. Con­nie feels sure that Priya and Nikhil will be cap­ti­vat­ed by Alan Marks’ stun­ning illus­tra­tions for the book. You can find Con­nie online at


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.


No Wraiths or Fetches Necessary

To cel­e­brate our for­ti­eth anniver­sary this year, we decid­ed to take a Big Trip. My hus­band sug­gest­ed Paris. “Corn­wall,” I said. “Some­place old.” Not that Paris isn’t old. Instead of a crowd­ed city, I want­ed win­kles and pasties, lost gar­dens and stand­ing stones, piskies and Tin­tagel cas­tle. He agreed and I began putting togeth­er a trip that would send us back in time.

Hubble's BubbleMy motives weren’t entire­ly pure. True, I’ve been an Anglophile ever since I read the British children’s fan­ta­sy Hubble’s Bub­ble at the age of eleven and start­ed sav­ing pen­nies to go to Wales and Scot­land. Cur­rent­ly I’m writ­ing my first mag­i­cal real­ism mid­dle-grade nov­el. Build­ing the world of my sto­ry has tak­en near­ly three years, yet the book’s foun­da­tion feels as sta­ble as shiv­er­ing sands. By tramp­ing over ancient lands, I hoped Cornwall’s mythol­o­gy would seep through the soles of my Sketch­ers and I’d bring some back with me.

As much as I love America’s his­to­ry and var­ied land­scapes, I fret that the U.S. isn’t—well, Britain. Amer­i­ca has, as New Eng­land fan­ta­sy writer Jane Lang­ton once wrote, “less his­to­ry to draw on … It is bald of mythol­o­gy, bare of folk tale. Its open fields are not marked by stand­ing stones.” We do have Native Amer­i­can folk­lore and the tall tale adven­tures of larg­er-than-life char­ac­ters such as Paul Bun­yan and John Hen­ry. But those sto­ries are not part of my back­ground.

Langton’s essay is more than thir­ty years old and much has changed. Many fan­tasies today give read­ers pass­ports to worlds beyond medieval Europe, inspired by African, Asian, and indige­nous Amer­i­can cul­tures. My book is set in Vir­ginia, deeply linked to my Eng­lish roots, a place and voice I know. But Vir­ginia has no dead kings buried with bro­ken swords, no sleep­ing drag­ons under the hill, no fairies. How will I sat­u­rate the land­scape with mag­ic?

Seven-Day MagicWhen I think back, I didn’t always notice the set­tings of child­hood books. The open­ing line of Edward Eager’s Sev­en-Day Mag­ic hooked me right away. “‘The best kind of book,’” said Barn­a­by, “‘is a mag­ic book.’” I agreed and ripped through the Half-Mag­ic series, not car­ing that the books are placed vague­ly in Amer­i­ca (Ohio and Con­necti­cut, Eager’s stomp­ing grounds).

Mid­west­ern­er Eager grew up with the Oz books, the first true Amer­i­can fan­tasies for chil­dren. When he had his own chil­dren, he dis­cov­ered E. Nesbit’s books, which he praised for the “daili­ness of the mag­ic. Here is no land of drag­ons and ogres or Mock Tur­tles and Tin Wood­men … The world of E. Nes­bit is the ordi­nary or gar­den world we know, with just the right pinch of mag­ic added.” Every­day mag­ic, set wher­ev­er, suit­ed me fine.

A Diamond in the WindowYet when I found Jane Langton’s A Dia­mond in the Win­dow, I met an open­ing that left no ques­tion about its set­ting: “Edward Hall sat under the front porch of the big house on Walden Street in Con­cord, Mass­a­chu­setts, and thought about his two ambi­tions in life.” By page 4, I’d learned Con­cord was the site of the first bat­tle of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, Walden Pond was near­by, and Ralph Wal­do Emer­son, Louisa May Alcott, and Hen­ry David Thore­au, who­ev­er they were, had lived there. This Vir­ginia kid, clue­less about New Eng­land, was intrigued. Not far into the story—a delight­ful com­bi­na­tion of fan­ta­sy and mystery—the children’s naïve Uncle Fred­dy quotes Emer­son to the trash col­lec­tor:

 “Oh, call not Nature dumb!
The trees and stones are audi­ble to me …”

It’s a fun­ny scene, but the quote set me to won­der­ing. I’d often thought trees talked (it turns out they do!) and some­times wor­ried when I walked on rocks—did they hurt? The Dia­mond in the Win­dow has mag­ic, but it also has nature, which was more acces­si­ble to me. As a child, there was so much I want­ed to know about the ground beneath my feet, the trees stretch­ing toward the sky, the clouds and weath­er.

The Magic CityIn Langton’s essay, she admits British fan­ta­sy writ­ers can tap into “the thick inter­twin­ing of field and for­est with myth and his­to­ry.” She men­tions that Scot­tish writer Mol­lie Hunter once told her that fan­ta­sy “could only be com­posed by some­one stand­ing upon a coun­try­side drenched in myth and folk­lore.” Real­ly? I went fly­ing to an essay by Mol­lie Hunter in which she cred­its leg­ends, “a suc­ces­sion of folk mem­o­ries fil­tered through the storyteller’s imag­i­na­tion,” as the basis for true fan­tasies.

Vir­ginia, I’m afraid, sad­ly lacks super­nat­ur­al beings such as Celtic fetch­es and wraiths. But it has an abun­dance of nature, the kind E.B. White tapped into by watch­ing ordi­nary spi­ders and pigs and rats at his Maine farm. Lang­ton argues that “nature tak­en pure, nature in its sim­plic­i­ty and silent grandeur” car­ries its own brand of mag­ic. Instead of long­ing for stand­ing stones, I’ll be hap­py to extract “mar­veling won­der­ment” from the seashell-capped Blue Ridge Moun­tains, horse-pas­tured Pied­mont, and osprey-nest­ed Chesa­peake Bay.

As for Corn­wall, we dis­cov­ered that the five-hour car trip after an overnight flight to Heathrow, in which the only age-qual­i­fied dri­ver (who can bare­ly park her small pick­up) would nev­er man­age dri­ving stick-shift from the left seat on the left-hand side of the road. It’s okay. We will glad­ly take a bus from Lon­don to Stone­henge. My Sketch­ers will nev­er know the dif­fer­ence.


Why Writers Love Their Agents!


Winning the Road Race?

When I work with ded­i­cat­ed young writ­ers, there’s almost always a point where they ask how they can get pub­lished.

This is a tough ques­tion for me, because my instinct is to pro­tect young peo­ple. And I know first­hand how much dis­ap­point­ment, rejec­tion, and self-doubt often accom­pa­nies the quest for pub­li­ca­tion. Writ­ing was hon­est­ly a lot more fun for me before I was focused on writ­ing for pub­li­ca­tion.

Pre-Teen Writer. Source: ©Drobot Dean - Adobe StockThe two things—the act of writ­ing, and being published—are not the same thing. But in a soci­ety where we place so much empha­sis on win­ning and finan­cial suc­cess, it’s easy to get caught up in equat­ing “get­ting pub­lished” with “win­ning the writ­ing race.” With assum­ing there’s no val­ue in writ­ing some­thing that doesn’t lead to an official “look what I did” prod­uct.

And trust me, I total­ly get the allure of see­ing one’s name in print. It’s the same each time a box of author’s copies of a new book arrive. If past expe­ri­ence means any­thing, I will like­ly leave the box in my front entry for a few days (weeks?) so that each time I walk into my liv­ing room I feel that same buzz of excite­ment: it’s a book! A real, check-it-out-from- the-library book! And I wrote it!

So telling young writ­ers that get­ting pub­lished doesn’t matt‚er would be tru­ly disin­gen­u­ous of me. I just want to help them sep­a­rate the qui­et entice­ment of writ­ing as an impor­tant form of self-expres­sion from the admit­ted thrill of get­ting pub­lished.

Where does that leave me when I’m faced with the “how do I get pub­lished” ques­tion? I try real­ly hard to make sure stu­dents under­stand what a joy the act of writ­ing, in and of itself, is for me. I remind them that their fam­i­ly and friends, their most impor­tant audi­ence, will trea­sure any­thing they write from their hearts.

And then for the per­sis­tent ones, I point to some of the places where young writ­ers can sub­mit their work to mag­a­zines, online jour­nals, and con­tests. Here’s a fair­ly com­pre­hen­sive list of con­tests and sub­mis­sion des­ti­na­tions from New Pages.

The race might be tough, and win­ning isn’t everything—but run­ning races we might nev­er win is also a sig­nif­i­cant part of the human expe­ri­ence.


Riding a Donkey Backwards

Riding a Donkey BackwardsRid­ing a Don­key Back­wards:
Wise and Fool­ish Tales of Mul­la Nas­rud­din

Retold by Sean Tay­lor and The Khay­al The­atre
illus­trat­ed by Shirin Adl
Can­dlewick Press, 2019
ISBN 978−1−5362−0507−7

The wise fool or the fool­ish wise man? As the authors explain, “Nas­rud­din is the wis­est man in the vil­lage and also the biggest fool. … If he does­n’t make you laugh, he will cer­tain­ly make you think—and per­haps think side­ways instead of straight ahead.” Mul­la Nas­rud­din is an ancient Per­sian folk char­ac­ter, dis­cussed in Sufi stud­ies, famil­iar through­out India, Syr­ia, Turkey, Iran, and the Mid­dle East.

These two-page sto­ries are just right for read­ing out loud and then talk­ing over what hap­pened. You can have great dis­cus­sions about rea­son­ing, log­ic, and cre­ative prob­lem solv­ing. This will work with young read­ers as well as col­lege stu­dents and adults, per­haps in an ELL class.

When a man across the riv­er asks Mul­la Nas­rud­din how to get to the oth­er side, Nas­rud­din mut­ters, “What a bird­brain.” Then he shouts, “You are on the oth­er side.”

These are two-page sto­ries, each of which will pro­duce an eye roll, but always encour­ag­ing ques­tions. Side­ways think­ing indeed!

The illus­tra­tions in this book are wor­thy of close exam­i­na­tion, iden­ti­fy­ing the many objects the artist includes. The riv­er is rep­re­sent­ed by glass beads and paper. There are paper fish and a stick from a tree for a fish­ing rod. In anoth­er spread, the camel’s sad­dle is bead­ed, as is his teth­er. There are rich fab­rics, cro­cheted pieces, woven rugs, bas­kets, and cloth bags. The result is both con­tem­po­rary and ancient.

Why is the Mul­la rid­ing a don­key back­wards? The last page reveals all.

Mul­la Nas­rud­din should be on your book­shelves!



Watch­ing birds is one of the joys of the out­door year (or the indoor year, giv­en the right win­dow place­ment). Emi­ly Dick­in­son notes the “inde­pen­dent ecsta­sy” of their songs. And we can dis­cern per­son­al­i­ties in cer­tain birds. Jays will peremp­to­ri­ly take over a feed­ing sta­tion. Chick­adees perk­i­ly fly in for a seed or two or a sip of water. Spar­rows seem to eat any­thing and make up in num­bers for their drab gar­ments. With the com­ing of fall we have migra­tion. Many birds are on the move.

Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own BackyardSo it seems a good time to look at books about birds. For those who are think­ing about notic­ing more in the bird world, Look Up! Bird Watch­ing In Your Own Back­yard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Can­dlewick, 2013) is a good place to start. Cate tells us she is not an expert—even her binoc­u­lars don’t work quite right—she just loves watch­ing birds. This cap­ti­vat­ing book is a com­bi­na­tion of car­toon and prose. Begin­ning with “Bird-Watch­ing Do’s and Don’ts” a graph­ic sec­tion starts us out with an instruc­tion to “Do only go to places you know are safe. Do be respect­ful of birds, nature, and oth­er bird­watch­ers.” And con­tin­ues to “Don’t sit on poi­son ivy. Don’t tread on del­i­cate plants.”

Slight­ly snarky black­birds reg­u­lar­ly com­ment on the prose, adding a touch of humor and expand­ing on the infor­ma­tion in the text. Cate is clear on the rea­son for watch­ing birds. First, it can be fun. And it reminds is that “No mat­ter where you live, you are a part of the nat­ur­al world, just as the birds and oth­er crea­tures are.”

Cate opens the door to bird-watch­ing for read­ers of all ages. “You may not have a yard, but you do have a sky.” And the book takes us through the col­ors of birds, the shapes of birds, the sounds of birds, offers a close look at spar­rows and a dis­cus­sion of bird habi­tat.

Where Do Birds Live?An inter­est in birds in our own neigh­bor­hoods may also spark an inter­est in birds who do not live where we live. Clau­dia McGehee’s Where Do Birds Live (Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa Press, 2010) takes read­ers on a tour of “four­teen habi­tats where birds live in the sum­mer months.” Each spread offers a page of infor­ma­tion on a spe­cif­ic bird in a habi­tat (for exam­ple the bobolink in the Tall­grass Prairie) and an illus­tra­tion that includes oth­er res­i­dents of that habi­tat. Read­ers trav­el from the Tall­grass Prairie to the West­ern Moun­tain Mead­ow (Moun­tain Blue­bird) to the Pacif­ic Rain­for­est (Com­mon Raven) through habi­tats all over the Unit­ed States to end in a Mid­west­ern Back­yard, which fea­tures the Ruby-Throat­ed Hum­ming­bird and the back­yard in the book adjoins a house that looks very much like McGehee’s house, includ­ing her cat. Read­ers will want to find their own region of the coun­try but will also enjoy “trav­el­ing” to find the birds in oth­er regions.

How to Paint a BirdPhyl­lis: I’ve been watch­ing the hum­ming­bird come to the feed­er in my urban back­yard this sum­mer, and a neigh­bor saw a goshawk one night. What do birds need? Food, water, shel­ter. Even in a small back­yard it’s pos­si­ble to offer those things, then sit back and enjoy vis­i­tors. And if you want to paint a bird, Jacques Prévert has some advice in a fic­tion­al book apt­ly titled, How to Paint the Por­trait of A Bird, trans­lat­ed from the French and illus­trat­ed by Morde­cai Ger­stein. In spare and lyri­cal text Prévert tells us that we must first paint a cage with an open door and paint some­thing inside for the bird, “some­thing use­ful and beau­ti­ful, but sim­ple.” Then take the pic­ture out­side, put it under a tree, hide, and wait “years, if nec­es­sary.” If a bird does come, wait some more while it enters the cage, then close the cage door with your brush, care­ful­ly erase the case and paint the por­trait of the tree “with the pret­ti­est branch for the bird.” Paint “the green leaves and the sum­mer breeze…the smell of the sun­shine and the flow­ers and the songs of the bees and the but­ter­flies.” (It’s hard not to quote the whole, brief, love­ly book.) If the bird doesn’t sing, you tried your best, but if the bird sings, sign the por­trait, take it home, and hang it in your room. The last spread shows a sleep­ing boy and the bird fly­ing out the win­dow while the text tells us, “(Tomor­row you can paint anoth­er one.)” I first came across this book in the Amer­i­can Folk Art Muse­um in New York City and have since giv­en it away mul­ti­ple times to fel­low writ­ers. I can’t think of a bet­ter descrip­tion, not just of paint­ing a bird’s por­trait, but also of the whole cre­ative endeav­or. Tomor­row we can always write anoth­er one.

Ostrich and LarkOstrich and Lark, by the poet Mar­i­lyn Nel­son, is beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed by the San artists of the Kuru Art Project of Botswana, peo­ple who live in the Kalarhari desert and whose hunter-gath­er­er way of life has been slow­ly dis­placed by devel­op­ment, as we learn in a note at the begin­ning of the book. Nelson’s pro­ceeds from the book are donat­ed to the Kuru Art Project. The bril­liant­ly col­ored art is one rea­son alone to buy this book, but Nelson’s orig­i­nal tale is anoth­er.

Ostrich and Lark begin each day togeth­er “at first light, day in and day out.” They nib­ble an ongo­ing meal “every day, all day, over the cicada’s drone, a driz­zle of buzzings…and a down­pour of bird­song.” Every day Lark, too, sings, but Ostrich is silent. Some­times at night Ostrich dreams of “singing the sky full of stars,” but every­day he is silent until, one evening, Ostrich booms TWOO-WOO-WOOOT, “like thun­der­storms on the horizon…like the rain­storm that ends the dusty months of thirst, like the promise of jubi­lant green…Ostrich boomed Lark right off his perch.” Ostrich had found his voice, “his own beau­ty, his big, ter­rif­ic self.” The com­bi­na­tion of vivid words and vivid art bring me back to this book again and again.

Fic­tion­al and non-fic­tion­al, our feath­ered friends delight us. Put out a feed­er, a bowl of water. Sit back. Wait. Who knows who might come? If a bird comes, watch it. Paint it. Write a poem about it. Boom about it in your own big, ter­rif­ic voice.

And if no bird comes today, maybe tomor­row.


Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
September 2019

Bookol­o­gy read­ers first met Bren­da Sederberg’s Read­ing Team part­ner Sylvie when she was only two days old. At that time the two were shar­ing one of their very first read-alouds. Now Gram and Sylvie have had the chance to share a whole won­der­ful year of read­ing togeth­er!

To cel­e­brate Sylvie’s first birth­day, Bren­da is high­light­ing the three books that have become Sylvie’s favorites over that spe­cial year. As Bren­da says, “Sylvie now brings books to me to read—which is such a joy for me, both as a for­mer ele­men­tary school teacher and as Gram.” Sylvie’s First Birth­day Favorites are: The House in the Night, writ­ten by Susan Marie Swan­son and illus­trat­ed by Beth Krommes; Big Red Barn, writ­ten by Mar­garet Wise Brown and illus­trat­ed by Feli­cia Bond; and “More More More,” Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams.

Bren­da con­tin­ues, “Sylvie loves being read to: when she isn’t feel­ing well, before a nap, and just any­time!”

Bren­da and Sylvie con­duct their read-alouds in Min­neso­ta. Bren­da also shares her pas­sion for children’s lit­er­a­ture by read­ing to an ele­men­tary class­room and by belong­ing to the Duluth branch of Bookol­o­gy’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs, which meets at the Book­store at Fitger’s.


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.

About Rais­ing Star Read­ers

The orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for this col­umn was Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s book The Stuff of Stars and her sug­ges­tion for using that book as an ongo­ing scrap­book to doc­u­ment read­ing aloud with a child. More details about that sug­ges­tion can be found on this PDF. The Stuff of Stars is illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes and pub­lished by Can­dlewick Press. Bren­da has been hav­ing fun putting togeth­er just such a scrap­book for Sylvie and is delight­ed to share this peek at it with Bookol­o­gy read­ers.


Try Something New, Have a Blast!

A few months ago my daugh­ter, Aliza, came over after an evening out with her work friends. Aliza told us she and her friends had gone to the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project or MBP, an indoor climb­ing gym where peo­ple climb “cir­cuits” of up to 17 feet high with­out ropes or har­ness­es. She was so excit­ed about it—they’d had a blast!

She said she couldn’t wait to go again, which didn’t sur­prise me.

Aliza tops out a wall

Aliza tops out a wall at the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project.

Then she said I need­ed to try it, too, which sur­prised me a lot. After all, I am afraid of heights and climbing—without ropes—well, that wasn’t my thing. What was she think­ing?

After I bit of cajol­ing over the next few days, I final­ly agreed to go to MBP. Believe me, I was plen­ty ner­vous. I wasn’t sure if I’d like “boul­der­ing” or if the younger peo­ple in the gym would like shar­ing their space with some­one their par­ents’ age. (Isn’t it fun­ny the things we wor­ry about?) My oth­er daugh­ter, Mau­reen, said she would join us, too. At least it would be good “girl time” I told myself. I thought I would go just this once, be seen as a good sport, and leave the climb­ing to the young folks after that.

When we arrived at MBP, a staff mem­ber gave us a quick tour. He explained that boul­der­ing cir­cuits have col­or-cod­ed holds. The col­or of the holds defines the degree of dif­fi­cul­ty for each cir­cuit. There are a lot of cir­cuits for begin­ners, he told us, so we would find plen­ty to do. (As climbers get stronger, more flex­i­ble, and more con­fi­dent, they progress through the col­ors.)

MBP pro­vid­ed us with climb­ing shoes—special shoes that hug your feet and mush your toes. Rub­ber on the toes, soles, and heels pro­vides a bet­ter grip as you climb. Climbers use chalk on their hands, too, like gym­nasts do, to keep their hands from slip­ping. No oth­er spe­cial equip­ment is need­ed.

We now have our own special climbing shoes.

We now have our own spe­cial climb­ing shoes.

Applying chalk

apply­ing chalk

Aliza, Mau­reen, and I strapped on our climb­ing shoes and looked around. The gym was full of climbers of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some looked like they were just learn­ing; oth­ers were so good they looked like they could give Spi­der­man a run for his mon­ey.

Let’s go!” Aliza said. We head­ed for a yel­low begin­ner cir­cuit.

Aliza demonstrates how to start a circuit.

Aliza demon­strates how to start a cir­cuit.

We climbed. We fell. We “topped out.” We cel­e­brat­ed.

And, need­less to say, we had a blast!

Why? Well, boul­der­ing is so much more than just exer­cis­ing. For starters, it requires a will­ing­ness to try some­thing daunt­ing, to look a lit­tle sil­ly at times, and to fail. The entire gym floor is cov­ered in a cush­ioned mat about 18 inch­es thick, which is good if you fall – and you will fall!

Boul­der­ing requires prob­lem solv­ing. All of the cir­cuits are dif­fer­ent and even the cir­cuits with­in the same col­or group­ing require dif­fer­ent skills: bal­ance, flex­i­bil­i­ty, grip strength, abil­i­ty to stand on tiny toe holds. This means you always have to think about what you’re doing. It also leads to cama­raderie among the climbers in the gym. Strangers will give you tips or show you how they’ve over­come a climb­ing hur­dle. It’s true team work. I love that.

Boul­der­ing also requires per­sis­tence. My daugh­ters and I try to give a new cir­cuit at least three tries before we move on. Often, that third try ends in suc­cess. And if it doesn’t, we’re right back at it the next time we’re there, usu­al­ly after talk­ing, mim­ing, and dream­ing about the cir­cuit over the course of the next few days. (I kid you not—at some time or anoth­er all three of us have dreamed of climb­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly hard route only to come up with a new idea about how to approach it.)

Aimee Bissonette climbing one of the walls at the Minneapolis Bouldering Project.

Aimee Bis­sonette climb­ing a wall at the Min­neapo­lis Boul­der­ing Project.

Boul­der­ing is a favorite activ­i­ty now. We go two or three times a week and we’re get­ting pret­ty good! It nev­er gets dull. The staff at MBP changes out the cir­cuits every week. Just when you think you’ve mas­tered all of the green cir­cuits in the 40,000 square foot gym, you arrive to find a whole new set to tack­le. We cheer each oth­er on and push each oth­er just a lit­tle. Aliza is espe­cial­ly good at get­ting us to try cir­cuits we think might be beyond our reach. We all ride home laugh­ing and exhaust­ed. (Did I men­tion what a great stress reliev­er it is?)

Could boul­der­ing be your thing, too? Maybe. But even if it’s not, con­sid­er this. The next time a fam­i­ly mem­ber or friend sug­gests doing some­thing out­side your com­fort zone, you could say “yes.”

Agree to go once.

Be a good sport.

Then be pre­pared … you just might have a blast!


Dogman© Unleashed

Encour­age kids to be cre­ative with­out wor­ry­ing about being per­fect.

—Dav Pilkey

 At the start of the fall pro­gram sea­son, I asked our youngest patrons what pro­grams they would like the library to offer. I heard a child yell out, “DOGMAN”! I smiled and I told him that was a great idea. Dog­man© is a graph­ic nov­el series writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Dav Pilkey that tells the sto­ry of George and Harold’s new­ly cre­at­ed hero of jus­tice. Dog­man© is part dog, part man, sniff­ing out crime to save the world.  The series is hilar­i­ous and it helps read­ers learn the impor­tance of empa­thy and hav­ing con­fi­dence. We launched our first Dog­man© pro­gram on Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 4, 2019. The fol­low­ing pro­vides the objec­tive and steps you can take to cre­ate your own pro­gram.

Dav Pilkey books

Vis­it Dav Pilkey’s web­site for a full list of book titles and series.

Pro­gram Objec­tive:  Our Dog­man© pro­gram pro­vides chil­dren the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read the sto­ry aloud with oth­er fans and to design and cre­ate their own graph­ic nov­el based on the series. Cur­rent­ly, the pro­gram occurs once a month and lasts between 1 to 1.5 hrs. It is geared for chil­dren in grades 2 to 4, but we wel­come all Dog­man© fans and those who are inter­est­ed.

DogmanSup­plies: Dog­man© books, com­put­ers, mark­ers, pen­cils, pens, LEGO© bricks, and plain paper.


  1. Read Aloud: At the start of the pro­gram, have chil­dren read aloud to the group from one of the Dog­man© titles. Let them know that if they strug­gle with a word to ask for assis­tance. 
  1. Brain­storm: Encour­age the chil­dren to use Pilkey’s sto­ries as inspi­ra­tion for their sto­ry. Dur­ing this step, chil­dren will devel­op their char­ac­ters, choose a plot and set­ting. They can expand on one of Pilkey’s sto­ries or cre­ate an entire­ly new sto­ry. They can draw or sketch their ideas. I pro­vide LEGO© bricks as an option if they want to cre­ate 3D mod­els. It is impor­tant to let chil­dren know that per­fec­tion is not the key.  Encour­age them to have fun and explore their imag­i­na­tion.
  1. LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter: LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter is part of LEGO© Edu­ca­tion, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of cre­ative writ­ing tem­plates for chil­dren to cre­ate, doc­u­ment, and share their sto­ries. It is a free down­load. After the brain­storm­ing stage, chil­dren will use the Sto­ryS­tarter pro­gram to for­mat their sto­ry and use LEGOs©, their draw­ings, or a free image web­site such as Pix­a­by for char­ac­ters and scenes.  They can upload every­thing to Sto­ryS­tarter and every­thing can be saved to a desk­top or flash dri­ve. View this video for more infor­ma­tion: LEGO Edu­ca­tion Sto­ryS­tarter Build­ing the Sto­ry.
  1. Print and Share: At the com­ple­tion of this pro­gram, print the sto­ries off and have chil­dren share them with the group. I plan to cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ty open-house where their sto­ries can be on dis­play for the pub­lic to read and enjoy.

Arti­cles Sup­port­ing the Impor­tance of Graph­ic Nov­els:

  1. 5 Great Rea­sons to Read Graph­ic Nov­els from Play­ful Learn­ing
  2. The Research Behind Graph­ic Nov­els and Young Learn­ers by Leslie Mor­ri­son
  3. The Case for Graph­ic Nov­els in Edu­ca­tion by Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion
  4. In Defense of Graph­ic Nov­els by Dr. Kathryn Strong Hansen

Mr. Z’s Graph­ic Nov­el Top Picks:

  1. Dog­man by Dav Pilkey
  2. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
  3. Per­cy Jack­son series by Rick Rior­dan
  4. Smile by Raina Tel­ge­meier
  5. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  6. Bone by Jeff Smith
  7. Cora­line by Neil Gaiman
  8. Sand War­rior by Alex­is Siegel
  9. Lunch Lady by Jar­rett Krosocz­ka
  10. Roller Girl by Vic­to­ria Jamieson

Books to Gen­er­ate Ideas:

Dav Pilkey books


Beethoven in Paradise

Beethoven in ParadiseFresh Lookol­o­gy fea­tures books pub­lished sev­er­al years ago that are too good to lan­guish on the shelf.

Mar­tin Pittman takes a reader’s heart and runs with it. He lives in a trail­er park called Par­adise, but his home life is any­thing but. Martin’s father is abu­sive, his moth­er com­plete­ly cowed. He has no sib­lings. His grand­ma, Haze­line, who comes on Sun­days to take him to the Howard John­son Prince of Wales buf­fet, is quite a character—one the read­er is unsure of at first. She’s a leath­ery, give-you-a-piece-of-my-mind, smok­ing, cack­ling sort of grandmother—but she’s on Martin’s side, thank good­ness. So is his reclu­sive friend Wylene, a grown woman who can tol­er­ate only Martin’s gen­tle pres­ence in her trail­er and her life. And so is Sybil, the new girl who comes into town—Sybil is unlike any­one Mar­tin has ever met before.

Mar­tin needs these good peo­ple on his side. He faces bul­ly­ing at school, in town, and on the base­ball field, in addi­tion to the abuse at home. What keeps him going is music. Mar­tin loves music—all kinds—listening to it, mak­ing up tunes in his head, play­ing his har­mon­i­ca. Wylene says he has a gift. Haze­line and Sybil echo this encour­age­ment. Mar­tin wants to play a real instru­ment like a piano or a vio­lin, and when a vio­lin shows up at the local pawn shop, he can think of lit­tle else out­side of mak­ing it his own.

The prob­lem is his father. For some rea­son Ed Pittman thinks music—and espe­cial­ly the play­ing of it—is for sissies. He’s furi­ous with Mar­tin for his lack of base­ball skill, his love of music, and his friend­ship with Wylene. He’s furi­ous with life, real­ly. Haze­line con­firms this for Mar­tin. Ed doesn’t like any­one, she says—not Mar­tin, not him­self.

In the course of this short novel—and with the help of Haze­line, Wylene, and Sybil—Martin learns that, although he can’t change his father, he can learn to stick up for him­self. He can live into being who he real­ly is. He can find a way to make music.

There are many jump­ing off points in this nov­el for social-emo­tion­al learn­ing. Beethoven in Par­adise is replete with scenes show­ing empa­thy, anger, sad­ness, hap­pi­ness, and wor­ry. It’s all about new and unex­pect­ed friend­ships. Although there is bul­ly­ing and abuse, Mar­tin expe­ri­ences kind­ness­es and shows kind­ness to oth­ers, as well. He learns that he can’t change peo­ple, but he can change how he reacts to them. He does not have to become like his father.

A class, read­ing group, or book­club could have fun learn­ing about dif­fer­ent kinds of music. Wylene and Mar­tin lis­ten to a diverse array of music, which is men­tioned by title/composer/performer—easy to look up and play. There are inter­est­ing details about har­mon­i­ca play­ing, musi­cal prac­tice (Mar­tin plays by ear), vio­lin, sax­o­phone, and Beethoven, as well. Music might actu­al­ly be con­sid­ered a char­ac­ter in this book.

Beethoven in Par­adise was pub­lished in 1997, but its timelessness—in theme, cir­cum­stance, and emotion—makes it an excel­lent pick for read­ing with mid­dle-grad­er read­ers today. With good humor, hon­est looks at hard things, and a won­der­ful cast of char­ac­ters, Bar­bara O’Connor gives us a com­ing-of-age sto­ry of friend­ship, com­mu­ni­ty, and genius that deserves a Fresh Lookol­o­gy here in 2019! 


The Night the Forest Came to Town

The Night the Forest Came to TownThe Night the For­est Came to Town
Charles Ghigna
illus­trat­ed by Annie Wilkin­son
Orca Book Pub­lish­ers, 2018
ISBN 978−1−4598−1650−3

A city can be all hard sur­faces, con­crete, brick, pave­ment, and glass. Adults can be pre­oc­cu­pied with their devices. Bill­boards, street lights, every kind of dis­trac­tion. There’s a dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion from nature, a dis­con­nect.

In this semi-mag­i­cal book, nature blows into town overnight, wind-borne seeds take root, and birds and ani­mals fol­low. A cen­ter spread gives us a glimpse into apart­ment win­dows where we see indi­vid­u­als engaged in their arts, notic­ing what’s chang­ing out­side their win­dows.

Ghig­na’s rhyming poet­ry invites read­ers and sto­ry­tellers to turn the pages. 

Beneath the swirling shroud of night
A fer­tile field was found
Where once there was a vacant lot
new seedlings held their ground.”

He helps us notice details with his descrip­tive lan­guage, his rev­er­ence for nature.

Wilkin­son cre­ates a shad­ow-filled, deeply-toned night­time city. Her tex­tures evoke a tac­tile expe­ri­ence. Touch these pages, reach into nature, appre­ci­ate the star-filled sky, the life-sprout­ing rain, the charm­ing ani­mals. But it’s the panoply of flow­ers, sophis­ti­cat­ed but rem­i­nis­cent of those a child would draw that tie togeth­er text and images into a sooth­ing, con­tem­pla­tive sto­ry of the dif­fer­ence nature brings into our lives.

Com­bine the read­ing of this book with plan­ning for a school or com­mu­ni­ty gar­den. Plant a flower seed that will grow indoors and can be tak­en home once it’s estab­lished. Take pho­tos of your neigh­bor­hood and print them out on full sheets of paper so stu­dents can add their own flow­ers and ani­mals and trees. Then have them try a poem with Ghig­na’s struc­ture to tell the sto­ry of their own vision of the for­est com­ing to town.

This is a charm­ing book.