Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine


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!


Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

The Jew­ish High Hol­i­days begin with the fes­tiv­i­ties of the New Year on Rosh Hashanah and end ten days lat­er with the obser­vance of the Day of Atone­ment, Yom Kip­pur. It’s a time of reflec­tion and a renew­al of inten­tions to do bet­ter in the com­ing year. Here are a num­ber of books that will help chil­dren under­stand the tra­di­tions of the hol­i­day and expe­ri­ence the joy of the cel­e­bra­tion.

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

Apple Days: a Rosh Hashanah Story  

Apple Days: a Rosh Hashanah Sto­ry
writ­ten by Alli­son Sof­fer
ill­lus­trat­ed by Bob McMa­hon
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

Rosh Hashanah is Katy’s favorite hol­i­day because she loves pick­ing apples and mak­ing apple­sauce with her moth­er. But there’s a new arrival in the fam­i­ly which steers atten­tion away from the tra­di­tions. How will Katy cope?


Apples and Honey  

Apples and Hon­ey
writ­ten by Joan Hol­ub
illus­trat­ed by Cary Pil­lo-Lassen

This lift-the-flap book shows young read­ers the mean­ing and tra­di­tions of Rosh Hashanah as chil­dren make New Year’s cards to send to fam­i­ly and friends, go to tem­ple and hear dad blow the sho­far, and, after din­ner, enjoy apples dipped in hon­ey to mark a sweet new year.

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur  

Cel­e­brate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur:
with Hon­ey, Prayers, and the Sho­far

writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Heilig­man
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Chil­dren’s Books
Hol­i­days Around the World series

A look at how these two Jew­ish High Holy Days are cel­e­brat­ed world­wide. Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflec­tion and res­o­lu­tion. On Yom Kip­pur, the Day of Atone­ment, Jews fast, pray, and ask God’s for­give­ness for their sins. Deb­o­rah Heilig­man’s live­ly first-per­son text intro­duces read­ers to the sound­ing of the sho­far, the hol­i­days’ greet­ing cards, prayers, and spe­cial foods. Rab­bi Shi­ra Stern’s infor­ma­tive note puts the High Holy Days into wider his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al con­text for par­ents and teach­ers.

Even Higher  

Even High­er!
A Rosh Hashanah Sto­ry by I.L. Peretz

adapt­ed by Eric A. Kim­mel
illus­trat­ed by Jill Weber
Hol­i­day House

Every year, just before Rosh Hashanah, the rab­bi of Nemirov dis­ap­pears. The vil­lagers are cer­tain their rab­bi flies up to heav­en to speak with God. Where else would such a great and holy man go just before the fate of every soul is decid­ed for the com­ing year? But a skep­ti­cal Lit­vak scoffs at the vil­lagers, claim­ing mir­a­cles can­not hap­pen. He vows to dis­cov­er the rab­bi’s secret, but what he wit­ness­es — an enor­mous act of human com­pas­sion — will make any doubter believe.

Happy New Year, Beni  

Hap­py New Year, Beni
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jane Bre­skin Zal­ben

This Rosh Hashanah, Beni and Sara are going to Grand­ma and Grand­pa’s for the hol­i­days. Before din­ner, Sara lights the can­dles and Grand­pa says the Kid­dush. “To a sweet, good year! L’shanah Tovah!” At the tem­ple, Papa blows the sho­far and joy­ful­ly wel­comes in the new year. But cousin Max almost spoils the hol­i­day for every­one — he hogs all the sweet fruits at din­ner and puts creepy sur­pris­es under his cousins’ pil­lows. It’s only when Grand­pa takes a qui­et moment to explain the tra­di­tion of Tash­likh that Max is will­ing to start the new year off with a clean slate. Or is he?

Is It Rosh Hashanah Yet?  

Is It Rosh Hashanah Yet?
writ­ten by Chris Barash
illus­trat­ed by Alessan­dra Psacharop­u­lo
Albert Whit­man

As sum­mer ends and fall set­tles in, a fam­i­ly pre­pares to cel­e­brate the Jew­ish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It’s time to pick apples, make cards, light the can­dles, and eat brisket to ring in the new year! The refrain “Rosh Hashanah is on its way” is repeat­able for read-alouds.

It's Shofar Time!  

It’s Sho­far Time!
writ­ten by Lat­i­fa Berry Knopf
pho­tographs by Tod Cohen
Lern­er Books

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jew­ish New Year. It’s time to learn new things, wear new clothes, and taste new foods. It’s time to toss crumbs into the water and say, “I’m sor­ry.” It’s time to hear the sounds of the sho­far. Rec­om­mend­ed for preschool­ers.

Little Red Rosie  

Lit­tle Red Rosie: a Rosh Hashanah Sto­ry
writ­ten by Eric A. Kim­mel
illus­trat­ed by Mon­i­ca Gutier­rez
Apples & Hon­ey Press

Wel­com­ing your guests for Rosh Hashanah requires cre­ativ­i­ty, orga­ni­za­tion, and care. In this ver­sion of The Lit­tle Red Hen, Rosie pre­pare chal­lah with a lit­tle ? help ? from her friends. 


Minnie's Yom Kippur Birthday  

Min­nie’s Yom Kip­pur Birth­day
writ­ten by Mar­i­lyn Singer
illus­trat­ed by Ruth Ros­ner
(con­tributed by Natal­ie A. Rosin­sky)

Min­nie’s birth­day falls on Yom Kip­pur, the most solemn of Jew­ish hol­i­days. Her father tells her that her birth­day will be dif­fer­ent, qui­et, reflec­tive. Her moth­er tells her there will also be a sur­prise. After fight­ing with her sis­ter, Min­nie lis­tens to the Rab­bi’s sto­ry of Jon­ah, who did bad things, and how the whale spit him out after he apol­o­gized. Min­nie feels bad­ly about fight­ing with her broth­er and sis­ter, and she whis­pers her apolo­gies. This book beau­ti­ful­ly includes the ele­ments of the hol­i­day and Ros­ner’s illus­tra­tions por­tray the solem­ni­ty and cel­e­bra­tion. Oh, and after the sho­far sounds, the con­gre­ga­tion brings Min­nie a birth­day cake!

Mitzi's Mitzvah  

Mitz­i’s Mitz­vah
writ­ten by Glo­ria Koster
illus­trat­ed by Hol­li Con­ger
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

Mitzi is an adorable pup­py who vis­its a nurs­ing home to help the res­i­dents cel­e­brate Rosh Hashanah.


A Moon for Moe and Mo  

A Moon for Moe and Mo
writ­ten by Jane Bre­skin Zal­ben
illus­trat­ed by Mehrdokht Ami­ni

Moses Feld­man, a Jew­ish boy, lives at one end of Flat­bush Avenue in Brook­lyn, New York, while Mohammed Has­san, a Mus­lim boy, lives at the oth­er. One day they meet at Sahadi’s mar­ket while out shop­ping with their moth­ers and are mis­tak­en for broth­ers. A friend­ship is born, and the boys bring their fam­i­lies togeth­er to share rugelach and date cook­ies in the park as they make a wish for peace.

New Year at the Pier  

New Year at the Pier: a Rosh Hashanah Sto­ry
writ­ten by April Hal­prin Way­land
illus­trat­ed by Stephane Jorisch
Pen­guin Ran­dom House

Izzy’s favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is Tash­lich, a joy­ous cer­e­mo­ny in which peo­ple apol­o­gize for the mis­takes they made in the pre­vi­ous year and thus clean the slate as the new year begins. But there is one mis­take on Izzy’s “I’m sor­ry” list that he’s find­ing espe­cial­ly hard to say out loud.

Humor, touch­ing moments between fam­i­ly and friends, and lots of infor­ma­tion about the Jew­ish New Year are all com­bined in this love­ly pic­ture book for hol­i­day shar­ing.

Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons  

Rab­bi Ben­jam­in’s But­tons 
writ­ten by Alice McGin­ty
illus­trat­ed by Jen­nifer Black Rein­hardt

Rab­bi Ben­jam­in’s con­gre­ga­tion presents him with a new vest on Rosh Hashanah, the Jew­ish New Year. It has but­tons depict­ing the major hol­i­days cel­e­brat­ed each year. They also give him deli­cious food that he delights in eat­ing. That leads to a prob­lem: the but­tons are pop­ping off Rab­bi Ben­jam­in’s vest because he’s putting on so much weight. As he pitch­es in to help his fam­i­lies, he gets a great deal of exer­cise. Will the vest fit once again?

Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah


Sam­my Spi­der’s First Rosh Hashanah
writ­ten by Sylvia Rouss
illus­trat­ed by Kather­ine Janus Kahn
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

Young Sam­my is mis­chie­vous, fun-lov­ing, and curi­ous. What is Rosh Hashanah, the cel­e­bra­tion of the New Year? Moth­er Spi­der gives him an under­stand­ing of the rea­sons for apples and hon­ey, chal­lah bread, and greet­ing cards. The author and illus­tra­tor inte­grate the con­cept of size into the sto­ry.

Secret Shofar of Barcelona


Secret Sho­far of Barcelona
writ­ten by Jacque­line Dem­bar Green
illus­trat­ed by Dou­glas Chay­ka
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

Sym­pho­ny con­duc­tor Don Fer­nan­do longs to hear the sounds of the sho­far. Dur­ing the Span­ish Inqui­si­tion, he has to hide his Jew­ish reli­gion and pre­tend to fol­low the teach­ings of the church. But when he is asked to per­form a con­cert cel­e­brat­ing the new world, he and his son Rafael devise a clever plan to ush­er in the Jew­ish New Year in plain sight of the Span­ish nobil­i­ty.

Talia and the Rude Vegetables


Talia and the Rude Veg­eta­bles
writ­ten by Lin­da Elovitz Mar­shall
illus­trat­ed by Francesca Assirelli
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

Hear­ing her grand­moth­er incor­rect­ly, Talia won­ders “How can a veg­etable be ‘rude’?” Her grand­moth­er asked her to gath­er “root” veg­eta­bles for a Rosh Hashanah stew but Talia is on a mis­sion in the gar­den. She col­lects the twist­ed, ornery car­rots and parsnips and finds a good home for the rest.

Tashlich at Turtle Rock  

Tash­lich at Tur­tle Rock
writ­ten by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fish­man
illus­trat­ed by Alex Steele-Mor­ton
Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing
(con­tributed by Natal­ie A. Rosin­sky)

Annie is excit­ed about the Tash­lich cer­e­mo­ny on the after­noon of Rosh Hashanah, when her fam­i­ly will walk to Tur­tle Rock Creek and throw crumbs into the water, as sym­bols of mis­takes made the past year. As Annie leads her fam­i­ly through the woods stop­ping at favorite rocks, bridges, and water­falls in her family’s own Tash­lich rit­u­al, they think about the good and bad things that hap­pened dur­ing the past year, and make plans for a sweet­er new year. This sto­ry focus­es on eco­log­i­cal con­nec­tions to the Tash­lich cer­e­mo­ny and encour­ages fam­i­lies to cus­tomize the rit­u­al and com­mune with nature at the New Year.

The World's Birthday


The World’s Birth­day
writ­ten by Bar­bara Dia­mond Goldin
illus­trat­ed by Jeanette Win­ter
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court

A lit­tle boy wants to cel­e­brate Rosh Hashanah, the world’s birth­day, in the best way he knows how: by throw­ing a birth­day par­ty! The idea is so con­ta­gious that before you know it, you may find your­self singing Hap­py Birth­day World at your own Rosh Hashanah din­ner.


Riding Around the Block

Writing Road Trip by Lisa Bullard | Riding Around the BlockMy mom was a huge wor­ri­er. But when I think back to my child­hood sum­mers, what stands out is not the safe­guards she imposed, but the aston­ish­ing free­dom we had. I remem­ber long seg­ments of time that belonged exclu­sive­ly to the under-ten crowd: our moms shared the vague under­stand­ing that we were “out­side,” but they had no clue exact­ly where in the big world of out­side we were at any giv­en moment. We might be in someone’s back­yard, under the watch­ful eye of one of those moms, but we were just as like­ly to be off on some grand adven­ture.

One of my favorite adven­tures was “rid­ing around the block,” although tech­ni­cal­ly it was much more than just a block. Each side of the square that my friends and I trav­eled had a favorite ele­ment. The first side was three blocks of homes, com­plete with oth­er kids we knew from the school bus. The sec­ond side’s best fea­ture was the pond where we caught tad­poles by the buck­et­full when they were in sea­son. The third side bor­dered a farmer’s fields, and we loved to play cas­tle high atop his hay­mows. The fourth side always required a sec­ond wind to start: the cor­ner was anchored by the haunt­ed house, and every­one knew you had to bike past that as fast as you pos­si­bly could. Once we dared slow down, we scanned the ditch with eagle eyes, always con­vinced we would once again find mys­te­ri­ous dry­ing bones as we had on a pre­vi­ous jour­ney.

There are many rea­sons — some of them sad and scary — that kids today don’t all share those long hours of unsu­per­vised free­dom from adult gov­er­nance. But writ­ers know that this can make it tough to ramp up the very ele­ment that an excit­ing sto­ry requires: risk-tak­ing and the result­ing con­se­quences. Adults who write for chil­dren have learned to cre­ate clever ways to get the grown-ups out of the sto­ry (hence the aston­ish­ing num­ber of orphans that lit­ter the lit­er­ary land­scape). That way, kids can get them­selves into, and out of, the kind of inter­est­ing trou­ble that makes us want to keep read­ing. But young writ­ers, often being raised them­selves in an always-super­vised child­hood, some­times strug­gle to place their char­ac­ters at risk. Which means their sto­ries stag­nate while their char­ac­ters sit around stay­ing safe.

Safe­ty, I am here to tell you, is the bane of good sto­ry-writ­ing. If you notice this trend emerg­ing, give your young writ­ers per­mis­sion to intro­duce risk and dan­ger — phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, tan­gi­ble — into their sto­ries. Help them brain­storm ways to get rid of the character’s cell phone. Help them imag­ine how their char­ac­ter, while not nec­es­sar­i­ly a bad kid, might still find him or her­self in the kind of predica­ment their par­ents wish they’d stay far away from. Encour­age them to push their char­ac­ter out of the back­yard, and out from under the watch­ful eyes of Mom, and set them loose on an adven­ture of their own.


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.


Ask Me About … My Amazing Students!

New year. New grade lev­el. Same class­room filled with same amaz­ing kids from last year (along with sev­er­al love­ly new addi­tions). Just wrapped up the sev­enth day of school and the same ques­tion keeps run­ning through my mind… how did I get so lucky? “Loop­ing” (mov­ing up a grade lev­el) with a class that you absolute­ly adore from the year before is pret­ty much like win­ning the “teacher lot­tery.” Wel­come to anoth­er year of “Teach it For­ward” and a peek into the teach­ing and learn­ing from Room 212!

One of the main chal­lenges and goals in a loop­ing sit­u­a­tion that includes adding a few new stu­dents to the already formed group, is to fig­ure out a way to build and rebuild the com­mu­ni­ty that has already tak­en shape the year before. I searched online, look­ing for fun games and ice-break­er ideas. I asked col­leagues for their best back-to-school, first week team builders. I com­piled my list of must-read pic­ture books for our “class­room book-a-day.” I had plen­ty of fun activ­i­ties to fill those first few days, but I was still try­ing to come up with some­thing spe­cial that might fos­ter more col­lab­o­ra­tion.

What do you do with an Idea?And then it hap­pened! I was stand­ing at the copi­er on day #2 print­ing stu­dent pho­tos from day #1, and it was as if a giant light bulb explod­ed over my head. See­ing all those smil­ing faces slide through the machine inspired a com­plete­ly new idea that made me feel gid­dy! There was a bit of serendip­i­ty in the air as the next-up, class­room-book-a-day title hap­pened to be “What Do You Do With an Idea?” by Kobi Yama­da.

The plan would be to ask stu­dents to think about top­ics, peo­ple, places, basi­cal­ly any­thing they love to talk about. Next, I would give them a name tag design fea­tur­ing “Ask me about….” Once stu­dents fin­ished writ­ing their list, I would tape it to the back­side of their pho­to and lam­i­nate it. And voila! A sim­ple but cre­ative way to do a new greet­ing dur­ing our morn­ing meet­ing.  Stu­dents would part­ner up to exchange their pho­to con­ver­sa­tion cards and use the “Ask me about” lists as con­ver­sa­tion starters.

After shar­ing the idea with my stu­dents, they seemed excit­ed and will­ing to give it a try. Over the years I’ve shared a vari­ety of writ­ing activ­i­ties that involve stu­dents mak­ing lists of top­ics they might like to write about in the future. With­out excep­tion, there have always been kids who strug­gled to gen­er­ate ideas and sat with pen­cil in hand, blank paper star­ing back at them. This time, how­ev­er, the lists came togeth­er in record speed. Maybe it was because I asked them to think about what they want­ed to talk about, rather than write about. Maybe it was because they were eager to share their sum­mer mem­o­ries. Maybe it was because the major­i­ty of the class expe­ri­enced a ton of Joy Write last year and they were more com­fort­able with tak­ing risks. What­ev­er the rea­sons, I was delight­ed with the results. More impor­tant­ly, the kids couldn’t wait to share their pho­to con­ver­sa­tion cards.

I have a feel­ing those “Ask me about” lists will come in handy for some, if not many, of the kids when it comes to writ­ing. I also envi­sion an expan­sion of the idea, with kids cre­at­ing pho­to con­ver­sa­tion cards for their favorite book char­ac­ter friends. I can hard­ly wait to see what Kek (Home of the Brave), Ada (The War That Saved My Life), Mia (Front Desk) or Peter (Pax) might add to their “Ask me about” lists.

Home of the Brave, The War That Saved My Life, Front Desk, Pax

And to top it off, my teacher heart was filled with pride and joy to see so many kids add book relat­ed top­ics to their “Ask me about…” lists! Here is a sam­pling of what we’ll be talk­ing about in Room 212 in the days to come


Moving Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Back-to-School Favorites

This list was con­tributed by Deb Andries and Mau­r­na Rome, friends, edu­ca­tors, and col­leagues!

Favorites from Deb Andries:

Alma and How She Got her Name by Jua­na Mar­tinez-Neal

Dream­ers by Yuyi Morales

A Qui­et Place by Doug Wood and Dan Andreasen

The Day You Begin by Jacque­line Wood­son and Rafael López

Tru­man by Jean Rei­di and Lucy Ruth Cum­mins

Drum Dream Girl by Mar­gari­ta Engle and Rafael López

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexan­der and Melis­sa Sweet

Why by Lau­ra Vac­caro Seeger

Each Kind­ness by Jacque­line Wood­son and E.B. Lewis

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts and Hye­won Yum

From Mau­r­na Rome:

Favorite back to school books to encour­age pos­i­tiv­i­ty and com­mu­ni­ty in my class­room:

Courage: Thun­der Rose by Jer­dine Nolen and Kadir Nel­son

Empa­thy: I Am Human, A Book of Empa­thy by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

Patience: Wait­ing for the Bib­liobur­ro by Mon­i­ca Brown and John Par­ra

Cre­ativ­i­ty: The Secret King­dom: Nek Chand, a Chang­ing India, and a Hid­den World of Art by Barb Rosen­stock and Claire A. Nivola

Humor: Be Qui­et by Ryan T. Hig­gins

Kind­ness: I Walk with Vanes­sa by Karas­coët

Curios­i­ty: What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yama­da and Mae Besom

Growth Mind­set: Drum Dream Girl by Mar­gari­ta Engle and Rafael López 

Per­se­ver­ance: Lui­gi and the Bare­foot Races by Dan Paley and Aaron Boyd

Accep­tance: I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Ketu­rah A. Bobo



Deb Andries and Her Off-to-School Reading Team
September 2019

Start­ing kinder­garten is a spe­cial time, and it’s real­ly spe­cial when you get to read books with Gram­my to get you ready! For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to once again be show­cas­ing Deb Andries, a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant who lives in Wis­con­sin, and two of her grand­chil­dren, who are both start­ing kinder­garten this fall. Emmer­syn, five-and-a-half, will attend in cen­tral Min­neso­ta. Grayson, also five-and-a-half, will attend in north­ern Wis­con­sin.

Reading Off-to-School Books

In prepa­ra­tion, they shared some very spe­cial books at Gram­my’s house. They talked about mak­ing new friends, offer­ing to sit by new friends at lunch, and invit­ing them to play at recess. They talked about how excit­ing it will be to get ready the night before. As the kid­dos stat­ed, “You HAVE to have your back­pack all ready every night!”

The Day You BeginThe team shared many back-to-school books which Deb gath­ered from her per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al library col­lec­tion. There are many great titles to share with read­ers as the school year begins, but one title is a par­tic­u­lar favorite of Grammy’s: The Day You Begin, writ­ten by Jacque­line Wood­son and illus­trat­ed by Rafael López. Deb describes the book this way:

The Day You Begin is a beau­ti­ful sto­ry of a young boy who is start­ing in a new school. As the char­ac­ter tells his read­ers, ‘There will be times.…’ Grayson, Emmer­syn, and I talked about ‘times’ when they may be new to a sit­u­a­tion and how they might respond. I also use this book in my pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment train­ings as a Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant, shar­ing the sto­ry as an inter­ac­tive read aloud, and with teach­ers who may be embrac­ing new teach­ing and learn­ing in the school year.”

Deb con­tin­ues: “I have fall­en in love with the mes­sage of this book! I share it with my grand­chil­dren, friends, col­leagues, and teach­ers because of the idea that new begin­nings offer so much hope for each of us. Or as Jacque­line Woodson’s sto­ry puts it, ‘This is the day you begin / to find the places inside / your laugh­ter and your lunch­es, / your books, your trav­el and your sto­ries, / where every new friend has some­thing / a lit­tle like you−and some­thing else / so fab­u­lous­ly not quite like you / at all.’”

Deb con­cludes with this wish for every­one: “May this school year be the begin­ning of find­ing places of laugh­ter, lunch­es, trav­el, sto­ries, and pro­found friend­ships.”

books and The Day You Begin


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.


The New Book is Filling My Head



Enchanted Points of Entry

Only House, Margaret Wise Brown

Little Island by Margaret Wise BrownMy first glimpse of Mar­garet Wise Brown’s house on Vinal­haven Island, Maine, was from a boat. It topped a gran­ite slope, clap­board sid­ing paint­ed the same gray-blue as the sparkling Hur­ri­cane Sound. I was so excit­ed I near­ly fell over­board. We’d just passed the Lit­tle Island that Mar­garet had made famous in her Calde­cott-win­ning book and I’d spot­ted a seal doz­ing on the rocks.

Margaret’s Only House was not the only house on that end of the island, but it was to me. I’d been work­ing on a biog­ra­phy of Brown and was look­ing for the real Mar­garet. My pil­grim­age to Only House was pro­fes­sion­al, pri­ma­ry research. I came to Margaret’s work as an adult and placed her in her house, not myself as a child in the fic­tion­al site of one of her books.

I was not a Pot­ter fan clam­or­ing to find Plat­form 9 ¾ at King’s Cross sta­tion, or some­one with fond mem­o­ries of Eloise scop­ing out the lob­by of the Plaza. As a kid, I longed to see Sleep­y­side-on-the-Hud­son, the fic­tion­al set­ting of my beloved Trix­ie Belden mys­ter­ies, because I believed it was real. Recent­ly I learned the vil­lage was real, based on Ossin­ing, New York, where the author had lived.

Each year, thou­sands tour lit­er­ary hous­es such as the Bronte Par­son­age in York­shire or Hemingway’s home in Key West. When I went to Con­cord, Mass­a­chu­setts, I wad­ed in Walden Pond in hon­or of Thore­au, an author I admire as an adult. I think it requires a dif­fer­ent mind-set to vis­it the fic­tion­al sites of favorite children’s books and come away sat­is­fied.

If you loved the Anne of Green Gables books, a trip to Prince Edward Island may dis­ap­point with its bus­loads of tourists and mod­ern inter­pre­tive exhibits. How­ev­er, chil­dren still read­ing those books might eager­ly embrace fic­tion and real­i­ty in that lim­i­nal space, thrilled to see Anne’s tiny bed­room with her stock­ings draped over the bed­stead. Schol­ars main­tain that when chil­dren vis­it lit­er­ary sites, the expe­ri­ence enhances re-read­ings of those books.

The Wilder LifeBut how do adults fare on these jour­neys? I loved Wendy McClure’s The Wilder Life: My Adven­tures in the Lost World of Lit­tle House on the Prairie. The Lit­tle House books McClure devoured as a child car­ried her to new places, new sights, new adven­tures. She found in those land­scapes “enchant­ed points of entry into a fan­ta­sy world,” as Nico­la Wat­son writes in The Lit­er­ary Tourist.

McClure craved to churn but­ter and play with a corn­cob doll. She imag­ined help­ing Lau­ra — mag­i­cal­ly trans­port­ed to the 1970s — on the esca­la­tors of North River­side Mall. Then, like so many of us, she grew up and left her child­hood book friend behind. After the death of her moth­er, McClure re-read the books and decid­ed to trace Laura’s path, home­stead by home­stead.

The Wilder Life con­cludes with McClure remem­ber­ing the dif­fer­ent hous­es her moth­er, who grew up in a move-every-few-years-mil­i­tary fam­i­ly, tracked down on sum­mer vaca­tions. “I … thought of Lau­ra, too, of one lit­tle house after anoth­er form­ing the sto­ry of a life.” At last she declared to her patient hus­band that they were done Lau­ra-jaunt­ing. Home was with him, she real­ized. Time to re-enter the sto­ry of their life togeth­er.

Misty of ChincoteagueSarah Maslin Nir recounts a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence in her New York Times arti­cle, “All the Pret­ty Ponies.” Grow­ing up “most­ly horse­less” in New York City, she trav­eled to Chin­coteague Island, Vir­ginia, on the trail of Mar­guerite Henry’s Misty of Chin­coteague. Misty had “stoked [her] eques­tri­an fan­tasies as a girl. Maslin Nir arrived dur­ing Pony-Pen­ning Days, when the wild hors­es swim from Assateague Island to Chin­coteague to be auc­tioned, a tra­di­tion dat­ing from 1925 to thin the herd and raise funds for the fire depart­ment.

She sat on her hands dur­ing the auc­tion to keep from bid­ding on adorable, shag­gy ponies. Then she vis­it­ed the Muse­um of Chin­coteague Island and saw taxi­der­mied Misty on dis­play. The expe­ri­ence was “crush­ing.” When she learned that Misty had nev­er been a wild pony, she knew “the crea­ture Hen­ry had con­jured on the page had nev­er real­ly lived.” She bought a copy of Misty of Chin­coteague as a sou­venir of her trip, pre­fer­ring her child­hood ver­sion to real­i­ty.

Diamond in the WindowWhen we as adults try to repos­sess a fic­tion­al land­scape that meant every­thing to us as chil­dren, we risk tram­pling the enchant­ed point of entry. On my trip to Con­cord, I was sore­ly tempt­ed. Not only is Con­cord the home of Emer­son, Thore­au, and the Alcotts, it was also the set­ting of my favorite child­hood book, The Dia­mond in the Win­dow, by Jane Lang­ton. The neo-Goth­ic house depict­ed on the cov­er was on 148 Walden Street. I could go there. I could take a pic­ture!

The lure was pow­er­ful. But I know that won­der­ful old hous­es were often parceled into apart­ments, added on to, changed. I didn’t couldn’t bear to see Eric Blegvad’s 1961 illus­tra­tion marred by the 21st cen­tu­ry.

In his 1935 trav­el mem­oir, In Search of Eng­land, H.V. Mor­ton climbed the rock steps to Tin­tagel, the rumored birth­place of King Arthur, even though he felt the cas­tle “was one of those places which no man should see.” Tin­tagel wasn’t the gaunt rocky ruins, but “a coun­try of dreams more real than real­i­ty.” Exact­ly so.

Not every­thing has to be seen, not every speck of curios­i­ty must be sat­is­fied, espe­cial­ly in a world where Google pro­vides the answer to any­thing. I remem­bered my first read­ing of Dia­mond, that sin­gu­lar moment when my imag­i­na­tion sprout­ed wings and I soared into the clouds. I didn’t go to 148 Walden Street. I would not ruin the mem­o­ry.


My Grandma and Me

My Grandma and MeMy Grand­ma and Me
Mina Java­herbin
illus­trat­ed by Lind­sey Yankey
Can­dlewick Press, 2019
ISBN 978−1−4263−3304−0

If you were for­tu­nate to have one or two or three lov­ing grand­moth­ers, this book will touch your heart. Grand­mas can be the most lov­ing peo­ple in our long lives, teach­ing us about life, pass­ing along tra­di­tions, shar­ing sto­ries, help­ing us become whole­some adults.

While the grand­ma in this book is Iran­ian,  read­ers will find sim­i­lar­i­ties to their own grand­par­ents, with exquis­ite details about a spe­cif­ic cul­ture.

Grand­mas are often our faith teach­ers. Here prayers, atten­dance at mosque, and Ramadan are an inte­gral and heart­warm­ing part of the sto­ry.

The illus­tra­tions are stun­ning. Iran­ian motifs, rich fab­rics, woven rugs, and embroi­dery are all woven into the sto­ry­telling, sub­tly giv­ing depth to grand­moth­er and grand­daugh­ter’s rela­tion­ship.

The nar­ra­tor, a young girl who is first depict­ed with a space poster above her bed, inspires lat­er art of con­stel­la­tions and the moon that are breath­tak­ing, in con­trast with the soft col­ors of life at home.

Make sure you seek out this book. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.



Some­thing that has always stuck with me from pio­neer tales is the images of the keep­sakes and oth­er non-manda­to­ry items pio­neer fam­i­lies often had to dis­card on the trail as the trip became hard­er and the oxen grew weary of pulling the over­loaded wag­ons.

This is just one of the rea­sons on the very long list of why I would have made the world’s worst pio­neer — I can’t pack for a week­end with­out schlep­ping along half my house­hold goods. So in an effort towards sav­ing some pack­ing space, I have a cos­met­ics bag already stocked with trav­el-sized bot­tles of the essen­tials I know I’ll need for any road trip.

story-wheel-fair-lettersOn the note of being stocked with the essen­tials, I was remind­ed of a fan­tas­tic day I spent as one of the res­i­dent authors in the Alpha­bet For­est at the Min­neso­ta State Fair. I was­n’t there this year (anoth­er record atten­dance year!), but I love sup­port­ing this won­der­ful lit­er­a­cy-dis­guised-as-play area at the State Fair. Each day, a guest author or illus­tra­tor is fea­tured. Dur­ing my turn, I focused on teach­ing young vis­i­tors the essen­tials need­ed for a writ­ing road trip. Sure, there’s a wide array of ele­ments that can make a sto­ry stronger. But some­times it’s good to review the basics; draw­ing on just three easy-to-under­stand ele­ments, I’ve watched thou­sands of kids cre­ate sto­ries dur­ing my many years of school vis­its and work­ing with young writ­ers.

TState Fair Story Wheelhe three core sto­ry ele­ments I focus on are char­ac­ter, set­ting, and conflict (a prob­lem). At the State Fair, I set up the Sto­ry Wheel with exam­ples of the char­ac­ters, set­tings, and prob­lems that a State Fair vis­i­tor might encounter — then the kids spin the wheel to col­lect a ran­dom mix of the three ele­ments and incor­po­rate them in their own sto­ries.

I’ve also cre­at­ed a sim­ple play-at-home ver­sion of the Sto­ry Wheel that kids can make from a paper plate — check for direc­tions here. You can also down­load the Mys­tery Ingre­di­ents activ­i­ty that I’ve shared; page 2 pro­vides long lists of pos­si­ble char­ac­ters, set­tings, and prob­lems that young writ­ers could use for their own Sto­ry Wheels.

Focus­ing on these three basic ele­ments (think of it as the trav­el-sized ver­sion of sto­ry writ­ing) makes it pos­si­ble for almost all stu­dents to cre­ate sim­ple sto­ries.

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