Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team
December 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to intro­duce a new Read­ing Team, this one led by children’s book author Cather­ine Urdahl. Here, Cather­ine shares some heart­warm­ing read­ing moments, with enough book-love and remem­bered sum­mer sun­shine to take the chill out of the cold­est of Decem­ber winds:

Juni and Catherine
Juni and Catherine

I read to my daugh­ters from the time they were infants, and now I have the joy of read­ing to my two-year-old grand­daugh­ter Juni and my new grand­son Col­by. This is my favorite time.

We espe­cial­ly enjoy books that cre­ate a shared expe­ri­ence, lines we repeat togeth­er or a word that always makes us laugh. Rat­tle­trap Car (by Phyl­lis Root, illus­trat­ed by Jill Bar­ton) is one of our favorites, and not only because one of the char­ac­ters is named “Junie.” Our Juni was about 18 months when we first read it togeth­er, at our house on a Min­neso­ta lake. When she heard the fourth line—‘Let’s go to the lake,’ said Junie and Jakie—Juni point­ed out the win­dow and shout­ed, “THAT’S THE LAKE!” It became one of the books she read at Grandma’s house, some­times in front of the win­dow, some­times (even bet­ter!) outside.

Rattletrap CarHear­ing her name and con­nect­ing the book lake to the real lake are part of the appeal. But the book’s won­der­ful lan­guage and sounds keep us com­ing back. (Papa turned the key, brum, brum, brum, brum. Clin­kety clan­kety bing bang pop! And that’s just a small sam­ple…) We say the words togeth­er, or I stop to let Juni fill in. The expe­ri­ence changes as she grows, but the book remains a tra­di­tion that con­nects us from vis­it to visit.

This reminds me of anoth­er book tra­di­tion, two gen­er­a­tions back. Every time we’d vis­it my grand­par­ents’ farm, Grand­pa Ger­hard — a farmer with­out much time to read — would gath­er the grand­chil­dren and read The Cow in the Silo (by Patri­cia Good­ell, illus­trat­ed by Dell­wyn Cun­ning­ham). One of my cousins found the book on eBay a few years ago and made copies for every­one. It’s one of my most prized possessions.

Find­ing con­nec­tion in a book is mag­i­cal. Anoth­er of Juni’s favorites is The Sand­cas­tle that Lola Built (by Megan Maynor, illus­trat­ed by Kate Berube). When­ev­er we read it at my house, Wis­con­si­nite Juni waits for the entry of the char­ac­ter “Min­neso­ta Girl,” then stabs her lit­tle fin­ger into the air and shouts, “This is Min­neso­ta!” Then we laugh.

On warm days, when we build sand­cas­tles on the beach, Juni remem­bers the book and asks for sea glass to sig­nal the mer­maids, just like Lola. (Sea glass is hard to find at a small Min­neso­ta lake.)

Of course, our favorite book changes, depend­ing on the day. Late­ly, Wild Baby (by Cori Doer­rfeld) is at the top of the pile. We notice the mama’s expres­sions as her baby runs off. Is she hap­py? Or angry? Why? We love hear­ing the play­ful, poet­ic text and track­ing the impend­ing dan­ger in the vivid illus­tra­tions. When the branch breaks, sav­ing the baby mon­key, we yell SNAP! And then there’s the cud­dle moment at the end. Is the mama hap­py? Yes!

I love see­ing books became such a big part of Juni’s life. I love how she gath­ers a pile of books and insists “I’M READING NOW!” when it’s time for din­ner, bed, a bath­room break, etc. (Per­haps the grand­par­ent per­spec­tive dif­fers a bit from the parent’s.)

A few weeks ago, I saw the sweet­est book moment EVER — Juni read­ing to her baby broth­er, tak­ing his tiny hand and help­ing him turn a page.

Already, she’s shar­ing the book-love.

Catherine’s daugh­ter Anna read­ing with Juni and Colby


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.

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David LaRochelle
3 years ago

Rat­tle­trap Car is one of my all-time favorite pic­ture books. I use it as a mod­el of an excel­lent book when I teach adults about writ­ing pbs. Some­times I read it aloud to myself because I enjoy it so much!

Catherine Urdahl
Reply to  David LaRochelle
3 years ago

It’s the per­fect read-aloud for any age – includ­ing grown-ups!

3 years ago

I adore Rat­tle­trap Car! It was a favorite when my kids were lit­tle, and I love to give it as a gift.

Catherine Urdahl
Reply to  carolinestarrrose
3 years ago

I’m sure every­one you give it to loves it!

Lynne Jonell
3 years ago

Thanks for this, Cathy– I had­n’t run into Rat­tle­trap Car before, but giv­en that I have a grand­ba­by now, it’s on my sto­ry stack wait­ing for his next vis­it. What a fun book!