How Parks Connect Us
… and Why It Matters

A Park Connects Us
Spring is in the air, and we’re pulled outdoors to wander in our favorite city parks. Ducks are dabbling; frogs are trilling; the apple trees are bursting into bloom. Everywhere, it seems, children frolic and neighbors wave. It’s been a long winter, but our cities are alive.

Doorways to the Wild and Wondrous

Sarah Nelson
Today, writing about nature and outdoor play just feels as natural and right to me as breathing. All my happy memories of chasing frogs, climbing trees, and splashing in summer lakes easily inform the stories I write.

Catherine Urdahl

Catherine Urdahl
As a child, I was shy and scared — of oth­er kids, dogs, almost any­thing out­side my fence. My par­ents enrolled me in preschool, hop­ing I’d blos­som. I refused to get out of the car. I had every­thing I need­ed at home, includ­ing a mom who loved read­ing to me. My first book mem­o­ry is Three Bed­time Sto­ries: The Three Lit­tle Kit­tens, The Three Lit­tle Pigs, The Three Bears, illus­trat­ed by Garth Williams.
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Mélina Mangal

Melina Mangal
Méli­na Man­gal’s Self on the Shelf I looked on my shelves, won­der­ing which books to high­light. I have sev­er­al shelves, scat­tered around the house. Though I am a school librar­i­an, my home shelves are quite flu­id, as in, they’re not strict­ly orga­nized. Books are loose­ly grouped by for­mat and size, some­times by genre. I real­ly don’t have that  many books (I love to vis­it the library!),
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Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
February 2021

Be Kind
Our Rais­ing Star Read­ers con­trib­u­tor Ann Angel always has a unique take on select­ing books for her Read­ing Team. Here, Ann talks about books that encour­age what she calls “mind­ful­ness moments” — titles that help kids (and adults) slow down and focus dur­ing our cur­rent “wild” times: Our house is home to three gen­er­a­tions. So hus­band Jeff and I live with Ted­dy, a rather ram­bunc­tious five-year-old, and his mom.… more

Tracy Sue Walker

Tracy Sue Walker
This month we wel­come Tra­cy Sue Walk­er, author, pub­lic librar­i­an, and pro­fes­sion­al storyteller. She’s recent­ly been reveal­ing “the truth about” a series of mys­ti­cal crea­tures, so far includ­ing drag­ons, Big­foot, and uni­corns, for Scholas­tic Book Clubs. Tra­cy describes her­self this way, “A booklover, day­dream­er, and goof­ball, I’m pret­ty qui­et unless I’m telling a sto­ry, then I’m pret­ty loud.”
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Candice Ransom

Candice Ransom
One green thing I wish every­one would do:  Give up plas­tic bags. It’s hard, I know, to remem­ber to car­ry a bag into a store. I wish we could give up oth­er forms of plas­tic, like the blis­ter packs encas­ing every­thing from Bar­bie dolls to Bic pens. Back in the days of five and ten stores, it was so nice to sim­ply pick an item out of a bin or off a shelf, pay for it, and not wres­tle with tin snips to get it open.
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Going Rogue

Explo­ration is real­ly the Essence of the Human Spirit.” —Frank Bor­man ’Tis the sea­son for fall themes such as pump­kins, leaves, and turkeys.  As I was plan­ning pro­grams for Octo­ber and Novem­ber, I decid­ed it was time to go rogue and think of new themes. I start­ed search­ing terms such as “fun­ny fall cel­e­bra­tions” and “unusu­al hol­i­days.” From Nation­al Mad Hat­ter Day to Nation­al Cake Dec­o­rat­ing Day, my search helped me devel­op new pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies to enjoy including: Nation­al Mad Hat­ter Day, Octo­ber 6, 2019 Jour­ney down the rab­bit hole and make Won­der­land come to life.… more

Celebrating Rosh Hashanah

New Year at the Pier
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.
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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.… more

Back-to-School Favorites

Thunder Rose
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… more

Summer Reading Kick-off

For the past four years, my library has pro­vid­ed our com­mu­ni­ty with a sum­mer read­ing car­ni­val to kick­start our sum­mer read­ing pro­gram. For the first two years, we had a few bounce hous­es and cot­ton can­dy and 400 patrons attend­ed. To plan our past car­ni­val, I brain­stormed ideas on how to con­tin­ue by pro­vid­ing a car­ni­val with more than bounces hous­es and cot­ton can­dy.… more

Fresh Air: Taking Storytime Outdoors

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
We could nev­er have loved the earth so well if we had no child­hood in it.” —George Eliot  In the state of Iowa, where I live, the change from win­ter to spring is like an on and off switch. Yet, at the end of anoth­er vor­tex, Spring has final­ly come to Iowa. Spring is a per­fect time to sched­ule your sto­ry­time pro­grams out­doors.… more

Libraries and Librarians

Library Lion
We’re post­ing this when it’s Nation­al Library Week, but we believe every week should be Library Week. If you love pub­lic, school, and spe­cial libraries as much as we do, add these books to your read­ing list and share them with your favorite readers. 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.
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The Animals in The Stuff of Stars

Stay Close to Mama
When I first read The Stuff of Stars by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes, I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the beau­ty of the book and its lyri­cal thoughts about the earth and our envi­ron­ment. Ms. Holmes’ illus­tra­tions invite us to look clos­er, to dis­cern the crea­tures she’s so art­ful­ly includ­ed. Ms. Bauer’s text includes a list of ani­mals that roam the earth, bring­ing to mind all of the sto­ries and facts about these spe­cif­ic ani­mals, birds, insects, and reptiles.
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Bookstorm™: Just Like Rube Goldberg

Just Like Rube Goldberg
Edu­ca­tors across the coun­try have been inspired by Rube Goldberg’s intri­cate, clever, engi­neer­ing-based, but unlike­ly-to-be-made-in-real-life car­toons. Stu­dents are gath­er­ing to cre­ate their own Rube Gold­berg machines, using every­day objects in fun and inno­v­a­tive ways to accom­plish sim­ple tasks with fun results. Just Like Rube Gold­berg inspires all its read­ers with the details about Rube’s child­hood and his trip into adult­hood.… more

The Arrow of Time

Candice Ransom
When you walk into our house, you know imme­di­ate­ly my hus­band and I are read­ers. The din­ing room is des­ig­nat­ed as the library, but there are book­cas­es and books in every sin­gle room, includ­ing the bath­rooms. We sub­scribe to The Wall Street Jour­nal and the Sun­day New York Times, as well as Smith­son­ian, Audubon, and Sky and Tele­scope.more

Books Are Our Emissaries

Stephanie Calmenson
As authors, we send our books out into the world and, if we’re lucky, they con­nect us to good peo­ple whose paths we would­n’t oth­er­wise cross. For 28 years, Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace has been my excel­lent emissary.  Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace start­ed as a sim­ple count­ing and sort­ing book with lots of ani­mals and a par­ty atmos­phere to make the learn­ing fun. … more

A Match Made in Heaven

Maurna Rome
A lit­tle more than two years ago I shared a Teach it For­ward col­umn enti­tled “Books for my Grand­ba­by and Me.” As I cel­e­brat­ed the arrival of my first grand­child and mar­veled at the joy of becom­ing a first-time grand­ma, I embraced the chance to share my love of read­ing with this most pre­cious future book lover. It was a match made in heav­en … a lit­tle one to hold gen­tly on my lap while shar­ing book after book.… more

Skinny Dip with Stephanie Calmenson

Stephanie Calmenson
Author of the beloved Din­ner at the Pan­da PalaceStephanie Cal­men­son has shared her love of lit­er­a­ture with ear­ly child­hood and ele­men­tary read­ers by chan­nel­ing her enthu­si­asm for their expe­ri­ences into her books.  Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why? I loved my kinder­garten teacher, Ms. Cogan, who taught with warmth and joy.… more

Skinny Dip with Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle
Our cur­rent Young Peo­ple’s Poet Lau­re­ate, Mar­gari­ta Engle has writ­ten about the land, the life, and the heroes of Cuba, along with verse nov­els, pic­ture books, and biogra­phies of heroes the world over.  What is your favorite daydream? I love to dream of instant trav­el, like the “beam me up” gad­get in old Star Trek episodes. There are so many places I want to see, and so many peo­ple I want to vis­it more often, espe­cial­ly rel­a­tives in Los Ange­les, San Fran­cis­co, Mia­mi, and Cuba.… more

Skinny Dip with Geoff Herbach

Geoff Herbach
Cre­ative with many endeav­ors, includ­ing writ­ing, teach­ing col­lege stu­dents, the­ater, and being a dad, Geoff Herbach is stretch­ing his wings from YA fic­tion to pic­ture books! Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why? I loved Mrs. Fatzinger in 5th grade. She read books out loud to us every day right after lunch and it was fan­tas­tic.… more

Skinny Dip with Joyce Sidman

Joyce Sidman
From the first time, many years ago, that I heard Joyce Sid­man read aloud from her poet­ry, when Eure­ka! Poems about Inven­tors was about to be released, I knew this woman car­ried mag­ic in her soul. Work­ing mag­ic with words, writ­ing about sci­ence and our very human emo­tions … Joyce has become a favorite author for many readers. Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?more

Skinny Dip with Lee Bennett Hopkins

Lee Bennett Hopkins
You can­not be a part of the chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture com­mu­ni­ty with­out know­ing his name. Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins has been writ­ing for chil­dren and adults since 1968. His Books Are by Peo­ple (1969) had a pro­found effect on me. With his antholo­gies, he has kept our eyes focused on poet­ry, know­ing how much chil­dren love the images and emo­tions evoked by well-cho­sen words.… more

Skinny Dip with Cathy Camper

Cathy Camper
Are you fans of the Lowrid­ers graph­ic nov­els? We are! And we can’t wait for the next one. The author who thinks up those great sto­ries is Cathy Camper. We invit­ed her to Skin­ny Dip with the Bookol­o­gist … and she said yes! When we asked her point­ed ques­tions, here’s what she had to say. Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?more

Skinny Dip with Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Costner
We’re thrilled to Skin­ny Dip with out­stand­ing edu­ca­tor Suzanne Cost­ner, Thanks to Suzanne for answer our ques­tions dur­ing her very busy end-of-the-school-year hours. Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why? My favorite teacher was Mrs. Hill in 4th grade. She read to us every day after lunch: Stuart Little, Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach.… more

Books for Solace and Comfort

Salting the Ocean
With reports from edu­ca­tors that stu­dents are in a height­ened state of anx­i­ety, we put out the call for rec­om­men­da­tions for books that would offer com­fort and solace with­in the age range of ages three to twelve. Do you have a book in mind? Send us your recommendation(s). We’ll keep adding to this list, so you may wish to book­mark it.… more

A Story for the Ages

The Rabbits' Wedding
For the past two years my hus­band and I have had the good for­tune to spend the wan­ing days of sum­mer in Door Coun­ty, Wis­con­sin. There we have dis­cov­ered a vibrant arts com­mu­ni­ty. A boun­ty of the­atre, music, and fine arts is there for the picking. This year, as I scanned the pos­si­bil­i­ties for our vis­it, I was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the Penin­su­la Play­ers’ Mid­west pre­mière of a new play by Ken­neth Jones called Alaba­ma Sto­ry.… more

Dear Peacemakers

Book by Book
In recent weeks, we’ve had many requests for books about anger and fear and con­flict resolution. I was imme­di­ate­ly remind­ed of an excel­lent resource pub­lished in 2010 called Book by Book: an Anno­tat­ed Guide to Young People’s Lit­er­a­ture with Peace­mak­ing and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion Themes (Car­ol Spiegel, pub­lished by Edu­ca­tors for Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty, now called Engag­ing Schools).… more

Choice and Voice

Maurna Rome
In sev­er­al past arti­cles I’ve writ­ten about the frus­tra­tion I’ve felt con­cern­ing my district’s deci­sion to adopt a new read­ing cur­ricu­lum. In recent weeks I have had to reflect and dig deeply to under­stand my uneasi­ness and fear relat­ed to “an inno­v­a­tive and mod­ern way to teach the gamut of ele­men­tary lit­er­a­cy skills” (quote from dis­trict web­site post about the new read­ing cur­ricu­lum).more

Reading Memories

Treasury for Young Readers
Mem­o­ries of my child­hood are imper­fect. Yours, too? I don’t remem­ber hav­ing a lot of books as a child. I remem­ber The Poky Lit­tle Pup­py and anoth­er dog book (title unknown) and Three Lit­tle Kit­tens (per­haps a reminder to me to keep track of my mittens). I remem­ber using the school library vora­cious­ly to read books. I had no access to the pub­lic library (too far away) so that school library was my life­line.… more

Feeling Cranky

Crankee Doodle
Phyl­lis: Feb­ru­ary is the month for lovers and for love. And it’s the month where some of us also get a lit­tle grumpy. Gray slushy snow — no good for ski­ing or build­ing snow peo­ple — lines the streets. The weight of win­ter coats wears old. And even though we do love Feb­ru­ary, we thought we’d look at books about grumpi­ness — just in case any­one else might feel a lit­tle, well, cranky once in a while.… more

Don’t get took! Read a book!”

Reading Ahead bubble
by Vic­ki Palmquist I go crazy when I hear that Vaun­da Michaux Nel­son has anoth­er book com­ing out. I’m a fan. For my own read­ing life, No Crys­tal Stair: a doc­u­men­tary nov­el of the life and work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem book­seller, is one of my top ten books in the last ten years. I found every aspect of that book sat­is­fy­ing.… more

Books about Boxes

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

Calligraphy sample
by Vic­ki Palmquist After read­ing Cather­ine, Called Birdy, read­ers will won­der about Edward, Birdy’s broth­er, and the books he was scrib­ing at the monastery. In what type of book did Birdy keep her jour­nal? Who taught her to write? Did she write in the same fan­cy script that her broth­er did at the monastery? Birdy gives the read­er clues about her jour­nal: “The skins are my father’s, left over from the house­hold accounts, and the ink also.… more

The Curious Child: writing and books

Calligraphy sample
by Vic­ki Palmquist After read­ing Cather­ine, Called Birdy, read­ers will won­der about Edward, Birdy’s broth­er, and the books he was scrib­ing at the monastery. In what type of book did Birdy keep her jour­nal? Who taught her to write? Did she write in the same fan­cy script that her broth­er did at the monastery? Birdy gives the read­er clues about her jour­nal: “The skins are my father’s, left over from the house­hold accounts, and the ink also.… more