Tag Archives | Neil Gaiman

Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team
April 2021

It’s been a month since I’ve seen my grand­chil­dren, who live five hours away — a month since we’ve snug­gled up with our favorite books. For me, a month is a long time. That’s because I spent much of the past year with my three-year-old grand­daugh­ter, Juniper, and eight-month-old grand­son, Col­by, help­ing care for them dur­ing the pandemic.

Some of the sweet­est days were back in August after Col­by was born. Some­times I’d wake about five a.m. and hear my daugh­ter read­ing to him — such a beau­ti­ful sound. This was their “spe­cial time,” and I didn’t inter­rupt. I knew I’d get my turn later.

Peekabo MorningAlmost from the start, Col­by made it known he want­ed to see both the book and our faces as we read. We’ve found cre­ative posi­tions, so he can look from book to face and back again. It’s no sur­prise many of his favorite books fea­ture faces of babies. At eight months, he grins and bab­bles when­ev­er he sees Peek­a­boo Morn­ing by Rachel Isado­ra. It’s a sim­ple text: “Peek­a­boo! I see … my mom­my; Peek­a­boo! I see … my dad­dy; Peek­a­boo! I see … my grand­ma.” The book ends with a beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tion of a tod­dler gaz­ing straight at the child read­er. “Peek­a­boo! I see … you.” Col­by gazes back and smiles his best drooly smile.

Col­by also loves the books Chu’s Day and Chu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman, illus­trat­ed by Adam Rex. Both are about a lit­tle pan­da who’s vol­canic sneez­ing upends every­thing around him. Col­by antic­i­pates the AAAAACHOOO! He looks from the book to our faces to the book — as if he’s waiting.

I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­ate Go, Grand­ma, Go! and Go, Grand­pa, Go! by Lynn Plourde, illus­trat­ed by Sophie Beer. In these books, active, youth­ful grand­par­ents push go-carts, sled down hills, scu­ba-dive, and give pig­gy­back rides. Both Col­by and Juniper love the action of this book — and I love this depic­tion of grandparents!

One of the sweet­est things I’ve seen is Juniper “read­ing” to Col­by, some­times hold­ing the book like a teacher at sto­ry time. “You sit on the group rug, Col­by!” She’s pass­ing on her love of read­ing to her baby broth­er. He’s fas­ci­nat­ed by every­thing she does, so she’s prob­a­bly the most effec­tive read­ing ambas­sador in the house.

Box TurtleOne of Juniper’s recent favorites is The Box Tur­tle by Vanes­sa Roed­er. We all love Ter­rance, the lit­tle tur­tle born with­out a shell. Terrance’s par­ents give him an actu­al card­board box for a shell, but when oth­er tur­tles tell him it’s weird, he starts hunt­ing for a new shell. Juniper finds the attempts hilar­i­ous — espe­cial­ly when he tries a kit­ty lit­ter box and “this whole sit­u­a­tion stunk … a lot.” Ter­rance final­ly returns to his old shell — now in rough shape — and his friends come togeth­er to fix it up. The book ends per­fect­ly: “It wasn’t sleek or sassy. It was far from per­fect and def­i­nite­ly weird. But Ter­rance wasn’t dis­mayed, because this lit­tle box tur­tle was so much more than just his shell.” I can imag­ine myself read­ing this with an old­er Juniper deal­ing with big­ger-kid prob­lems and inse­cu­ri­ties (because she’ll always come to me with her problems!)

TrumanIt wasn’t too big a leap to go from a tur­tle to a tor­toise. Anoth­er recent favorite is Tru­man by Jean Rei­dy, illus­trat­ed by Lucy Ruth Cum­mins. This book pulled us in right from the start: “Tru­man was small, the size of a donut — a small donut — and every bit as sweet.” The book describes Tru­man as “peace­ful and pen­sive, just like his Sarah.” For Juniper, who’s often cau­tious in new sit­u­a­tions, this is per­fect! One day Sarah — look­ing “par­tic­u­lar­ly pen­sive” — tells Tru­man, “Be brave.” Then she leaves. Tru­man waits “a thou­sand hours — tor­toise hours, that is,” and then decides to go after Sarah. Juniper loves trac­ing the dot­ted line path from Truman’s tank, over var­i­ous pieces of fur­ni­ture, and across the ENDLESS rug. He encoun­ters toys that appear giant and ter­ri­fy­ing to a tiny tor­toise. Here we stop and talk about how things would look if we were as tiny as tor­tois­es (a great les­son in scale and per­spec­tive!) But our favorite page is a tri­umphant Tru­man who’s made it all the way to the door and is feel­ing “peace­ful, pen­sive … and BRAVE!” Sarah arrives at just this moment and scoops up Tru­man, who now feels “PROUD!” This was the per­fect book at the per­fect time — just when Juniper was about to start at a new daycare.

I could go on and on, but I’m off to pack my bags. As I said, a month is TOO long.


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.


Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid

Animal Shenanigans

Ani­mal Shenani­gans, Rob Rei­d’s lat­est resource book for teach­ers, par­ents, and librarians.

I am for­tu­nate to teach three sec­tions of children’s lit­er­a­ture each semes­ter to future ele­men­tary teach­ers, future spe­cial edu­ca­tion teach­ers, and future librar­i­ans. It’s tru­ly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookol­o­gy folks to share those books and top­ics I teach to these bud­ding professionals.

I open each semes­ter by intro­duc­ing myself and read­ing my cur­rent favorite inter­ac­tive pic­ture book. The last few years, it has been Press Here by Hervé Tul­let and the stu­dents are delight­ed to know such a book like this exists. I then ask them to tell me what comes to mind when I say, “Children’s Books.” I write their respons­es on the board and…the same titles appear year after year. Titles from their school years: Arthur, Amelia Bedelia, Mag­ic Tree­house, Har­ry Pot­ter, Dr. Seuss — the usu­al sus­pects. All good choic­es but no sur­pris­es and noth­ing recent­ly pub­lished. That’s my job then for the next 15 weeks: com­bine his­to­ry of children’s lit­er­a­ture with the best of the new­er stuff, so they can share those with kids down the road.

Next, we look at cur­rent trends in children’s pub­lish­ing: trends I pick up from Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, the Coöper­a­tive Children’s Book Cen­ter, the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, and my own obser­va­tions. We also look at the cur­rent NY Times best­seller lists for pic­ture books, mid­dle grade books, and series. I read a few of those best­selling pic­ture books to the class as well as selec­tions of the chap­ter books. (I read aloud children’s books to my col­lege stu­dents pret­ty much every class session.)

I con­trast what sells with what wins the numer­ous awards: quan­ti­ty vs. qual­i­ty (and luck­i­ly, the two go togeth­er with many titles) and how kids need to be exposed to all. Over the semes­ter, my stu­dents learn what the fol­low­ing awards are for, who are the most recent win­ners, and many of the notable past win­ners: New­bery (and I share my own expe­ri­ence being on that com­mit­tee), Calde­cott, Geisel, Coret­ta Scott King, Pura Bel­pré, Amer­i­can Indi­an Youth Lit­er­a­ture, Scott O’Dell, Sib­ert, Orbis Pic­tus, and the Schnei­der Fam­i­ly Award.

Sibk_wonder_140nce that last award orig­i­nat­ed at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Eau Claire, where I teach, and because I have many spe­cial edu­ca­tion stu­dents, we put spe­cial empha­sis on this award that rec­og­nizes por­tray­als of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. As a class, we all read Won­der by R.J. Pala­cio (before that it was Rules by Cyn­thia Lord) and I will also be adding El Deafo by Cece Bell this upcom­ing year as a required read to rep­re­sent graph­ic nov­els (I have been using the first Baby­mouse and the first Lunch Lady as exam­ples of ele­men­tary school graph­ic novels).

The oth­er required read is Love That Dog, and I intro­duce the oth­er works of Sharon Creech and Wal­ter Dean Myers (who is a fic­tion­al­ized char­ac­ter of him­self in the book). We look at dozens of poet­ry books not writ­ten by Shel Sil­ver­stein (and I have some good Sil­ver­stein anec­dotes to share) and learn ways to make poet­ry fun for kids.

Out of My MindStu­dents pick an elec­tive chap­ter book from a list I pro­vide (which includes Roll of Thun­der Hear My Cry, Out of My Mind, Joey Pigza Swal­lowed the Key, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Cora­line, Tale of Des­pereaux, Princess Acad­e­my, Eli­jah of Bux­ton, and sev­er­al more) and they cre­ate a lit­er­a­ture activ­i­ty guide to go with their novel.

Stu­dents draw the name of a children’s illus­tra­tor and put togeth­er a Pow­er­Point to share with the class what they learned about the var­i­ous artis­tic ele­ments present in the pic­ture books.

We also look at the time­line of diver­si­ty in children’s lit­er­a­ture, tra­di­tion­al folk­lore from around the world, fan­ta­sy and sci­ence fic­tion, con­tro­ver­sial books, infor­ma­tion­al books and biogra­phies, easy read­ers and bridge books, real­is­tic fic­tion, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, and Min­neso­ta and Wis­con­sin book cre­ators (since most of my stu­dents are from these two states and we have so many tal­ent­ed, pub­lished, award-win­ning authors and illus­tra­tors here).

Each stu­dent also has to tell an oral sto­ry to the class based on a folk­tale. They are sent to the 398 sec­tion of the library to look through both the pic­ture book edi­tions and antholo­gies of folk­tales, learn one, and share it with­out notes.

We fin­ish the semes­ter with com­pet­i­tive rounds of Kid­die Lit Jeop­ardy, they fill out their stu­dent eval­u­a­tions that all read “This was a lot of work!” and I send them off to explore the remain­ing 99% of the won­der­ful children’s books we did­n’t have time to cov­er in class.


Animal Shenanigans

Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid I am for­tu­nate to teach three sec­tions of children’s lit­er­a­ture each semes­ter to future ele­men­tary teach­ers, future spe­cial edu­ca­tion teach­ers, and future librar­i­ans. It’s tru­ly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookol­o­gy folks to share those books and top­ics I teach to these bud­ding professionals. I open each semes­ter by intro­duc­ing myself and read­ing my cur­rent favorite inter­ac­tive pic­ture book.… more