Friday, October 30, 2015

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, October 2015

While I've been tending to a newborn these past weeks, the blogosphere has exploded with books for beginning readers. Without further ado, let's get to the plethora of links!

Easy Readers

A few blogs posted about beloved favorites this month:
Others got into the spirit of Fall, with reviews of Aaron Loves Apples and Pumpkins (Provo Library Children's Book Reviews) and Halloween (Anastasia Suen).

Newer titles receiving attention included Let's Have a Parade and Let's Go Fishing from the Lana's World series, reviewed by Becky's Book Reviews, Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, reviewed by Great Kid Books and Ballet Cat: Dance Dance Underpants, reviewed by Literary Hoots, as well as The Berenstain Bears are Superbears and Celebrating Georgia, both featured by Provo Library Children's Book Reviews, Written and Drawn by Henrietta, reviewed by Books 4 Your Kids and A Kids Book a Day, and Pig and Pug, reviewed by Literary Hoots. Waking Brain Cells and Shelf-Employed also both reviewed In, Over, and On the Farm by Ethan Long, while Juliana Lee, Writer and Flying Off My Bookshelf featured Poppy the Pirate Dog and the Missing Treasure

Chapter Books

There were a couple of throwback chapter book reviews this month: How Oliver Olson Changed the World at Family Bookshelf and Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrifying TV Turn-Off Week at One Great Book.

Books suitable for both Halloween and Thanksgiving were also making the rounds. Mundie Kids reviewed Backyard Witch: Sadie's Story, Literary Hoots reviewed The Not So Itty Bitty Spiders, and  Ms. Yingling Reads reviewed Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey.

The Princess in Black series continued to be popular. There were reviews of the second book, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party from Readerkidz, Ms. Yingling Reads. and Books 4 Your Kids.

Other chapter book reviews are below:

Reviews from Cybils Judges

Last but certainly not least are these reviews from two very prolific bloggers on the first round Cybils panel for Easy Readers and Early Chapter books.

From Juliana at Juliana Lee, Writer:

From Jennifer at Jean Little Library and Flying Off My Bookshelf:

Submit Your Reviews!


Each month, I collect these reviews from all the blogs I know about that review easy readers and chapter books. If I have yet to discover your blog, or if you just want to help me out, feel free to submit your reviews for the November Round-Up either by email to or tweet to @mrskatiefitz. Also let me know if I missed any October reviews, and I'll add them in ASAP. Thanks! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, October 2015

Welcome, Little Bo Peep! 

As you can see from the logo at the top of this post, there have been some changes in Little Miss Muffet's life this month. She now has a little sister! Little Bo Peep was born on her due date, the last day of September, and we have spent the last few weeks getting used to being a family of four.

Little Bo Peep's Very First Books

Little Bo Peep's main activities at the moment are eating and sleeping, so read-alouds have not yet become a regular part of her routine. I often recite nursery rhymes to her while she takes her bottle - George Porgie, Bye Baby Bunting, Hey Diddle Diddle, etc. - and she is almost always in the room when I'm reading to Miss Muffet, but she's not quite ready to look at a picture book just yet. She is, however, becoming quite fond of patterns, so I dug out two books Miss Muffet loved as an infant: Black and White by Tana Hoban and Baby Sees by Dave Aikins. She usually gets overwhelmed if we look at more than a page or two, but it's fun to watch her eyes grow big as she focuses on a black and white butterfly or a polka-dot pattern. As I did with Miss Muffet, I also occasionally read aloud to her from whatever I happen to be reading. She has heard brief passages from both The Graveyard Book and Magic Tree House #53: Shadow of the Shark (the latter of which I was reading for Cybils.)

Little Miss Muffet's Current Favorites

While recovering from childbirth, I haven't been able to do much with Miss Muffet besides read, and Grandma (my mom) also spent a lot of time reading to her when she was in town, so we have quite a few new favorites to share.

  • Snuggle the Baby by Sara Gillingham
    Grandma bought this book a few months ago in anticipation of the arrival of Little Bo Peep. It is an interactive board book, where toddlers can feed, diaper, swaddle, snuggle, and tuck in their own little cardboard baby. One page has already been destroyed. There is a part of the book where the baby's arms lift up to play "so big," but they lift at kind of an angle that is hard to negotiate if you are not quite two years old yet. So on that page the baby only has one arm at the moment, and we have set the book aside for repairs. But with a little packing tape to reinforce those cardboard arms, this is a book we definitely recommend to new big sisters and brothers.
  • It Is Night by Phyllis Rowand, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
    My husband brought this book home from the library for Miss Muffet, and she took to it immediately upon discovering there are both an elephant and a monkey in the story. The book discusses where animals sleep at night, which is a perfect science topic for toddlers, and it has a very sweet ending where a little girl curls up in bed surrounded by all of her toys.
  • Quack and Count by Keith Baker
    We have owned this book for a while, but it has not been in Miss Muffet's box until recently, so for her it is like a new discovery. Since she has started counting, she has become obsessed with counting the seven ducks in this book, and she can fill in almost any word if I stop reading and ask her what comes next. Everyone else in our house is completely sick of reading this aloud, and we pretty much beg Miss Muffet to choose anything else, even the dreaded More More More said the Baby which got really played out toward the end of the summer.
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
    This is one of my favorite story time books, and I'm thrilled that Miss Muffet loves it so much. She is very fond of both Percy and Bill, and every time we reach the page where the owl mother returns home to her babies, the look of joy on her face is absolutely priceless. So contagious is Miss Muffet's love for this book that her grandma went and bought her own copy after visiting with us. We also discovered a lovely animated version on YouTube that we occasionally allow Miss Muffet to watch.
  • Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
    This is another story time favorite, though I notice it doesn't hold up quite as well as others when you read it 10 times a day.The most fascinating thing about it, for me, is that Miss Muffet understands the plot and can answer basic reading comprehension questions about it. On the wordless page where all the animals stare at the bikes and get ready to ride, I asked her, "What do the animals want to do?" and without hesitation she said, "Ride bikes!" (This is why it's important to read books with basic plots to toddlers! They do understand!)
  • May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
    Thankfully, I will never tire of reading this book aloud. Its sense of humor and rhyme and rhythm are all so delightful, and Miss Muffet can recite all my favorite lines, including "What monkey business is this?" I can't wait until she gets a little older and we can do some of the activities I created to go with the story.

One Tip from Mom 

Not sure what to read to your baby? Pretty much anything works! For inspiration, check out this list of possibilities that I made for The Library Adventure, as well as this list of Miss Muffet's favorite books from her first year. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Learning Activities for Favorite Children's Books: 25 Ways to Play with Whistle for Willie

Ezra Jack Keats's 1964 picture book, Whistle for Willie, includes many examples of play, as Peter entertains himself in his neighborhood while also trying to learn how to whistle. Featured in the story are a traffic light, an empty carton, colored chalk, a mirror, Peter's father's hat, Peter's own shadow, a trip to the grocery store, and of course, Willie the dachshund. The activities on this list connect with these elements to help bring this classic story more fully to life for the youngest readers.
  1. Play Red Light Green Light. This classic game is a fun way to burn off excess energy and to reinforce the idea that red means stop and green means go. 
  2. Sing and dance to Turn Around by Hap Palmer. When Peter first discovers he can't whistle, he passes some time turning around and around until he makes himself dizzy.  This song, which is great for teaching kids to follow simple directions, is also perfect for spinning around and around. 
  3. Play a simple memory game using the motions of up, down, and around. Have your children take turns choosing whether to move up, down, or around. When it is his or her turn, each child must repeat the motions chosen by the previous players before adding a new one to the chain. See how long you can keep the chain going without forgetting the order! 
  4. Practice whistling. Young children may not be ready to learn to whistle, but they can still have fun practicing. If the experience proves too frustrating, let your kids blow a toy whistle instead. 
  5. Whistle rhythms. Whistle some notes in rhythm, then invite your child to copy you. 
  6. Play name that tune - with whistling. Whistle a favorite tune and have your child name the song. 
  7. Sing songs about whistling.  There are some great kid-friendly songs about whistling, including Whistle While You Work, Give a Little Whistle, and Whistle a Happy Tune. Turn one on and sing along! 
  8. Make shadows against a wall. Shine a flashlight against a blank wall and invite your kids to make shadow animals. 
  9. Do the "I'm Your Shadow" chant. This rhyme comes from a 1986 video, Clifford's Sing-Along Adventure, which we used to show after lunch at the special ed preschool where I worked for a while during library school. I have looked for it occasionally online and finally found it on YouTube here.
  10. Try on different hats and pretend to be different characters. Provide your child with some hats and see how her imagination comes to life as she imagines who might wear each one. 
  11. Match hats to their owners. Use this printable set from to match hats to the workers who wear them. 
  12. Play a memory game with a cardboard box. Lay out an array of objects, and invite your child to study them. Have your child look away for a moment, and hide one of the objects under a cardboard box. Then have him tell you which item is missing. (You could also do this with a group of children. Have one child leave the room and another hide under a box. Then have the child who was out of the room tell you who is hiding.) 
  13. Play dog-themed memory. Create your own memory cards, or use a printable set like this one from 
  14. List words beginning with W. Whistle and Willie both begin with W. Challenge your child to come up with more words that also begin with this letter. 
  15. Make a whistle from a straw. There are instructions for this activity all over YouTube and Pinterest. Personally, I like these kid-friendly directions from Science Guy on YouTube.
  16. Balance on a piece of tape. Just as Peter balances on a crack in the sidewalk, challenge your child to walk along a piece of tape on the floor. Make this activity more challenging by putting lots of twists and turns in your tape "crack." 
  17. Draw a chalk line on the sidewalk (or on long paper). Imitate Peter by creating a long line right up to your front door. 
  18. Write and draw your own version of the story. Rewrite the first line of the book, "Oh, how Peter wished he could whistle!" by substituting your child's name and an activity he or she wishes to learn how to do. Then invite him or her to illustrate the sentence with a picture showing what it would be like to have that skill.  
  19. Make a dog like Willie. Use this wonderful template from Learn Create Love to create  your own dachshund like Willie. (Or, for a real keepsake, order these plush dogs from Discount School Supply and decorate with fabric markers.) 
  20. Listen to James Garner read the story. This vintage video from Bank Street College of Education is probably more fun for adults than for kids, but it's a decent performance of the book even if kids don't know who James Garner was. 
  21. Play a comprehension game based on the book. Make your own game board, or purchase this one from 2nd Grade Nemo at Teachers Pay Teachers. 
  22. Create your neighborhood in Keats's artistic style. Use collage materials to create a visual representation of your neighborhood and your favorite things to do there. 
  23. Draw your reflection. Provide your child with a mirror and invite him or her to draw his or her face the way it looks in the mirror. 
  24. Pretend to do grocery shopping. Set out some canned goods and other non-perishables and have your child pretend to go grocery shopping as Peter and Willie do at the end of the book. 
  25. Have a grocery store scavenger hunt. When you visit the actual grocery store, give your kids lists of items to locate. Hands On As We Grow has some great ideas for this activity. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

10 Literacy Activities About Monsters

There are lots of great monster-themed activities for young children. Today I'm sharing ten of my favorites, all of which have a literacy focus.

  • Sing Horns and Fangs, a monster-inspired version of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes found on this handout from Perry Public Library. 
  • Share my original flannel board rhyme Knock Knock! Trick or Treat?, in which each of several doors conceals a different monstrous creature. 
  • Imagine what you'd do if you were a monster with a short and sweet action rhyme called If I Were a Monster
  • Count and roar along with One Little Monster, a piggyback song I wrote based on One Little Finger.
  • Tap into your monstrous side with the Monster Stomp, an action rhyme modeled after this dinosaur-themed activity.
  • Read Where the Wild Things Are, then play my Catch a Wild Thing rhyming game. 
  • Play shaker eggs or other musical instruments along to the Raffi song Les Zombies et les Loups-Garous, which translates to The Zombies and the Werewolves! 
  • Retell Peter McCarty's picture book, Jeremy Draws a Monster, using the flannel board.
  • Prove that you're a monster and you know it by singing this piggyback song based on If You're Happy and You Know It. 
  • Read The Monster, a poem about imagining monsters in different rooms around the house, which can be seen here at Just 4 Teachers.
For more monster ideas, check out my monster-themed story time plans.

Friday, October 16, 2015

13 Literacy Activities About Spiders

Celebrate spiders with these 13 literacy activities, collected from my archives and various educational blogs around the web. 
  • Sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider a cappella, play it on ukulele, or guitar, or change the words to incorporate multi-colored or differently sized spiders. 
  • There are many wonderful folktales about Anansi the Spider, including adaptations by Gerald McDermott and Eric A. Kimmel. Introduce little ones to this eight-legged folk hero using Raffi's song, Anansi from The Singable Songs Collection.
  • Give your young friends the shivers with There's a Spider on the Floor, also by Raffi, which features a spider slowly climbing up one's body. 
  • Enjoy I'm a Hungry Spider, a song to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot" which Growing Book by Book featured last Fall. The song promotes rhyming skills and phonological awareness, as well as physical movement. 
  • Demonstrate how a spider uses her web using Four Colorful Flies, a rhyming story I wrote  about the four colorful flies who are captured one by one in a spider's web. The clip art flannel board pieces I used for the story can be seen in this post
  • Tell and retell Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider, using these free printable stick puppets created by Jessica from Littlest Scholars. Without the sticks, these pieces could also be used on the flannel board.
  • Play a name game with The Silly Willy Spider. The simple verse tells of a silly spider who climbs on each child in the group in turn, then jumps onto someone else. The words are available here.
  • Count down from four with the Four Little Spiders rhyme from King County Library System. It works as either a fingerplay or flannel board. 
  • Have kids act out the creation of a spider web using their hands with the help of Spider, Spider, a simple action rhyme.  
  • Visit Can Teach for the text to The Spider Poem, which explains the differences between spiders and insects. (It is the fourth poem on the linked page.) 
  • Teach opposites vocabulary and make kids giggle with a silly joke using Spiders, a poem shared here by a school in Billings, Montana.
  • Create a Word family Spider like the one shown here, on the blog Thank God It's First Grade. 
  • Practice color words with this free printable sight word reader from Lydia at Owl Be in Kindergarten. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

10 Literacy Activities About Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a popular preschool theme this time of year! Check out these ten great activities to accompany your pumpkin lessons and story times.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great Books Not Yet Nominated for Cybils 2015

There is just over a week left in the nomination period for the 2015 Cybils, and there are a number of great titles that surprisingly  have  not been nominated yet! Below I have listed some of the books missing from the categories that I typically review.

Easy Readers

  • A Pig a Fox and a Box by Jonathan Fenske 
  • Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant 
  • Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers

Early Chapter Books

  • The Case of the Snack Snatcher by Liam O'Donnell 
  • Shelter Pet Squad: Merlin by Cynthia Lord  
  • The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders by Aimee Marie Stadelmann 
  • Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills
  • Stink Moody in Master of Disaster by Megan McDonald
  • Lulu and the Hamster in the Night by Hilary McKay 

Fiction Picture Books

  • Roar! by Julie Bayless
  • In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van
  • Ask Me by Bernard Waber
  • Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle
  • A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel 
  • Little Baby Buttercup by Linda Ashman 

Middle Grade Fiction 

  • Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall 
  • Cassidy's Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation) by Sue Stauffacher 
  • The Best Friend Battle by Lindsey Eyre 
  • Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill 

Young Adult Fiction 

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...