Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, March 2016

Easy Readers

First up in this month's easy reader list is Tomie dePaola's new series about Andy and Sandy. The Cath in the Hat has a review of When Andy Met Sandy, and Kids Book a Day reviewed both When Andy Met Sandy and Andy and Sandy's Anything Adventure. Kids Book a Day also reviewed The Almost Terrible Playdate.

Emma Virjan's What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush continued to get attention from bloggers this month. There were reviews at Waking Brain Cells, Books 4 Your Kids, and Step Up Readers. Step Up Readers also had three other easy reader reviews: Zach and Lucy and the Museum of Natural Wonders, Wild Kratts Wild Animal Babies!, and Moo Bird.

Here at Story Time Secrets, I helped to promote some new characters from Mrs. Wishy-Washy creator Joy Cowley as part of the 2016 Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway. I reviewed three titles each in the Sloppy Tiger and Oscar series. Other participants include Laugh Eat Learn and Reading Toward the Stars, with reviews of the Hairy Bear and Miniboy books, and Busy in Kindergarten, with a post about books starring Smarty Pants and Mr. Tang.

Finally, Becky's Book Reviews featured three easy readers this month: A Pig, a Fox, and a Box, Moo Bird, and Dance Dance Underpants and Flying Off My Bookshelf had one: Berkley the Terrible Sleeper.

Chapter Books

Among the chapter books this month were several titles in graphic format. Books 4 Your KidsJean Little Library, and Kids Book a Day all reviewed The Great Pet Escape, the newest book from Newbery Honor author Victoria Jamieson. Jean Little Library also featured Worm by Elise Gravel, while Mom Read It reviewed Hippopotamister and Geo Librarian posted about Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog, as well as two other titles at this level which were identified as graphic novels.

Some specific titles emerged as the most popular this month. The Princess in Black has been receiving heavy review coverage with each new book published. This month, there were reviews of the second book of the series from The Book ChookMySF ReviewsSonderbooks, and One Great Book and reviews of book three from A Library of ReviewsGeo Librarian, and Jean Little Library.

Mo Willems's new chapter book collaboration with Tony diTerlizzi, The Story of Diva and Flea, was featured on three blogs: Sal's Fiction Addiction, One Great Book, and Jump Into a Book. There were also two reviews this month of Linda Urban's forthcoming chapter book, Weekends with Max and his Dad, which will be out on April 5th. Both Jen Robinson's Book Page and Sal's Fiction Addiction had in-depth posts about this title.

Other chapter reviews from March included:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, March 2016 (Winter Picture Book Review Edition)

We received a lot of picture books and board books in the mail during the first few months of the year. For this month's Reading With... I'm sharing Miss Muffet's and Bo Peep's reactions to some of their favorites, as well as my reactions to a few titles I chose not to share with them. All of the titles named in this post are listed at the end with full bibliographic information.

New Favorites

Miss Muffet always gets excited whenever new books arrive on our doorstep, but she typically only takes a strong liking to a few titles. This Winter, there were five titles that really got her attention and caused her to beg for multiple re-readings.

Blanche Hates the Night (ISBN: 9781771471589), about a little girl who does everything she can think up to avoid going to bed, including singing to the moon, arrived during a time when Miss Muffet was testing her own bedtime limits. Though she can't remember Blanche's name half the time (she has called her everything from "Branch" to "Lunch"), she sees in her a kindred naughty spirit. I like the book myself, for the use of light and shadow, and the fun moment where Blanche hangs her pajamas from the moon, asserting that this is the only thing for which the moon is useful. This book has gone out with us on stroller walks and been a frequent choice to have in bed with Miss Muffet during quiet time.

I requested Hoot and Peep (ISBN: 9780525428374) for two reasons. The first was that I love Lita Judge's Red Sled and wanted to see something new from her. The other was that Miss Muffet is still really into owls. This story about siblings who disagree about how owls should communicate - Hoot says they should hoot, while Peep prefers to make such creative sounds as "Schweedly peep!" - is set in Paris. The illustrations, though primarily focused on the two owls and their expressions, give a nice sense of the city as seen from church towers and rooftops. I liked the book well enough, but it is Miss Muffet who has latched onto it. I asked her, after a couple of back-to-back readings whether she thinks Little Bo Peep has "owly wisdom" as Hoot eventually realizes his sister does, and she laughed and said "No, Mama!" But there is something in that sibling relationship that keeps her coming back for more.

Grandma purchased Stanley the Mailman (ISBN: 9781561458677) for Miss Muffet for Easter, but we also received a review copy, which I read to her once, and then put away so as not to spoil the Easter surprise. Stanley's newest career is that of mailman, and his day begins before the sun comes up. As his day progresses, he delivers packages and letters mailed to such adorable addresses as "Myrtle, Myrtle's House, near Shamus and Little Woo's House" and "Little Woo, Shamus and Little Woo's House, just down the road from Myrtle's House, before you get to Charlie's House."  Ever since we sent Valentines to some of our relatives last month, Miss Muffet has been really interested in the mail, so I suspect this one will become an even greater favorite in the weeks to come.

I have never been to San Francisco or Chicago, but I still enjoyed reading San Francisco ABC (ISBN: 9781570619946) and Chicago ABC (ISBN: 9781570619939), both of which star Pete and his dog, Larry. We have some family connections to those areas, so I was able to hook Miss Muffet by explaining which relatives lived or currently live in these cities, and because she is so interested in the alphabet right now, it didn't matter to her that most of the landmarks are places neither of us has ever seen. The most brilliant thing about these books is the way they deal with the letter X. Instead of trying to find some obscure landmark that starts with X, both books use the X to mark the location of its city on a map. This is the best way I have seen an alphabet book handle the X issue!  I also really like the art work, which is very colorful and vintage-looking. We also received board books starring the same characters - Larry Loves Boston and Larry Loves Washington, DC, both of which are very well done and have joined Little Bo Peep's board book stash.

Finally, The Opposite Zoo (ISBN: 9780553511277),  while a bit reminiscent of Goodnight, Gorilla, is a beautifully illustrated book featuring pairs of zoo animals who exhibit opposite characteristics. Because our review copy was an unbound galley, I couldn't share it with Miss Muffet very easily, but we did read it a couple of times, and she really loved the artwork. She wanted to look carefully at each picture, and she wanted to know the names of the animals and make their sounds. I usually enjoy Il Sung Na, and I liked this book as well as his previous titles.

Birthday Books

During 2016, Bo Peep will turn one and Miss Muffet will turn three, so these books will be perfect for us when that time comes. The Importance of Being Three (ISBN: 9780525428695), while primarily a celebration of all the things three-year-olds can do, is also a great lesson on understanding the number three, and being able to count to three. I did read the book to Miss Muffet, and she did ask a ton of questions about the pictures, but she also seemed to know that she was not yet three and therefore maybe not quite ready to relate to everything the kids in the pictures were doing.

The artwork in You Are One (ISBN: 9781771470728) is interesting - it's done in a collage style, but the babies all have realistic faces, and the expressions they make will be familiar to anyone who has ever known a one-year-old. The text is the usual bittersweet reflection on that emotional first year of a child's life, and I question whether kids really relate to that, even at just 12 months old, but for a parent whose child is about to reach that first birthday milestone, this will be a big hit.

Board Books

123 Moose (ISBN: 9781632170323) and O is for Orca (ISBN: 9781632170330) are nature-themed concept books illustrated with photographs. While neither is especially memorable for me, O is for Orca has made an impression on Little Bo Peep. At a recent playdate, she sat in her car seat in a room full of wild toddlers, happily turning the book over and over and occasionally even flipping open a page. This was her first time really handling a book on her own, and I was pleased to note that she had not yet figured out how to eat it, and that she seemed genuinely interested in engaging with the book because it was a book, and not just because it was a random object. A friend also grabbed the book and read it to her toddler during this same playdate, and she was impressed by the variety of animals, but not as thrilled with the ending where, she said, "I guess they just gave up when they got to the end of the alphabet."

We also received an unbound excerpt of In the Wind (ISBN: 9781561458547) from Peachtree Publishers. While the artwork struck me as a little bit outdated at first, the rhyming text is spot on, and the experience of flying a kite on a windy day comes fully to life for the youngest readers. I liked the book and would definitely borrow a finished copy from the library if one is available.

Reading without Little Miss Muffet or Little Bo Peep

These final four titles are picture books I read on my own, but chose not share with Miss Muffet and Bo Peep.

Echo Echo (ISBN: 9780803739925) is a collection of reverso poems by the same team that created Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow, both of which drew their inspiration from fairy tales. This time, the poems are based on characters from Greek mythology. While I have always liked the form of these poems, I find I grow weary of it when I read an entire book. The strongest pieces in the book are the ones which represent two characters' opposing viewpoints on the same situation, as these disparate interpretations of the same events are what make this poetry form resonate so strongly.  The artwork is also very appealing. I'm not sure yet whether this book will be added to our permanent family collection since it will be years before we can use it, but it would certainly make a great supplement to a unit of study on mythology for elementary and even middle school readers.

It is always a struggle to find robot picture books, which is why I was pleased to receive Raybot (ISBN: 9780843183009). While the cartoonish style and commercial look of the illustrations ultimately caused me to decide not to share the book with Miss Muffet, I did think the book would work well for library story time. Raybot's search for a puppy includes lots of onomatopoeia, and it's filled with humor and colorful pictures. It would require some preparation before reading aloud as there is a lot going on on some of the pages, but it would be worth the extra effort to be able to do a robot theme! (For best results, pair Raybot with Hello, Robots by Bob Staake.)

I did look at My House is Alive! (ISBN:  9781771471367) with Miss Muffet because she has started wondering about everyday noises, and the science behind how things work in general. We didn't read very much because she got distracted pretty quickly, and the level of the text was above her current comprehension level, but this is not the fault of the book at all. For a four or five year old listener, it would have been perfect, as it answers the difficult kinds of questions kids of that age tend to ask their parents, and it dispels any fears they may have about the noises they hear in the middle of the night.

Finally, Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me (ISBN: 9781771472012) was a huge disappointment. While it pretends to be a book celebrating literacy, it focuses almost entirely on "reading" things that do not involve words, such as the sky's weather signs, the time on a watch, and "love poems in [a] boyfriend's eyes." I am already weary of picture book love letters about reading, and since this one isn't even really about books, I couldn't figure out what kids are meant to learn from it. (Unlike all the other books in this post, this title will be published in April.)

Books Mentioned in This Post

I received review copies of each of the books on this list from their respective publishers.
  • Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer. 2/16/16. Dial Books. 9780803739925 
  • The Importance of Being Three by Lindsay Ward. 2/16/16. Dial Books. 9780525428695 
  • Larry Loves Boston by John Skewes. 2/23/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781632170477
  • Larry Loves Washington, D.C. by John Skewes. 2/23/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781632170484
  • 1 2 3 Moose by Andrea Helman. 2/23/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781632170323
  • O is for Orca by Andrea Helman. 2/23/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781632170330
  • Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge. 3/1/16. Dial Books.  9780525428374
  • In the Wind by Elizabeth Spurr. 3/1/6. Peachtree Publishers. 9781561458547
  • Stanley the Mailman by William Bee. 3/1/16. Peachtree Publishers. 9781561458677
  • The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na. 3/8/16. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 9780553511277
  • Blanche Hates the Night by Sybille Delacroix. 3/15/16. OwlKids Books. 9781771471589 
  • Chicago ABC by John Skewes. 3/15/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781570619939
  • My House is Alive by Scot Ritchie. 3/15/16. Owlkids Books. 9781771471367
  • San Francisco ABC by John Skewes. 3/15/16. Little Bigfoot. 9781570619946
  • You Are One by Sara O'Leary. 3/15/16. Owlkids Books. 9781771470728
  • Raybot by Adam F. Watkins.  3/22/16. Price Stern Sloan. 9780843183009 
  • Mom, Dad, Our Books, and Me by Danielle Marcotte. 4/12/16. Owlkids Books. 9781771472012

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Get in the Game: Read! Young Adult Reading List for Summer Reading 2016

There are many wonderful fitness and sports-themed titles for teens that perfectly complement this year's summer reading theme of Get in the Game: Read. This list includes some of my favorites.

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson
Ann Galardi's mother is always nagging her to lose weight, but it isn't until she learns she will be attending her aunt's wedding that she decides to make a change for herself.

Ironman by Chris Crutcher
Bo Brewster, whose anger toward his father threatens to consume him, finds a way to handle his emotions through anger management classes and training for a triathlon. (Chris Crutcher has many other sports-themed books for teens.)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
When Auden, who can't sleep, meets fellow insomniac Eli, she begins to enjoy fun things she missed out on during her troubled childhood, including riding a bicycle.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
When fifteen-year-old Felton Reinstein undergoes a huge growth spurt, he suddenly develops speed and strength overnight, landing him a spot on the football team. (Stupid Fast is the first book in a trilogy. The other two titles are Nothing Special and I'm With Stupid.)

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge
Fourteen-year-old baseball player Kevin Boland is stuck in bed with mono when he begins writing poetry about baseball - and other important things in his life - in his journal. (There is a sequel to this book entitled Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.)

One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte 
Fourteen-year-old Bobby Marks spends his summer learning to stand up for himself and slowly becoming physically fit. (There are two sequels to One Fat Summer: Summer Rules and The Summerboy.)

The Batboy by Mike Lupica
Brian is thrilled when he gets a job as a batboy for his local major league team just when his hero, Hank Bishop returns to play, but he quickly becomes disillusioned when he learns that Bishop is not all that he seems.

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Tomboy DJ Schwenk loves football, but since her father won't allow her to try out for the team, she has to settle for training the new quarterback. (Dairy Queen is followed by three sequels: The Off Season, Front and Center, and Heaven is Paved with Oreos.) 

Slam! by Walter Dean Myers
Greg "Slam" Harris, who loves basketball, struggles to overcome the academic and family hardships that threaten his place at his new magnet school. 

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
The friendship between science nerd Nate and basketball player Charlie is put to the test when the science club and the cheerleading squad get into a fight over club funding. (This book is a graphic novel.)  

On the Road to Find Out
by Rachel Toor
When high school senior Alice Davis is rejected from her first-choice college, she takes up running and slowly learns how to handle failure and defeat.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

25 Literacy Activities About Health and Fitness

These literacy activities can be used during circle times, story times, and one-on-one with kids at home. Though they can be used any time of year, they will be especially useful for the 2016 CSLP Summer Reading program, On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!  The activities are divided into four health-related categories: Fruits and Vegetables, Play Time, Movement and Bodies, and Staying Well.

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Fruit Salad Salsa by the Laurie Berkner Band
    This fun dance number is great for use with shaker eggs. Make the experience even more fun by serving fruit salad!
  • Apples and Bananas by Raffi
    This classic Raffi song is a silly way of learning about vowel sounds, and also a great celebration of how much kids love apples and bananas.
  • At the Kitchen Door
    This Mother Goose rhyme is another activity where every child can take a turn. Ask each one his or her name, and which fruit or vegetable he or she likes to eat, and then fill in the rhyme accordingly.
  • Five Big Lemons
    This fingerplay can also be done as a flannel board. Recipes for Reading has a great example.
  • Banana Dance
    Dr. Jean's Banana Dance is the ideal way to get preschoolers and school-age kids moving around and having fun.
  • Five Fat Peas
    This basic counting fingerplay about peas that grow so big they pop can be used with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
  • I Like... So I Put Them in My Soup
    This activity is based on Laurie Berkner's song, "I Feel Crazy." Ask each child in turn to name a favorite vegetable or fruit, then sing the song's refrain using these lyrics. Encourage everyone to make a stirring motion on the final line.

    I like carrots so I put them in my soup.

    I like carrots so I put them in my soup.
    I like carrots so I put them in my soup.
    And then I stir up my soup!

Play Time

  • Here's a Ball for Baby
    This fingerplay explores the many different types of toys a young child might have.
  • Baseball Player
    This action song to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?" invites preschoolers to swing an imaginary baseball bat and hit the ball out of the park.
  • I'm a Little Red Kite
    By making a slight change to the lyrics to Heather McPheil's "I'm a Little Kite" piggyback song, you can create a lesson in colors that also celebrates the fun of flying kites. Simply change the first line from "I’m a little kite up in the sky" to "I'm a little red kite in the sky."
  • Ring a Round the Rosie
    This childhood favorite can be enjoyed as a group, or individual children can turn their hands and fall down on their own.
  • What Shall We Do When We All Go Out?
    This folk song has a set of lyrics which suggest different activities for kids to do outside. In a group setting, kids can also name their own favorite activities to add to the song. (The linked version is by Pam Donkin, but many artists have their own variations.)
  • Walking, Walking from Songs for WigglewormsThis simple song teaches kids to follow simple directions about walking, running, and stopping.
  • Ooki Na Kuri No Ki No Shita De (Under the Big Chestnut Tree) by Elizabeth MitchellThis song in English and Japanese celebrates the simple joy of playing with a friend underneath a shady tree. Elizabeth Mitchell provides movements for the song in this video.

Movement and Bodies

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
    This song can be sung to its own traditional tune or adapted to match the tune of "London Bridge."
  • Tony Chestnut
    This song is great for babies, as you can sing or chant it while the baby is lying down and point to each part of the body as it is named. (The "nut" is the head.) It also works for older children, who can point to their own bodies, and who will be more likely to appreciate the wordplay.
  • Here We Go Up Up Up
    This simple song to the tune of Here We Go Looby Loo is a great way to help toddlers get their wiggles out and to learn how to follow simple directions. 
  • Turn Around by Hap Palmer
    The slow pace of this song makes it easy to follow for kids who are just learning to take direction. It's also a great winding down song for the end of story time, or as a precursor to rest time. 
  • Hands Up High
    This action song sung to the tune of "London Bridge" is another simple exercise in following directions that encourages kids to reach up high and stretch down low. 
  • Dance Your FingersThis action rhyme can be done sitting down because only your fingers have to dance. You can also adapt the rhyme so that there is a verse for each individual finger. 
  • Bag of Verbs
    Encourage kids to move while also teaching them new vocabulary. Print out and cut apart a list of action words, then have kids take turns choosing different verbs for everyone to act out together.  

Staying Well

  • This is the Way We Wash Our Hands
    Promote a healthy hand-washing habit with this take-off on Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.
  • Brush Your Teeth
    Have every child pretend to brush his or her teeth along with this classic Raffi song. Not a fan of this one? Consider using the last verse of Jim Gill's Hands Are For Clapping instead.
  • John Brown's Baby
    This silly piggyback song based on the Battle Hymn of the Republic is all about a baby with a chest cold that needs to be rubbed with camphorated oil. There is a recording of this song on Wee Sing Silly Songs.
  • I've Got a Cold 
    This link goes to the Sick & Get Well Soon Storytime from Miss Barbara at the Library, in which this rhyme is listed as an "unused extra." 
For picture books related to these themes, see my On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! picture book reading list

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Middle Grade Book List for Summer Reading 2016

The books on this list are about sports, fitness, exercise, and self-confidence - all themes that connect well to this year's summer reading theme. Though some skew younger or older, the target audience for most of these is ages 8 to 12.

Soar by Joan Bauer
Due to a heart transplant, Jeremiah can't play baseball,  but when he discovers that his new school district is suffering in the aftermath of a steroids scandal at the high school, he decides to coach a middle school team and restore the community's love for the sport.

Double Reverse by Fred Bowen
Ninth grader Jesse has never seen himself as a quarterback, but when he is asked to step into the role, he finds it suits him better than expected.

Out of Bounds by Fred Bowen
Nate Osborne learns a valuable lesson from his aunt, a fellow soccer player, when he and his teammates on the Strikers become so hungry to beat their rivals they nearly lose sight of fair play. (Fred Bowen has many other sports titles that would also be appropriate for this year's theme.)

Strider by Beverly Cleary
In this sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw, Leigh Botts enters high school, joins the track team, finds a dog, and falls in love.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
Marcie feels down on herself about many things, including her weight, but when her favorite teacher loses her job, she finds her voice and joins the fight to bring her back.

The Best Friend Battle by Lindsay Eyre
When Sylvie's best friend Miranda begins spending time with Georgie, a boy who always teases Sylvie on the baseball field, her jealousy causes her to make some poor decisions.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
When Astrid's best friend, Nicole, decides at the last minute not to attend roller derby camp, Astrid signs up anyway, using the sport as her means of learning how to stand on her own without Nicole.  (This book was awarded a 2016 Newbery Honor)

About the B'nai Bagels by E.L. Konigsburg
Mark Setzer is half-horrified half-amused when his mother becomes the manager of his little league team, but when he finds out some information that may undermine her hard work, he must decide whether to share it or keep it to himself.

The Toilet Paper Tigers by Gordon Korman
Scientist Professor Prendergast knows nothing about baseball, so when he takes on the job of coaching the Tigers, he leaves most of the work to his granddaughter, Kristy, who does her best to whip the hapless boys of the team into shape.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner
Gianna has to finish her leaf project in order to remain on the cross-country team, but she finds it difficult to concentrate because she seems to be the only one who notices her grandmother's failing mental health.

Mason Dixon: Basketball Disasters by Claudia Mills
Disaster-prone Mason Dixon finds himself in an impossible battle against a rival team when his parents make him join a basketball team coached by his dad.

Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall
When Kaitlin, a promising young skater, loses her temper at a competition, she suddenly becomes a pariah in the skating world and must start over with a new coach.

Plunked by Michael Northrop
During the first game of the baseball season, sixth grader Jack is hit in the head by a pitch, which shakes his confidence and causes him to become terrified of inside pitches.

The Melting of Maggie Bean by Tricia Rayburn
After a few difficult months during which Maggie relied heavily on chocolate for emotional support, she is forced to join Pound Patrollers with her aunt. Though the meetings embarrass her, she finds the experience helpful for her secret plan to try out for the synchronized swim team. (This book is the first title in a trilogy.)

Guys Read: The Sports Pages, edited by Jon Scieszka
This collection of sports-themed short stories includes work from such favorite authors as Chris Crutcher, Tim Green, and Dan Gutman.

Jelly Belly by Robert Kimmel Smith
When Ned goes to a camp to help him lose weight, he and his new friends find it difficult to resist unhealthy snacks and seek a way to get healthy without giving up junk food.

There's a Girl in My Hammerlock by Jerry Spinelli
When Maisie Potter is cut from the cheerleading squad, she takes her entire school by surprise and joins the previously all-male wrestling team.

Ava XOX by Carol Weston
When Ava makes a poster of tips for losing weight for a friend, and then brings it to school, she finds herself in trouble with some older girls who find her words offensive.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Easy Reader Review: The Oscar Series and The Sloppy Tiger Series by Joy Cowley (plus Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway 2016!)

Joy Cowley is the creator of one of my favorite characters from childhood, Mrs. Wishy-Washy. There are several titles about Mrs. Wishy-Washy available from Hameray Publishing, but these are not the only books Joy has written. I recently received review copies of six titles from two of her other series, which I want to share with you today, to help promote the 2016 Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway. (Details on the contest will be given at the end of this post!)

The Oscar books focus on a family of six - Mother, Father, Tom, Lucy, Beth, and Oscar. Oscar is the youngest child, and he often has a hard time keeping up with his siblings, who see him as too little to participate in most things. In Oscar Did It! the three older children blame Oscar for every accident that occurs around the house, but Oscar has the last word when he is first to the table for lunch. In Well Done, Oscar! the family goes to the beach and Oscar just can't figure out how to do things correctly, but he saves the day when his parents need help with something only small hands can do. Finally, in Go to Bed, Oscar! Oscar doesn't want to stay in his own bed, so after getting up several times to find his parents, he seeks out new sleeping arrangements. These books are appealing because they use relatable scenarios and they answer the call for more diverse books. (Indeed, illustrator Don Tate is a member of We Need Diverse Books.) They also share the sense of humor that makes Mrs. Wishy-Washy so appealing, where a surprise occurs just at the end of the story.

The Sloppy Tiger series is about a young girl named Poppy and her stuffed tiger, who can't help but make sloppy messes everywhere he goes. In Sloppy Tiger Washes the Floor, Poppy allows Tiger to do some mopping, but warns him not to make a mess. Unfortunately, Sloppy Tiger can't resist adding more and more bubbles to his bucket, resulting in a slippery disaster. In Sloppy Tiger on the Bus, Poppy takes Sloppy Tiger with her for a bus ride, but he annoys a fellow passenger that she gets off the bus! Finally, in Sloppy Tiger's Picnic, Poppy tells Tiger he can have a picnic if he cleans his room. Tiger hides all his clutter only to have it reappear later on. The illustrations are really engaging in these books. Tiger looks like a floppy, cuddly stuffed animal kids would want to snuggle, and responsible, conscientious kids will relate to Poppy's exasperation with his sloppy behavior. The word sloppy is a bit overused in the books, but that's probably only annoying to me because I'm not a beginning reader. 

These books - and many others - are among the prizes you can win in the fourth annual Joy Cowley Classroom Giveaway! Click the image below for the entry form. 

The Grand Prize ($1000 value) includes: 
  • Joy Cowley Collection (60 titles, including the Oscar and Sloppy Tiger titles)
  • Joy Cowley Early Birds (30 titles)
  • Joy Cowley Big Books (19 titles)
  • Mrs. Wishy-Washy & Friends Finger Puppets (my two-year-old loves these!)
This contest ends on April 13, 2016, and the winners will be announced by the publisher on April 14, 2016. Full contest guidelines can be found on Hameray's website.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Chapter Book List for Summer Reading 2016

These sports-themed titles from chapter book series are perfect summer reading choices for kids transitioning from easy readers to longer works.

Individual Titles

Ivy and Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows
Ivy and Bean think they want to learn ballet, but their ballet class turns out to be a lot less exciting than they expected.

Casketball Capers by Peter Bently
At St. Orlok's Elementary School for vampires, Lee and his friends prepare to play casketball against a team of cheating werewolves.

Game Time, Mallory by Laurie Friedman
Mallory is excited to join the basketball team but also nervous about trying something new without her friends by her side.

Coach Hyatt is a Riot by Dan Gutman
When A.J. joins the Peewee football team, he is surprised to discover his coach is a woman.

Yikes Bikes! by Abby Klein
Freddy learns to ride a bicycle in order to participate in a fundraiser and beat the class bully.

Horrible Harry and the Kickball Wedding by Suzy Kline
For Valentine's Day, Harry stages a wedding in which he marries classmate Song Lee. 

Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills
Izzy wants her father to come to her track meets, but because she thinks he would prefer to attend her stepbrother's games, she holds back from sharing her true feelings.

Louise Trapeze is Totally 100% Fearless by Micol Ostow
Louise, whose family is part of the circus is excited to have her first performance on the trapeze until she realizes she is afraid of heights.

Amelia Bedelia Shapes Up by Herman Parish
Amelia Bedelia has many misadventures as she tries to find the sport that is best for her. 

Full Series

Race the Wild series by Kristin Earhart
Book 1: Rainforest Relay
In this series, four kids from different backgrounds team up for a reality TV show where they have to follow clues on a scavenger hunt through different ecosystems.

Little Rhino series by Ryan Howard
Book 1: My New Team
Former Major League baseball player Ryan Howard writes this series which combines baseball with positive life lessons.

Frankie's Magic Soccer Ball series by Frank Lampard
Book 1: Frankie vs. the Pirate Pillagers
Frankie's soccer ball has the power to transport him to different times and places, where he and his friends play soccer against various opponents.

Little Shaq by Shaquille O'Neal
Book 1: Little Shaq
Basketball player Shaquille O'Neal writes this series about his fictionalized younger self, who learns important lessons on and off the court.

Ballpark Mysteries series by David A. Kelley
Book 1: The Fenway Foul-Up
Each entry in this series is set in a different team's ballpark.

Topps League Stories by Kurtis Scaletta
Book 1: Jinxed!
Bat boy Chad uses his baseball card collection to help his team, the Pine City Porcupines, solve problems.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Easy Reader Book List for Summer Reading 2016

This list of leveled easy readers is almost exclusively sports-focused, but there are a couple of titles that also highlight other health-related themes. The titles are sorted by reading level, with easy books at the top of the list and more difficult books at the bottom.

Levels D - F

Biscuit Plays Ball by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories
No dogs are allowed in the ball game, but Biscuit still wants to play!

Aaron is a Good Sport by P.D. Eastman

Aaron Alligator gets in trouble no matter what he's doing, and that includes playing ball. 

After School Sports Club series by Alyson Heller, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
A diverse group of kids gets together after school to try out different sports.

See Me Run by Paul Meisel
A yellow dog runs away as he is chased by a pack of several other dogs.

Puppy Mudge Wants to Play by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
Though Henry is busy, Mudge won't stop dropping hints until he agrees to play.

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
Elephant and Piggie are excited to go out and play, but worry when it starts to rain.

A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems
When a big guy takes Piggie's ball, Gerald vows to help her get it back.

Twins in the Park by Ellen Weiss, illustrated by Sam Williams
Young twins ride the bus to the park for a day of fun.

Levels G-I 

Don't Throw it to Mo! by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks
Mo is the youngest kid on his football team, but it's a mistake to underestimate his abilities.

Hooray for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Buzz's coach needs one more player for the big football game, but a fly isn't exactly what he has in mind.

The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstain
A funny lesson in bike safety from Father Bear to Small Bear.

The Day I Had to Play with My Sister by Crosby Bonsall
A big brother and little sister try to play hide-and-seek but they each have different ideas about the rules.

Dixie Wins the Race by Grace Gilman, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
When Emma runs an important race, she warns Dixie to stay on the sidelines, but the dog has trouble obeying after Emma takes a fall.

Ballet Stars by Joan Holub, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
A ballet recital is described from warms-ups to curtain call.

Pinkalicious: Soccer Star by Victoria Kann
Pinkalicious and her soccer team, the Pinksters, are having trouble beating the girls on the Ravens until Goldilicious takes Pinkalicious on a magic ride to learn more about the game.

Katie Woo Has the Flu by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon
Katie Woo rests in bed to help her recover from the flu.

Nina, Nina, Ballerina by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo
Nina is worried that her mother won't be able to spot her among her classmates during the ballet recital since they will all be dressed alike.

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
Sam loves to race as long as he wins, but he's not sure how to handle coming in second.

Levels J-M


Pete the Cat: Play Ball! by James Dean
Pete the Cat is the model of good sportsmanship when his team, the Rocks, play against the Rolls.

The Littlest Leaguer by Syd Hoff
Harold is the smallest player on the team, but during one game he gets his chance to prove his talent.

Soccer Sam by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Blanche Sims
Sam's cousin Marco doesn't speak much English, but the two boys bond over their love for soccer.

Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
When Nancy, who is not a natural athlete, is teamed up with a mean girl from her class on Field Day, she must learn to stand up for herself.

Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynne Averill
Amelia and her classmates go on a hike to collect items for their class nature table.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Drop the Ball by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
When Mr. Putter decides he should take up a sport, Mrs. Teaberry knows just the team for him to join.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
Mrs. Teaberry convinces Mr. Putter to participate in a marathon for senior citizens.

Loose Tooth by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Allan Eitzen
A basketball game serves as the pivotal point in this story about Peter, who hopes not to lose his loose tooth until after school picture day.

See my list of picture books for the On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! theme here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Library 10 Tools to Support Letter Knowledge

The Library Adventure is back! I posted there yesterday sharing ten tools to support letter knowledge, many of which I use with Little Miss Muffet. Read about them here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! Picture Book List for Summer Reading 2016

The CSLP theme for this summer focuses on fitness and wellness. This list of picture books related to the theme is divided into four categories: Sports, Play and Exercise, Healthy Habits, and Bodies and Movement.


Miss Nelson Has a Field Day by Harry Allard and James Marshall
When the football team at Horace B. Smedley Elementary School has trouble winning games, Miss Viola Swamp appears on the scene to whip the players into shape.

Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian
In his signature style marked by fun turns of phrase, Douglas Florian evokes all the emotions associated with playing baseball.

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Using clothing and equipment as clues, readers are invited to guess which sports different people play.

Fall Ball by Peter McCarty
At the end of the school day, before it gets dark, a group of friends and a dog gather to play football.

Mouse Practice by Emily Arnold McCully
A little mouse who wants to play baseball practices long and hard to prove himself to the older mice.

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
A young boy name Nino happily wrestles any opponent who will face him.

The Greatest Gymnast of All by Stuart J. Murphy and Cynthia Jabar
This story about Zoe, a great gymnast, is also a lesson about opposites.

The Boys by Jeff Newman
A group of caring elderly men help a new boy in town work up the courage to play ball with the neighborhood kids. (Read my review of this title here.)

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen
Randy may not be the best baseball player, but he has a great mind that will cleverly save the earth from the fireball heading its way.

Play & Exercise

Samantha on a Roll by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christine Davenier
While her mother takes a phone call, Samantha slips on her skates and goes out for a roll.

Get Up and Go!
by Nancy Carlson
Bright colors and an exuberant pig invite preschoolers to have fun with exercise.

Play With Me
 by Marie Hall Ets 
A little girl seeks out animal playmates in a meadow.

 by Steve Lavis
Young readers are invited to move as the animals do.

A Child's Day: An Alphabet of Play
 by Ida Pearle
Presents a different way to play for every letter of the alphabet.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle
by Chris Raschka
A little girl's dad walks her through the process of learning to ride a bike.

Duck on a Bike
by David Shannon
The barnyard animals scoff when Duck rides a bike until they have a chance to join in.

Healthy Habits

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
Big brother Charlie convinces picky little sister Lola to eat her vegetables by giving them new names.

Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr 
In his signature bold illustrations, Todd Parr celebrates the benefits of books.

Rah Rah Radishes by April Pulley Sayre 
An enthusiastic chant, accompanied by photos, which celebrates the many types of vegetables.

Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by José Aruego and Ariane Dewey
Despite his parents' insistence that he eat like a proper goat, Gregory only has a taste for fruits and veggies.

We Are What We Eat!
by Sally Smallwood
Photos of diverse children show off the different things kids love to eat.

The Gulps
by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Marc Brown
A family learns about healthy eating habits when they realize their family car can no longer hold their weight.

Bodies & Movement

All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
A poem about each part of the body celebrates the sweetness of babies from head to toe.

Incredible Me!
by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
A demonstration of all the things the human body can do.

Can You Cuddle Like a Koala? by John Butler 
Young children are invited to move like the animals, then curl up for a nap.

If You're Happy and You Know It by Jane Cabrera
Illustrations of jungle animals liven up this version of the popular children's action song.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
A series of diverse children copy the movements of zoo animals.

Dancing Feet by Lindsay Craig, illustrated by Marc Brown
When animals dance, their feet make different sounds, which are clues for the reader to each animal's identity.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Many babies from disparate backgrounds all have one thing in common: ten fingers and ten toes.

Henry's Heart by Charise Mericle Harper
Explores the physical and emotional responses of Henry's heart to the events of his daily life.

Pretend You're a Cat by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Young children are invited to move and behave like animals.

How Can You Dance? by Rick Walton, illustrated by Ana Lopez-Escriva
This introduction to dance shows kids ways to move their bodies.

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