Monthly Archives: November 2007

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything


All kids love free stuff. A lot of kids love dinosaurs. So, for many kids, a world where dinosaurs came free with everything would more or less equal total bliss.

A picture book that is cute, clever and charmingly illustrated is for me, more or less total bliss. Enter When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small. I like it. You will like it too, I think. Confession, dinosaur books are a hard sell for me. I don’t care even a little bit about dinosaurs (OK, maybe the littlest bit). I am not interested in their fancy, many syllabled-names. I do not think much about what wiped them out. Dinosaur exhibits at museums – not my thing. And yet, after reading this quirky, creative tale, I find myself suddenly wondering if there is a place in my heart after all for a small (or not so small) dino buddy (especially one who cleans the eaves).

When a little boy sets off for a day of errands with his mother, he is none too happy about it. Things take a decided turn for the better when he finds out that today you get a free dinosaur with every purchase.  This is a whimsical book – and who doesn’t like a little whimsy? Gentle humour comes through in both the words and the illustrations. And this is most definitely a book to win over parents and kids, as the comedy appeals to grown ups too. I also like the fact that while the main character is a boy, this dinosaur book does not scream 100% boy the way so many of its kind do. 

By the way. David Small has illustrated some of my favorite favorites ever:

cover.jpg and 51d8am0ccjl_ss500_.jpgfor instance.

Clearly, he can do no wrong.

To further sweeten this deal, Elise Broach has a lovely website. She is evidently a clever lady poised to write even more delightful stories for all of us. Visit her at Elise

When Dinosaurs Came With Everythingis published by Atheneum.

The Wednesday Wars


I read a lot on the subway. I also read walking down the street. Geeky, I know. There are some books, however, that are too fine to be read while in transit. These books deserve quiet time, me in a sunny spot, with a cup of tea and plenty of time for musing and rereading. Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars deserves this treatment. It also deserves prizes. Lots of prizes.

I started reading this book on the subway, and although I recognized almost immediately that it was wrong, wrong to be reading this when I could not devote 100% of my attention to savoring its perfection, I couldn’t make myself stop. I was laughing and laughing in front of my fellow commuters, and I didn’t care. There are few books that actually make me run down my street to my house so that I can read my guy the funniest parts without even taking off my coat first, and only being about 40 pages into the story.

I don’t think I want to describe much of what this story is about, because there are plenty of plot summaries out there. So in a few sentences: It is towards the end of the Vietnam War, as Holling Hoodhood enters 7th grade. He is the only Presbyterian kid in his class, which means that on Wednesday afternoons, when his Jewish and Catholic classmates are at synagogue and catechism, he is alone with his English teacher, Mrs. Baker, who seems to hate his guts. After much verbal sparring and power tripping, Mrs. Baker settles on making Holling read Shakespeare’s plays, which effect subtle, yet profound changes in his world. All you really need to know is that The Wednesday Wars is a book that will stay with you, that becomes a part of you. The voice feels so true, with characters drawn perfectly and consistently from beginning to end. Not to mention the fact that it is hilarious and touching. I love that it conveys that over time, we are transformed by the seemingly ordinary, often bizarre events of day to day existence, and that the possibility of connecting with family and other people in our lives is what we’re all really striving for, even when we don’t realize it.

In kids lit land, the phrase “destined to become a classic,” gets tossed around so frequently that most of the time, it hardly warrants a raised eyebrow. The Wednesday Wars has already earned a place on my “special shelf, ” where I keep books that I go to when I need to remember what I believe in, and what I find inspiring and reaffirming.

So I guess you could say, it’s already achieved classic status in my humble library. Prizes or not, I imagine that’s what every author hopes for.

The Wednesday Wars is published by Clarion books.

Blogging for a Cure: The final 2 days

Bidding starts tomorrow for the first round of glorious snowflakes created in support of Robert’s Snow. All proceeds will go to cancer research at the Dana Farber institute. For details about how the auction will work, please visit Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure.

This morning I watched the Robert’s Snow video for the first time, and if you haven’t already done so, now is the moment. It is awe-inspiring and moving, not to mention the perfect way to review all of the flakes in preparation for tomorrow’s bidding.

Gorgeous, no?

Below are the last sets of links to illustrator features for Robert’s Snow. Also, at the bottom of this post you will find a link to a page created by the tireless, fantabulous Jules of 7-imp where she has compiled links to all of the features created for this blogging event. Important to remember that not all of the snowflakes were featured on blogs over the past month. Some had not been created until the initiative had begun. So there are even more great snowflakes out there to bid on.

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cosy – Paul Brewer
Jo’s Journal – Aaron Zenz
What Adrienne Thinks About That – Wendy Edelson
Chicken Spaghetti – Joan Waites
Book, book, book – Giles Laroche
Check it Out – Annie Patterson
The Miss Rumphius Effect – Teri Sloat
Lisa’s Little Corner of the Internet – Anette Heiberg
Wild Rose Reader – Wade Zahares

7-imp’s Master List of Features

Kinda sad that all of this fun is wrapping up, but it’s exciting to see how much money will be raised as these little babies start finding their way to happy homes over the next month.

Poetry Friday: Dogku


Dogku, by Andrew Clements, is completely adorable.

It is a picture book written entirely in haiku about a stray hound who finds a home. (Wish I’d thought of that! Curse you Andrew Clements and your cleverness!).

The deceiving simplicity of the haiku form seems to be just the right fit to express the hidden depths of the doggy mind. (I’m pretty sure dogs don’t think in phrases any longer than 7 syllables).

I like this one especially:

Scratch, sniff, eat, yawn, nap.
Dreams of rabbits and running.
Could life be sweeter?

It is if you’re my dog, who gets picked up in the afternoon by the doggy happy bus to go for a wild walk at the beach with his posse. Mr. Clements’ book is sure to liven up any teacher’s stale poetry unit. I’m seeing a class set of pet-inspired haiku collections…

In the spirit of all things poetic, if you have a pooch (or if you don’t), please take a moment to pause for poetry, and leave me a Dogku of your own. You know how it goes (5/7/5 syllables is the general rule of thumb). Here is my quickie attempt:

Uh oh… She found my
sandy dog-prints on her bed.
Good day at the beach.

Find all the rest of Andrew Clements’ delightful “dogku” in Dogku, published by Simon and Schuster.

Blogging for a Cure: Days 31 and 32

Here are yesterday’s and today’s links for illustrator features:

Jo’s Journal– Philomena O’Neill
Chicken Spaghetti– Maggie Swanson
Here in the Bonny Glen– Timothy Bush
A life in books– Peter Emmerich
What Adrienne Thinks About That– Yangsook Choi
cynthialord’sjournal– Laura Jacques
Wild Rose Reader– Mary Newell Depalma
Just Like the Nut– Leanne Franson

I am feeling very behind on all things snowflake-y. I think that when the holidays FINALLY get here, I will spend one of my first days wrapped up in a huge fleecy blanket, with my cat on my lap and a mug of chocolat chaud in one hand, and just browse snowflakes all day long. Bliss.

Randomness and Orwell’s Luck

Seems like randomness is a theme for me this week.  First, I finally cave and buy myself the latest Kiki Strike and then, Ms. Kirsten Miller herself happens to wander through my blog and leave me this little comment. Most random indeed.

Then, in my bloggy wanderings, I chanced upon this guy:

If Keepon isn’t completely random – in the most delightful way possible – I’m not sure what is. And how is it that he crossed my path on a day when I really needed to find a dancing tennis ball robot?

And then, this morning, my crazy kitty knocked over one of my book piles and I find this:


which I have been searching for for some time.  Strange happenings.

If you do not know of Mr. Richard Jennings’ Orwell’s Luck then you are missing out on a whimsical and lovely book that delves into the world of randomness and fate. A young girl finds a wounded rabbit on her front porch, lying on top of the morning newspaper. She takes him in and tends to him and names him Orwell. What comes next is half magic, half mystery, as the girl begins to believe that Orwell is communicating with her via messages in the daily horoscope. Jennings gets into some pretty deep philosophical musings in this slim book. Does luck exist? What is chance? How are we connnected? How do you find your place in all of this strangeness? I love this book. It possesses the same charm as the best, quirky foreign films, leaving you with lots of questions that you can’t quite answer but are happy to just ponder.

Consider it a random gift if you come upon this mini review today and go get Orwell’s Luck.

Orwell’s Luck is published by Houghton Mifflin.

Art book Addict

I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I am kids’ book crazy. Within this larger addiction, one particular love of mine is art books – books about artists, art theft, making art, teaching art. I love them all.

For any art book afficiando, Joyce Raimondo’s series of books that focuses on different artistic schools/periods is impossible to resist. These books form a tidy little collection full of gems for teachers (and parents) who want to give kids an accessible and fun entry point to some of art’s biggest thinkers. Voila:

imaginethat-340-makeitpopcover.jpg   imaginethat-340-expresscover.jpg  imaginethat-340-imaginecover.jpg

I’ve tried a bunch of Raimondo’s lessons and they are kid friendly and inspiring. Most recently, I modified an idea from the Surrealism book and my students created Surreal rooms. It became clear pretty fast that 9 year olds “get” surrealism because many of them already see the crazy in the world around them without having to look for it.

Visit Joyce Raimondo‘s website and the MoMa’s Art Safari site (Raimondo’s project), for more to inspire.  Raimondo’s books are published by Watson-Guptill.