Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, February 25, 2011


Super S.T.A.R.s:  "Storytime Touching Autistic Readers"
Left to right: Library Director Jeanette Contreras, Library Board of Trustee President Al Shkoler,
Library Volunteer, ABC Correspondent, Children's Supervisor Lori Worden,
Author Joanna Keating-Velasco

Today I'd like to highlight a program that the Placentia Library District, here in Orange County, CA, has instituted for children with autism.  Super S.T.A.R.s is designed for children ages 3-8, who attend with a parent or guardian, and can even bring their siblings along.

This wonderful program is the result of a meeting in the summer of 2009 between library staff members and a local autism expert and author, Joanna Keating-Velasco.  Joanna saw the need for children with autism to be able to attend a "typical library storytime experience" without being judged for their behaviors.  With grants and help from the library Director, Jeanette Contreras and Children's Librarian, Lori Worden, Joanna's dream is now in full swing for families of the Placentia community - through a generous grant from the Target Corporation, their program will be acquiring new books on autism this year and some guest entertainment.

Storytime "Super Librarian" Lori Worden encourages kids to be library "Super Stars" and listen to the stories and sing along to the songs.  Each themed session begins with music and includes read aloud time, fingerplays, songs with movement and stretching, nursery rhymes to recite, and a craft at the end.  The children get used to their storytime routine and have fun learning the songs and fingerplays. And equally important, it's okay if they vocalize during the program or need to leave for a few minutes if they become overstimulated.

Would you like information about starting a program like this at your local library?  Click here.
PARENTS:  Want information about children's literature for children with autism?  Stay tuned!  I'm working on a follow-up post now with some good information and suggestions for you from some experts.
Note:  The Placentia Library has lots of great storytimes, inlcuding a "Lap Sit Time" for 0-2 year olds!)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

not your everyday princess books...

"Whatever comes," she said, "cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."     -Sarah Crew (A LITTLE PRINCESS)

I hope you won't limit your kids' experiences with Princesses strictly to the popular Disney versions.  Girls ages 4-8 will also love these beautifully illustrated picture books about these rather unconventional princesses who are courageous, innocent, loyal, and resourceful ...

THE APPLE PIP PRINCESS by Jane Ray. This is the story of a kingdom that was once full of laughter, happiness, trees, and birdsong. But when the queen dies, it becomes quiet and barren, and everyone is filled with sadness. What will make the kingdom come to life again? Can Serenity, the youngest of three princesses, bring hope and bloom back to her kingdom with a single apple pip — a precious seed left to her by her mother? This original fairy tale is brought to life and exquisitely illustrated by the internationally renowned Jane Ray.

THE PAPER PRINCESS by Elisa Kleven. A little girl draws and cuts out a picture of a princess. When the paper doll is blown away by a gust of wind, she travels far and wide and finally... ends up with her own little girl again. Kleven has taken this simple story and given it style and heart. The events, some of which are either purely fanciful or highly unlikely, all seem authentic. Giving an inanimate object a believable personality is not an easy feat, and the author does a fine job of it. Her graceful phrases add a lyrical air, and emotions are described with a light and delicate touch. Her multimedium collages have never looked fresher or more interesting. The world she creates is not necessarily free from danger or sadness, yet it is predominantly full of beauty and sunlight. All the elements of the visual arts-texture, pattern, shape, color, and line-come alive in her skillful hands. The best book yet from this talented author/illustrator, and one that children will love. - School Library Journal

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA by Lauren Child.  School Library Journal: Child has expanded Andersen's tale from a one-page gem into a humorous picture book that will delight the whole family. Color photographs of a cleverly designed, three-dimensional miniature world of dolls reveal wonderful details. The mattresses–all 12 of them–are covered in multi-patterned cloth, tables and cupboards display real china plates, and a mirror reflects a princess sitting in her parlor. The prince says that he wanted to marry for love. In an aside, Child comments, He was just that kind of romantic boy. The prince now tells his parents: I would gladly marry tomorrow but…she must be more mesmerizing than the moon and I must find her more fascinating than all the stars in the sky. And there must be a certain…something about her. The loving king and queen throw a royal ball so that their son can meet all the eligible princesses; unfortunately, not one fills the bill. He then decides to travel far and wide to look for a real princess. It is not until he comes home that she appears at his door. We all know what happens then.

THE MAGIC HILL by A.A. Milne, illustrations by Isabell Bodor Brown.  I was so excited to discover a fairy tale written by A.A. Milne! School Library Journal says of this original tale, written in 1925: Neither complex nor overtly moral, it delivers its own sweet vision of childhood where play is as pleasant as a freshly picked flower. At her christening, Princess Daffodil's parents anxiously await a gift to be bestowed upon her by the Fairy Mumruffin. Will it be Beauty, Wisdom, or Goodness? No, it is that flowers will grow wherever their daughter goes. Upon the child's first birthday, the King returns from hunting to find flowers blooming on his pathways. He decrees that the Princess must be carried across all walkways and can play only in the flowerbeds. The forlorn child finds that the opposite is true for the other children, who are not allowed in the beds. Thus, when the Doctor finds her sorely in need of exercise, he advises, "although she is a Princess, she must do what other little girls do." The Queen finds a solution: a lovely little hill where the child can romp all day and the country children pick flowers come evening.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I'm no expert when it comes to questions about digital technology or the environment, but the experts are saying there's a LOT to consider in determining the carbon footprint of e-books versus traditional paper books. My head is spinning from all the information I've been taking in lately. Kind of like reading Jabberwocky.
Trial of the Knave of Hearts
illustration by John Tenniel
One of the main selling points in favor of e-readers is that they are paperless.  But everyone knows that traditional books are sustainable and can be easily shared among friends, donated to used books stores, and ultimately recycled at the end of their shelf life.

Capitalizing on the fact that e-books are the latest trend, an Italian
based design company, Gartenkulter, has actually
designed planters made from old and disused books.  I
certainly hope this is not the future of traditional books!

From "E-Readers vs. Old Fashioned Books - Which is Greener?" on the SIERRA CLUB GREEN HOME website: Here’s the best answer... go to the public library next time you are downtown. Borrow three or four books, finish them all, then return ‘em next time you’re near the library. This is truly the most sustainable way to read: the good old fashioned public library. We preach “reduce, reuse, and recycle” and library books can be read by dozens of people over their lifetime.  And once they are finally too dog-eared and beaten up to grace library shelves, they can be easily recycled since they are generally all paper (even the leather on deluxe bound editions can be recycled).

Are e-books green? GREEN LIVING says, "The short answer is almost certainly yes, but only if you're comparing e-books to new books. As usual, the greenest way to go is reuse."

So, what if you like buying new books and you read lots of books? E-reading may be paperless, but that doesn't mean it has no carbon footprint, as you can see from another well-researched article, "The Environmental Impacts of E-Books", posted by the GREEN PRESS INITIATIVE.  To make up the various electronic components and battery, e-readers require several mineral sources such as plastic (derived from oil) metal, and glass.  There is also the energy consumption of an e-reader to be considered, and whether or not e-book manufacturers have recycling programs(and how they go about it, if they do).

I'm not personally excited about e-books for children, especially those with distracting apps, but it appears we're seeing the beginning of a trend that could explode.  Since consumers help determine the market, I just hope parents will only supplement, not replace, good old fashioned books with e-readers, if or when they decide to follow the trend. But that's a whole different blog post...  

My mantra stays the same:  visit the library with your kids! Your wallet will thank you and you'll benefit the environment. If there are special books you want to own or give as gifts - especially children's picture books - my advice is to shop for the  traditional paper versions (new or used).  I think the environment will survive these sustainable purchases and your children (and grandchildren) will thank you for not leaving their tangible,  paper friends behind!

Monday, February 21, 2011


George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart
In honor of George Washington's birthday, I thought you and your child might like to spend a few minutes taking this challenging quiz .  If you happened to read either of the biographical picture books about our first President that I mentioned in my past post, you will have a better chance of getting the answers right!

But you won't learn anything from those books about the brave lady who saved George Washington, because she saved him during the War of 1812, many years after his death.  Well, she didn't save him, but she did save a very famous portrait of him that hung in the White House when her husband, James Madison was President.  Her name was Dolley and here is a picture book about how she saved the painting, for ages K-4th grade...


Thursday, February 17, 2011


This past Tuesday, I stood in a long line with a lot of other shivering people outside A WHALE OF A TALE BOOKSHOPPE - a great children's bookstore in Irvine - waiting to have "Weird AL" sign a copy of his new picture book,  WHEN I GROW UP, which I had just purchased to surprise my 26-year-old son, David.  (Not surprisingly, of the people in line, kids were the minority.  The average age was probably 35.)

I'm not usually interested in children's books written by celebrities, but I had a feeling this one would be worth reading.  I mean, someone who starts playing the accordion at age six, attends Cal Poly SLO to pursue a degree in architecture, and then goes on to write a parody of "MacArthur Park" with lyrics like this is bound to do better than most in penning text for a children's picture book, right?

Jurassic Park is fright'ning in the dark
All the dinosaurs are running wild...
Someone let T. Rex out of his pen!
I'm afraid those things'll harm me
'Cause they sure don't act like Barney
And they think that I'm their dinner - not their friend!
Oh nooooo!

Right!  I wasn't disappointed.  When it came my turn to step up to the table and have Mr. AL sign my copy of his book, I told him how his creative sense of humor had always inspired my son. 

I also mentioned my blog and said I'd like to share with my readers what his favorite book as a child had been.  He said, "Well, I loved all the Dr. Suess books." (I told him his book reminded me of a Dr. Suess book.)  
"Really? And I read Shel Silverstein...." (yes... I was waiting, and could tell he was trying to remember something...)  
He reflected another second and then said, "THE CIRCUS McGURCUS!"  (I agreed and said yes. YES! and we both started laughing because we knew that wasn't the title, but could remember in that moment what the title was.)  

The story of the Circus McGurcus is such a "WEIRD AL" kind of story - and if you've followed my blog very long, you might remember it was my son David's favorite too!  Here's the Dr. Suess book:

IF I RAN THE CIRCUS, by Dr. Suess, has "Mr. Sneelock";
WHEN I GROW UP, by Al Yankovic, has "Mrs. Krupp". 
Below is the book trailer (with Al reading excerpts). I think any child ages 5-8 will like this book, written with "Weird Al's" typical nerdy sense of humor.  And adults will like the cute twist at the end. (it's not revealed in the trailer, you'll have to go find the book!)  Your child will love the imaginative illustrations are by Wes Hargis.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Cute, huh?  I don't know any information about this picture, but anything involving vintage hats and libraries gets my attention!  Having been plagued with a cold that's going around, I'm a little behind in visiting and posting about libraries.  In the meantime, I thought you'd enjoy a fun read aloud: CURIOUS GEORGE VISITS THE LIBRARY. (Expect this to spark some good conversations with your little one about what NOT to do in a library!)
It's not one of the seven original Rey books, but the publishers have done a great job keeping the New Adventures in line with what Margret and H.A. Rey would have done for a seamless continuity of Curious George stories.  
Margret & H.A. Rey, United States, late 1940's
(credit: H.A. & Margret Rey Papers, de Grummond children's Literature Collection,
McCain Library and Archives, the University of Southern Mississippi)
CLICK HERE to read the incredible account of how the Reys, both German Jews, fled Paris on bicycles with their Curious George manuscript in hand, just hours before the Nazis entered the city. There's also a N.Y. Times article (3/25/10) you can read here about the "Curious George Saves the Day" Exhibition that was at the Jewish Museum last year.
CURIOUS GEORGE VISITS THE LIBRARY (illustrated by Martha Weston)
Go to LIST OF ALL BOOKS from curiousgeorge.com
The Complete Adventures of Curious George, Anniversary Edition

Monday, February 14, 2011


"A Book is a gift you can open again and again." -Garrison Keillor

Even the youngest child knows that a HEART symbolizes love and that Valentine's Day is about sharing it! This holiday is a perfect chance to help our kids put "love of neighbor" into action!

BookEnds was founded in 1998 by an 8 year-old boy who independently led his school class in a book drive to build a much-needed library at a home for abused children. His simple act of generosity was the inspiration and model for BookEnds, where kids can recycle gently-used children's books to provide under-served children in the greater Los Angeles area the opportunity to read.

If you have books that need a new home - or if your child would like to donate a favorite for a child less fortunate - click here for more information.  Feeling ambitious? Organize a book drive for your church or school through BookEnds.

Are you donating?  I'm sending BOOKENDS two read aloud books that I know will be "loved".  What will you send?
ACORN'S STORY by Valerie Greeley (a favorite!)
Acorn's Story (Picture Puffin)
WOLVES IN YELLOWSTONE by Randy Houk (A Benefactory Book)  This will be a 2-for-1 donation!  The Humane Society gets proceeds from the sale of this book.

Another Giving Company:  BETTER WORLD BOOKS ("the Online Bookstore With a Soul") - when you buy your books from them, look who you help!

Friday, February 11, 2011


The book I've decided to highlight for Valentine's Day is by Robert Sabuda. This American author/illustrator is literally a paper engineer!  On his website he even shares some fun pop-up projects your kids can make themselves! But first, I'd like to show you one of Sabuda's non pop-up books, SAINT VALENTINE, that is illustrated with beautiful mosaics he cut from paper...it's a beautiful read aloud for ages 6-9.

In ancient Rome there lived a gentle and humble man named Valentine. He was a physician, but he was also a Christian priest whose life and freedom were in constant danger in a city of people who believed in so many gods, not just one. So Valentine tended to his patients in the daytime, but he prayed for them only at night.
One day a jailer from the emperor's prison appeared at Valentine's door with his small child, a girl who was blind. Knowing the difficulty of curing blindness, Valentine vowed to do his best, and over the weeks of treatment and prayer the three became fast friends. But even his friendship with the jailer could not save Valentine when the Roman soldier came to imprison him.
(Amazon Product Description)

Robert Sabuda's specialty: "Pop-up Books"...

As I said, his website has a treasure trove of fun pop-up projects your child can make - from ANIMALS to STAR WARS (and of course a few for VALENTINE'S DAY). Scroll down to watch a video of his newest 3-D book, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (if you're able, I suggest trying to watch it in full screen).

BOOKS with pop-ups by Robert Sabuda:
(Note:  these books are very delicate, and not intended for children under 3)


Enjoy Robert Sabuda's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.