THE UNDERPANTS ZOO

Does anyone else out there teach second grade? Then you must know that the phrase ‘underpants’ has immense comic power among seven and eight year olds.

That bear is up to no good in those boxers and I want in! (on his plot...not the boxers...)

That bear is up to no good in those boxers and I want in! (on his plot…not the boxers…)

The book THE UNDERPANTS ZOO does not disappoint. There is no plot- it is simply page after page of Brian Sendelbach’s awesome illustrations of animals in their underpants. There isn’t much else I can say to recommend this book- the concept sort of sells itself in my opinion. SPOILER ALERT: The dolphins are wearing long john’s! I actually laughed out loud when I saw it. LONG JOHNS. Whimsical. Delightful. A lovely present for a young reader you know who can truly appreciate the sophisticated hilarity of undergarments on animals.

The camel is having sand issues- reminiscent of many trips to the beach for this girl.

The camel is having sand issues- reminiscent of many trips to the beach for this girl.

A dedicated first year teacher with a true appreciation of underpants humour!

A dedicated first year teacher with a true appreciation of underpants humour!

I made an exit card for the book you can pick up for free here. It  aims to measure a students’s ability to analyze what they have just read- or heard in a story. The card asks students to say what part of this silly story could be real.

 

Advertisements

A little book of sloth

Let this book happen to you! Share the wonder of earth's creatures with your students and children.

Let this book happen to you! Share the wonder of earth’s creatures with your students and children.

BEWARE!  There is an extreme amount of cuteness contained in this book: A little book of sloth. Lucy Cooke has photographed the sloths of the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica and brought me more joy than I ever thought I could experience…possibly ever….they. are. that. cute.

I need to prepare for my take over of the planet- I subdue everyone with my adorableness beams.

I need to prepare for my take over of the planet- I subdue everyone with my adorableness beams.

Apparently not much is known about these unique mammals. The book presents interesting sloth facts and showcases some of the sanctuary’s most endearing personalities.

Bucket O' Sloths- apparently sloths like to travel by bucket... seriously  every fact I learn about them makes them cuter!

Bucket O’ Sloths- apparently sloths like to travel by bucket… seriously every fact I learn about them makes them cuter!

Cooke’s photographs are clear and eye catching and the only thing in the book better than the photographs are Cooke’s darling sloth descriptions. Cooke’s wit, humor, and genuine care for these odd little creatures is evident on every page.Her description of baby sloth personalities and quirks will make you squee with delight.

Look into my eyes- you are getting sleepy...

Look into my eyes- you are getting sleepy…

I have not had a chance to read this book to my students yet but they are STALKING the book. They are quite desperate for me to share it with them and I plan on doing just that as soon as I have a spare moment!

Orphaned sloths hug stuffed animals in lieu of their mother's. My heart just broke from it's inability to contain this level of cute.

Orphaned sloths hug stuffed animals in lieu of their mother’s. My heart just broke from it’s inability to contain this level of cute.

Lucy Cooke- YOU ROCK! Thank you for this awesome bok about such an awesome animal.

I will be posting a Fact and Opinion lesson I made to go along with this book in my TpT store ASAP!

Below is a photo of my adorable teammate Angela- she was the person who pointed the book out to me and therefore made my life more complete than I previously thought possible.

She seems sweet- but don't try to pry this book out of her hand!

She seems sweet- but don’t try to pry this book out of her hand!

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

She did it again! She did it again! She did it again!

The new book to grab is The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.(I know titles should be underlined but I can’t remember how to underline on this blog so bold will have to do) This one smells like…my Kindle case. Leathery. (sorry purists! Take off your judging pants!)

cover

Catherynne M.Valente has written another book in her series about a girl named September and her trips to Fairyland. I have blogged in the past about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I loved that book because it was a fantasy story that made me feel like fantasies are actually possible and that fantastic stories can hold lessons for everyday life. This book is more of the same AWESOMESAUCE.

dress

Valente has a way with words that I haven’t seen in a very long time. There were moments when I had to stop reading and just let some of her words ‘sink’ into my brain. I kept shaking my head and thinking that this was way to ‘deep’ for a children’s book. Then I remembered that C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  Why shouldn’t a fairy story be full of amazing writing that adults can appreciate?

In this story September returns to find her beloved Fairyland in serious trouble. The culprit? September’s own shadow who now goes by the name of Halloween. Halloween is stealing all the shadows of Fairyland and pulling them to Fairyland below, the place she rules as the Hollow Queen. With each shadow lost, Fairyland above loses more magic. September is determined to save the world she loves and goes on another amazing adventure with interesting new friends and old favorites making appearances.September is older now and the lessons she learns in this book touch on the difficulties of adolescence and life changes in graceful detail. On her journey September finds that her own life back in Omaha is far more intertwined with Fairyland than anyone could have imagined. The end of the book left me with some questions and I am  eagerly (note:obsessively) waiting on the next book! (I believe the whole series will be five books.)

proff

Ana Juan, who illustrated The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, is back again much to my glee! The illustrations are amazing- interesting, lovely, and ever so slightly reminiscent of the whimsy of Lewis Carroll (without the creepiness!).

marquess

Here is are some  of my favorite quotes:

Hearts are such difficult creatures, which is why children are spared the trouble of them…Hearts set about finding other hearts the moment they are born, and between them, they weave nest so frightfully strong and tight that you end up bound forever in hopeless knots, even to the shadow of a beast you knew and loved long ago.

Coffee is a kind of magic you can drink. It’s a drink that’s a little bit alive- that’s how it makes you feel so alive and awake.

She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts,cunning, or powerful or even marvelous,beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness.

I could continue to bludgeon you with my love of this book- or you could just go read it. Doesn’t the second one sound less painful? Please find a friend to read this with you-it is a book to love and discuss. (Or at least I thought so and now I am selfishly attempting to get more of you to read it so I can FINALLY chat with someone about it.)

13 Words

Imagine my happy gasp when I came across this book in the school’s library. It was a cross between a sharp inhale and a ‘squee’! I am so excited that Lemony Snicket has branched out from his “Series of Unfortunate Events” books to write an AWESOME read aloud book called 13 Words. This book is an amazing introduction to some higher level vocabulary words. I hope he writes an entire series of books filled with more wonderful words. Some words are complicated and some words are just old favorites, such as ‘cake.‘Older students studying for the SAT could use this book to create pneumonic devices. (Am I dating myself? Is the SAT still a thing?) 

The story starts with a despondent bird sitting on a table. Later, his friend dog attempts to cheer him up by going to a haberdashery to buy him a hat. He finds a hat with lots of panache that is sure to please bird, but I won’t ruin the ending for you. This book is quite simply weird and wonderful. It would make a fun introduction to wonderful words for a classroom!  Check out more by Lemony Snicket @ www.lemonysnicket.com. Let’s not forget the lovely illustrations…

 

Maira Kalman’s beautiful and colorful paintings make this book not only interesting to read but fun to pour over. See more of her work at www.mairakalman.com.

PS- My borrowed copy of 13 Words smells like high quality gift wrap.

Me…Jane

This book smells like fresh card stock- crisp,new. Me…Jane is a short and sweet little treasure that was written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. It is the story of a young Dr.Jane Goodall observing her environment in England and dreaming of far away Africa. Her love of chimps started early when, at a young age, Jane was given a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee that became her constant companion. It describes Jane’s early quest for knowledge of animals of any sort and her first hand observations of exactly how eggs get outside of chickens.

Image

McDonnell’s illustrations are utterly charming and accompanied by photographs of the woman herself.  It does not hurt to mention that it is a Caldecott Honor Book. This book is the perfect inspirational material for any little (or big) girls with big dreams.

“There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams and, because they never gave up achieved their goals against all the odds, or blazed a path along which others could find and follow…They inspire me. They inspire those around them.”

Dr.Jane Gooddall

Image

The Saggy Baggy Elephant

I was wandering around a street fair last weekend and a friend pointed out a book booth. Blame them for the money I spent on the 1.00 Little Golden Book bin. I pillaged it!

My favorite book so far is one I do not remember from my own childhood. That is ok. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite little treats of adulthood- think of it as a cupcake for your brain. My copy of The Saggy Baggy Elephant smells like musty garage even though the copy is in pristine condition.

TENGGRENS illustrations are what really make this book one worth “squeeing” over. The Saggy Baggy elephant is just about the saggiest, baggiest, cutest little fellow you have ever seen. (Along with pigs I have a soft spot for baby elephants).

K. and B. Jackson’s tale is about an elephant who calls himself Sooki. We meet him dancing his way through the jungle. Sookie thinks he is dancing beautifully until a parrot starts making fun of him for “shaking the jungle all to pieces…”  The Parrot asks Sooki what kind of animal he is- and we find that Sooki does not know. He only knows he calls himself Sooki:

“I don’t know what kind of animal I am. I live all alone by myself in the jungle. I dance and I kick- and I call myself Sooki. It’s a good sounding name. And it fits me, don’t you think?”

The parrot goes on to shatter the psyche of little Sookie better than any sixth grade girl could.

“Maybe’ answered the parrot, ‘but if it does it’s the only thing that does fit you. Your ears are to big for you, and your nose is way too big for you. And your skin is MUCH too big for you. And your skin is much, MUCH too big for you. It’s baggy and saggy. You should call yourself saggy baggy!”

Sooki takes the criticism as well as he can and tries to improve himself in various ways over the course of the book. Of course, nothing works and Sooki remains saggy and baggy. Towards the end of the book Sooki is so ashamed of how he looks he decides to hide in a cave. (I could just CRY…the illustrations of a sad baby elephant are almost too much to take. ).

Soon after taking refuge in the cave Sooki realizes too late that he is in home of a hungry lion.

The once happy Sooki is despondent:

“This is the end of me, sags, bags, wrinkles, and all…”

In his last moments Sooki decides to go out with a bang and gives out one last good trumpeting bellow…and who should appear but….SPOIER ALERT...a herd of ELEPHANTS! The hungry lion is terrified and runs away and little Sooki finds his ‘tribe’ at last!

“I wish I looked like you,” he said.“You do,” grinned the elephants. “You’re a perfectly dandy little elephant!”

Cue warm fuzzies!

I was impressed by the lessons found in a book for children so small. Who hasn’t experienced what Sooki did? Feeling out of place, unattractive, and awkward is a part of the human experience for all of us at one point or another. Finding the feelings narrated through animals makes the lessons accesible for all children. Let’s not forget the happy ending – a reminder that there is a group of friends for us all- the people who make us feel like we fit, and allow us to be ourselves.

A lovely book for just about anyone of any age.

The One And Only Ivan

Me: Look how cute this cover is! I am so excited to read this book.

LS: Oh, that is adorable.

Me: I see two cute animals there is no way I am getting through this one with dry eyes, huh?

LS: (appraises cover) No way…hysterical crying may be involved.

The above is the excerpt from my conversation with a coworker about The One and Only Ivan . We were both correct- tears were definitely involved. Patricia Castelao’s black and white  illustrations give faces to a lovable cast of characters. I make very unattractive snorking noises when I cry so to those of you who may read this in public or to a class and are also easy criers- be warned.

My copy of this books smells like freshly painted office spaces.

Katherine Applegate’s  The One and Only Ivan is a fresh release (2012) and a deeply moving story.    

It is based loosely on the real life of a gorilla who lived alone in a shopping mall exhibit for the first twenty seven years of it’s life without ever seeing another member of it’s species. The real Ivan is now a beloved member of the Zoo Atlanta family after the pubic protested Ivan’s conditions at the shopping mall.

The book is narrated from Ivan’s perspective and through his eyes we meet: Stella the aging elephant, George the janitor and his artistic daughter Julia, Bob the stray dog, Mack the mall and circus owner, and Ruby the baby elephant. Ivan is a simple and straight forward narrator whose objective observations of humans switch between painful and heartwarming. 

The animals have background stories that will leave you aching.  Applegate deftly weaves each one into the present tense of the story.  Ivan is the son of a great silverback gorilla and in the beginning of the story Ivan seems to feel disconnected from this genetic legacy. He is reluctant to remember the time before he was at the mall exhibit.

This story is Ivan’s coming into his own and discovering his true purpose and ability to guard and care for those around him.  He is the one and only Ivan, silverback, protector of his family.

For Ivan the day  baby Ruby arrives is the day his journey to self realization begins. Ruby is still crying for her mother when she is brought to the mall to share Stella’s cage. Stella cares for Ruby the best she can, but the day comes when circumstances force her to ask Ivan for help:

“”Ivan ,I want you to promise me something,’ Stella says.

‘Anything,’ I say.

‘I’ve never asked a promise before, because promises are forever, and forever is an unusually long time. Especially when you’re in  a cage.’

When I say the words, they surprise me. ‘You want me to take care of Ruby.’

Stella nods, a small gesture that makes her wince. ‘If she could have a life that’s….different from mine. She needs a safe place, Ivan. Not-‘

‘Not here,’ I say

It would be easier to promise to stop eating, to stop breathing, to stop being a gorilla.

“I promise,Stella, ‘I say.”I promise on my word as a silverback.'”

Ivan finds  purpose in this promise.It is an opportunity to hone and use his unusual talents.This book would make a great, albeit emotional class read aloud. Also a treat for yourself or animal lovers you know. Follow Ivan on his journey to save his loved ones and to  find his destiny. It will not be a journey you regret taking.

Pig Kahuna

A small fact about me: I am sort of obsessed with tiny, adorable pigs. I want one for a pet. I want to walk it on a leash and give it baths and dress it up as something ridiculous for Halloween. Now of course you can imagine the “squeeing” noise I made when I saw that one of my student’s had purchased me my very own copy of Pig Kahuna by Jennifer Sattler from the school book fair. My copy of the book smells like glossy magazine pages.

Pig Kahuna is a simple story of two bovine brothers. Fergus and his baby brother Dink are having a great day collecting things on the beach when an old surf board washes up. When no one claims the board the boys name it “Dave.”  They do not take the board into the water because of the “lurking, murky,ickiness factor of the water.” Instead they spend their day playing imagination games on the beach. Sattler’s illustrations are a key highlight to the simple and sweet story. Every page that features Fergus and Dink is a delight (this is every page)!

The story takes a thrilling turn when baby Dink decides to release “Dave”  back into sea. Fergus is horrified and bravely goes to retrieve his new playmate “Dave.” In the rescue process  Fergus inadvertently surfs his first wave! Suddenly both boys have a changed attitude about the ocean and we leave our beloved brothers just beginning to discover the thrills provided by the ocean!

As a pig and ocean lover I can say this book has found a special place in my heart. However, I feel confident that land lovers will be just as enamored with the book!  This book is  also a great read for a child who may be a bit hesitant about playing in the ocean.  The boys go from land locked to big wave surfers in one afternoon- one hopes their courage would inspire any little swimmers who are intimidated by the surf.

I hope that Sattler finds new settings and adventures for Fergus and Dink!  Check out more work from Jennifer Sattler here.

One Million Books in Ten Days! You can help!!!

Please check out this site and consider posting about it or liking it on one of your social media outlets. The company First Books wants to give away one million books in the next ten days to underprivileged children. All children should be given early and open access to books. It can start a life long love of education- and education is how we can change the world! There is a lot of debate about education all over the place- but no one needs to debate the fact that getting books into the hands of eager children is a wonderful thing!

Teachers Love the Smell of Books!!!

Today my awesome coworkers got in on the action to celebrate our school’s book fair and National Library Week! Everyone smell a book! ;0)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated FairyLand in a Ship of Her Own Making

My copy of this book smells like leather and smooth electronic pages, which is a rather poetic way of saying it smells like my kindle case. I think I am going to buy this book in it’s hard copy as well because I loved it in a way I have not loved a book in a very long time.

 

I have a long running love of Alice in Wonderland but I have to say that Catherynne Valente’s heroine September has completely eclipsed my beloved Alice in complexity and spunk. September is a 12 year old girl this 30 year old woman found herself inspired by as she journeyed through an exceptional landscape trying to find out where and how she belonged in it. 

 

September’s incredible journey begins when she is washing dishes and the Green Wind, astride his leopard, arrives at her kitchen window. With this unique invitation September begins her  adventure:

 

“You seem an ill-tempered and irascible child,” said the Green Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes and be delivered to the great sea, which borders Fairyland?…”

 

September does not need to be asked twice to be whisked away from her dreary midwestern life. Once she arrives in Fairyland incredible and complex characters and loyal friends populate her journey. Valente imbues her whimsical characters with familiar traits  without robbing them of their fantastic qualities. It gave me the feeling that I could run into a changeling at my local grocery store or  find a Wyvern in a local bookstore.

  

 There are dark twists as September begins to understand soon after her arrival that there is a dark force at work in the form of the ruler of Fairyland, a young girl known asThe Marquess.September is soon occupied with helping the creatures of Fairyland with the troubles the Marquess has brought into their lives. 

 

 

September’s story is not only the physical quest to save Fairyland and her new friends, it is the emotional awakening of a girl discovering her capacity to love and endure.

  

Valente has the enviable ability to write true and powerful prose in the midst of a fantasy. I will let her work speak for itself. Here are some of my favorite pieces of prose  from the book (no spoilers!):

 

It will be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it’s wonders that I’m after, even if I have to bleed for them.”

 

When you were born,” the golem said softly, “your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough fro anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you are half-grown your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living.”

 

Oh September. Such lonely, lost things you find on your way. It would be easier, if you were the only one lost. But lost children always find each other, in the dark, in the cold. It is as thought they are magnetized and can only attract their like.”

 

 

Valente should be praised for her lexicon like usage of fairytale creatures from all parts of the world. I had to pause at several points in the story to look up what creatures such as “Marids” were. I loved increasing my knowledge of fairytale folk!

 

This book did what I ask of all of my favorite books: completely transported me. Catherynne M. Valente has an avid new fan in yours truly. I would recommend this book for older children (fifth grade and up) due to a few graphic scenes. I would REALLY recommend you read it first and decide if you want to share it with your favorite child!

Moominpappa at Sea

I came across this book at one of my favorite bookstores in Philadelphia, or anywhere for that matter, The Spiral Bookcase. I strongly encourage all of you to like them on Facebook and to take time to go vist them in person if you are ever in Philly.

My copy of this book smells of old, used, and damp vanilla air freshener. The pages are over dry and the binding is falling apart so I was careful while I read it.

I have been meaning to dig into the Moomin series for a while now and when I found this book in the dollar bin at The Spiral Bookcase I knew it was the perfect time. Moominpappa at Sea is one of the more philosophical books of the internationally best selling Tove Jansson (We have the same birthday!!!) series. I would compare it to reading The Little Prince byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry. You know you are technically reading children’s literature but the book is rife with deep emotional family issues and interesting characters who each seem to represent some part of the human psyche. There is more than a simple tale of a troll family struggling to build a new life on an odd and desolate island. 

In the beginning of the story Moominpappa decides to move his entire family to an island far out at sea so that he can take care of them and protect them. It seems Moominpappa is not feeling very useful and necessary so he creates this adventure for his family. One of the more striking quotes from the book comes from Moominmamma just as the family is about to set off and leave behind their cozy home. “It’s strange,’ Moominmamma thought. ‘Strange that people can be sad, and even angry because life is to easy. But that’s the way it is, I suppose. The only thing to do is to start life fresh.'” 

There are comic moments, a mystery, and a few surprisingly chilling turns in this story. A quick read and a journey I do not believe you will  regret taking. A little digging tells me that the rest of the Moomin series is not so philosophical- but you better believe I will be checking them out soon!

I would recommend this book for adults who want some reading that will inspire some deep thinking with lovely black and white illustrations of adorable trolls as a palette cleanser.

Frog and Toad

I was going to  leave out my two favorite friends because I thought, “Frog and Toad are so popular, who doesn’t know and love these guys?” Then I realized I would be doing Arnold Lobel and Frog and Toad a diservice by not mentioning them here. 

My copies of these books smell like an old school. There are hints of crayon and a light bouquet of pencil shavings.

Arold Lobel created hilarious and touching stories about Frog and Toad using sight words (words that children would have difficulty sounding out so they have to know them by ‘sight’) that children who are just starting to read on their own need  practice with to become more confident and fluent readers. The books are an invaluable addition to any home or classroom library because they entertain while they teach.

Each of the Frog and Toad books has several stories in it. One of the most beloved ( by me) Frog and Toad tales come from the book Frog and Toad Together. In this story Toad makes himself a list of things to do during his day. Toad is quite proud of his organizational skills until a large gust of wind blows his list out of his hand. As Frog tries to help his friend recapture the list Toad frantically tells Frog he cannot because “running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do.” Frog and Toad end up sitting down and doing nothing until Frog figures out he can write a new list in the dirt with a stick.

I don’t know one person  who hasn’t had a day like that. You start fully proud of what an awesome and organized adult you are  and end up paralyzed by your inability to complete your list. That is why I loved Frog and Toad when I was little and why I still love them now. Lobel seems to poke fun at his characters the most when they take every day life to seriously. Frog and Toad give readers an avenue to laugh at themselves while still feeling superior to the beloved cartoon amphibians.

Also, Lobel’s illustrations come standard with smiles. Even on a dark day Frog and Toad on a bicycle built for two fills me with warm, fuzzy memories. Trust me, even the cynics in your life can’t resist a frog in a blazer on a fixed gear bike.


Phone Booth Chic

I was recently in New York and had my picture taken inside a phone booth because I realized a time may be coming soon when phone booths are gone from the streets and  seen only in museums. Although phone booths may be on the way out regarding their original purpose some of them may find new life as ‘guerilla libraries.’ Check out this link about how one man is turning the phone booths of New York into more than just would be museum pieces. 

Cover Art

Although it is often unwise to judge a book by it’s cover, sometimes the covers are too cute not to comment on! Check out these sweet and simple book covers for classic fairytales. A darling library edition to any library!

Book Artist!

Mind blowing! Atlanta based artist Brian Dettmer is creating amazing and unique art pieces by carving old books using surgical implements. Check out this link to learn more and to see more pictures! I am currently eyeing my old and long ignored textbooks with a renewed respect for their hidden potential.

I Want My Hat Back

Jon Klassen has written one of my favorite books of the year so far! I Want My Hat  Back has already won the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Awards through the New York Times Book Review and I feel confident that more awards are on the way.

The story centers on Bear, who has lost his hat. Readers of the book will know where the hat is pretty early on in the book thanks to the illustrations and some creative highlighting in the colors of the text. However, they will delight in following Bear on his search as he questions all the animals in the forrest, and shout in excitement as his moment of discovery arrives and Bear realizes who the culprit who has taken his hat is! No one can predict how Bear takes his revenge on the hat thief, but don’t feel guilty if you  laugh….because I did!

This book is sure to be a hit as a read aloud as the text and illustrations allow children to know more than the characters do. It makes children feel invested in the story and they are sure to want to shout out advice to the characters.

 I fell in love with this book the moment I read it. I  was shouting in excitement in the children’s section of the bookstore. I was hitting my friend’s arm saying, “Oh my God, ….Oh My God this is so funny…No way!”, and generally making a scene.  

The book smells sort of odd, new, and almost acidic. You can see a trailer for the book here! Enjoy!