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.

 

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!

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.

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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

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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.

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)

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.


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!

 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore

Wow! Although this is a blog about books and how we love to smell them I can’t not share this short movie. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore was written by William Joyce. Joyce also co-directed the film with Brandon Oldenburg.

It warms my heart that this film has been nominated for an Oscar. The short film highlights the transformative and affirming power of books through the love Mr.Lessmore has of the books he cares for, and the love they have for him. Mr.Lessmore’s city is destroyed in a disaster. Afterwards, his books give his life purpose and meaning. In a time when so many things seems bleak it is a gentle reminder that books are a sweet escape from the trials of everyday life.

The film reminds me that in an age of electronic readers there is still nothing quite like the smell and heft of a ‘real’ book in your hand.

Check the film out for free here. Enjoy! This film is appropriate for children of all ages!

The Old Woman Who Named Things

If relationships with dogs often lead you to get a bit weepy grab some kleenex and enjoy this heart tugging gem by Cynthia Rylant. My copy smells like school library, an impossible combination of fresh and musty.

The Old Woman Who Named Things is the story of an elderly woman who is alone because she has outlived all of her friends. To avoid the pain of more loss the old woman decides to only care about things that she can’t outlive. To avoid being lonely she gives  her favorite inanimate objects charming names. For example her car is “Betsy” and her house is “Franklin.”

The old woman is happy until the day a small brown puppy appears at her gate wagging it’s tail and ‘looking a little hungry.”The old woman feeds the dog every day but always tell shim to go home after she feeds him. She does not want to risk losing anymore friends. 

The dog always returns each day …until the day he doesn’t. After several days the old woman realizes how much she has come to care about the dog.  The old woman goes in search of her shaggy companion. In the end the old woman has to decide if she will name her friend and claim the love she feels for him. 

The book  illustrates the lesson that trying to skip and avoid friendships can cause more pain than a friendship coming to an end. Cynthia Rylant has done a masterful job of sharing this profound truth in a way that younger audiences can appreciate. Kathryn Brown’s colorful illustrations serve to give the book a joyful and hopeful tone.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

I first  saw this Caldecott Medal winner in the floor display at my school’s library. My first reaction was: ADORABLE ELEPHANT! ME WANT!

Upon closer inspection I saw that the adorable cover illustration was one of many things to love about this book. A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip Stead, is the story of the responsible,prompt, and caring zoo keeper Amos McGee. We follow him on his work day from beginning to end where we  see how valuable Amos is to his various animal charges.  From a shy penguin to an owl who is afraid of the dark Amos finds ways to make all of the animals feel valued and appreciated. 

Amos is more than a zoo keeper, he is a wonderful friend.  When Amos wakes up too sick to go into work the animals decide to go and see him. All the care that Amos has lavished on them is returned as the animals spend the day nursing Amos back to health.


Phillip and Erin Stead have combined their talents to create a new classic tale that perfectly illustrates the values of ‘friendship’ for young children and any adults who may need some reminders. The heart of this story is the value of friends who understand us and our quirks.  Prepare to be enchanted.

THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS

Want to look at brilliantly colorful illustrations? Sure! Want to impress people at dinner parties with how much you know about the history of modeling dinosaur bodies from skeletal remnants? You bet!  

This Caldecott Honor Book was written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by our favorite, Brian Selznick. The book is the true story of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Hawkins was a model maker in the latter 1800’s whose passion was collaborating with the leading scientists of the day to create models of dinosaurs. Hawkins wanted  the general public to get a glimpse of the spectacular creatures. Hawkin’s story  takes the reader from England to North America and back. It includes a meeting with the king and queen, an important dinner party held inside a model of dinosaur, and a run in with a teamster whose name is still well known today.

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins   is such a vividly illustrated and quick paced story that I did not realize it was a true one until I was half way through the book. Note to self: real life is often more interesting than fiction.

The book ends with informative illustrations that show how Hawkin’s models have been improved upon in the time since his work laid the foundation for dinosaur skeletal remodeling.

I recommend the story to anyone who enjoys a good story and  specifically to dinosaur and history buffs. Though I suppose dinosaur buffs are inherently history buffs (Ba-dum-ba!).

       

The Man in The Moon

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce is the debut book in his series: The Guardians of Childhood. Joyce has several other children’s books (Santa Calls and George Shrinks) in print. He also worked on the Toy Story films.

I was so thrilled when I saw the scholastic box arrive in the office this afternoon I think I scared the UPS man. It took all I had not to tear the box from his hands. I have been eagerly awaiting Joyce’s book for a week and half- the smell and the story did not disappoint.

My copy of the book smells like a chain bookstore-clean, freshly inked pages.

The Man in the Moon is a thrilling story that tells the tale of the, you guessed it, Man in the Moon. MiM (Man in Moon), as he is nicknamed by his childhood guardian Nightlight, is a happy baby when the story begins. He sails through galaxies with his parents on a ship called the Moon Clipper. The Moon Clipper is designed to transform into a moon each evening and Joyce’s illustrations of the transformation are a delight.

Nightlight never sleeps and watches over MiM each evening. Nightlight sprinkles Dreamsand over MiM so he never has  nightmares. When Pitch, the King of Nightmares, hears about this he sets out on a planet and star destroying mission to find MiM,capture him, and make him a prince of nightmares. MiM’s family flees for a small green and blue planet (sound familiar?) in a far galaxy. The planet has no moon and so it seems like the perfect place for the Moon Clipper to transform and hide.

When Pitch and his ship, The Nightmare Galleon, catches up with MiM’s family an epic battle ensues. Children and adults alike will be swept up in the valiant efforts made by the good characters aboard the Moon Clipper.

When the dust settles MiM is alone except for a few surviving Moonbots, Moonmice,and Glowworms. Though his parents and Nightlight are gone his childhood on the moon is a fantasy brought to life by Joyce’s sweet,quick prose and decadent illustrations. ( You will fall in LOVE with his Glowworms and Lunar Moths)

When MiM grows into a man he finds way to help the children of earth. He assembles a familiar cast of beloved characters from the far corners of earth to become the guardians of childhood. I won’t give away more but I will say that the end of the book is lovely and simply magical.

I am EAGERLY awaiting more books from the series. A wonderful gift for a friend with a child who is young enough to still believe in magic all around.

          

The DJANGO

My copy of this book smells so delicious, akin to thick wrapping paper.

So no one just sets down to write and illustrate a book for the first time and creates a perfect gem, right? Wrong! Levi Pinfold has done just that with his first picture book, DJANGO.

This picture book is a delightful trickster tale inspired by the life of jazz legend Jean “Django” Reinhardt. The story features a young gypsy boy named Jean. One day Jean comes across the DJANGO in his family’s caravan. In the book the DJANGO is described thusly:

“It’s like a thing. A sort of it. A kind of cozzler that always seems to find trouble.”

The Django is a charmingly illustrated creature who looks something like a little boy, and insect, and a pile of laundry crossed together and come to life. The Django loves playing tricks and pranks but poor Jean is the one who gets in trouble.

The Django starts by breaking Jean’s father’s precious banjo, an instrument Jean has longed to play for himself for as long as he can remember.  Jean’s papa is furious and things only get worse as the Django follows Jean around for the week causing him trouble at every turn. Finally Jean has had enough and casts the Django out in a fit of temper. The Django stays away and Jean is surprised to find he actually misses him. Jean’s papa has a perfect and surprising solution for Jean’s case of the blues.

Children will delight in the tricks the Django plays. Beware of little ones blaming the Django for the bad behavior after reading this one! People of all ages will appreciate the vivid and colorful illustrations.

Also be sure to read and share  the final page that gives information about the life of the real Jean “Django” Reinhardt. His life story is an inspiring and exciting one for anyone who appreciates music and the art of creating it.

    

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog

My copy of the book has lost it’s new book scent. It is now a charming combination of pencils, crayons, and general classroom odors.

The much loved “Pigeon” series by Mo Willems is a classic in its own time,at least on the elememtary school circuit. If you have not seen or read one of these books do so at your earliest convenience!!! And I say, “you’re welcome” in advance.

In The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog we learn a  bit more about pigeon’s personality and his problem with sharing, specifically a hot dog he has found on the ground. We are also treated to the manipulative abilities of a small, yellow, deceptively cute little duckling.

Willems has the ability to squeeze adult personalities into childlike, illustrated characters. Adults will find something disturbingly familiar in the frustrated rantings of the pigeon and the comically cloying manipulations of the duckling. Children will delight in being ‘in’ on the joke of pigeon’s large overreactions.Willem’s deftly illustrates his simple stories to provide maximum laughs.

The book is ideal for children in the primary grades and adults who read books repeatedly to them. I will personally use this blog as an excuse to reread all of the books in the series to my class. I think they enjoy it almost as much as I do!

Cheap in paperback but you will reread them until they fray at the edges!