Monthly Archives: December 2015

How Would You Know?: A Review of The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

I wasn’t sure whether to call this a review, or simply my thoughts and responses to Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s upcoming The Knowing Book.

Over the past year, there has been a lot that I didn’t “know”- as I experienced a phase of gut-wrenching grief, I didn’t know where my next breath would come from.

As I stood in the shower getting ready for the day, I didn’t know if I had the strength to make it through another sad, gloomy day.

I didn’t know if I would ever stop crying myself to sleep.

There was a lot that I didn’t know.

But this new title, The Knowing Book, illustrated by Matthew Cordell, reminds us of what we do know. What we will always know.

In a world of such uncertainty, and such confusion and hopelessness, this book is a timely reminder and reassurance to children to go ahead in the direction of their dreams, holding tight to what they do know and what they will always know.

Before you forget… look up.
The sky has always been above you,
is above you now,
and will always be above you.

Count on it.
It is what you will always know.

Throughout the following pages, this bunny takes one step at a time on a journey. We don’t know where he’s going, but we know he’s going boldly, because of what he knows and is certain of.

This is not only a book of knowing; it is a book of encouraging. Encouraging to explore the unknown. To dream. To pick up that ordinary looking shell. Listen.

And before you forget, when you come back home,

Before you forget… look up.
The stars have always been above you,

are above you know,
and will always be above you.

Count on it.
It is what you will always know.

Matthew Cordell brings Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s words to life with his brilliant and moving illustrations. As the scenery changes, so does the sky color and the environment color. He uses the right palate for each page to encourage readers to dream and hope …. and know.

Focus on what you know. It is powerful.

This book is powerful and important, as children will have the opportunity to be reassured time and time again to focus on what they know. To find comfort in it. And to celebrate it.


Don’t Blame the Bear! : A Review of Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

It’s happened to all of us…. we’re innocent in an event that goes horribly wrong. We caused a problem simply by “being” somewhere.

I’ll never forget the time my mom was changing ink cartridges in the printer and was very carefully carrying one to the trash. I bumped her, she dropped it, and it went all over her new, white carpet.


And guess who got the blame? Me.

So, I could relate to the poor bear in Ame Dyckman’s Horrible Bear, illustrated by Zachariah OHora. When a slumbering bear gets the blame for a broken kite, a girl tromps and stomps all through the meadow and into town, advertising what a big, horrible bear he is. She stomps in her room and proclaims over and over again, “HORRIBLE BEAR!”, and soon begins to see horrible bears every where.

In sad reality, the poor bear was not so horrible- he had just turned over in his sleep. But that’s not what the girl saw.

So, what’s an innocent bear to do? Become horrible.

Bear now stomps through his cave and lumbers through the meadow.

Meanwhile, the girl accidentally breaks a favorite toy.

And her eyes are opened.

Accidents can happen.

By the time bear arrives, the girl is ready to apologize. And everything is patched up.

This is going to be an important book for children as accidents happen every day. In my own classroom, I can recall coats being stepped on, marker wiped down a friend’s white dress, potted plants falling and shattering, and more.

And what is our original response? (Mine included!)

But when we calm down, take a breath, and realize that accidents are part of life, we can be ready to forgive rather than to blame someone for being horrible and becoming horrible ourselves.

Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora have weaved a wonderful tale about what it means to be horrible… and what it means to forgive. Zachariah’s signature illustrations lend themselves so well to Dyckman’s concrete storytelling.

This is a treasure you’ll want to own and share. It’s one of those very important books.

(Oh- as for the nail polish- it took some time, and a few new square inches of carpet- but it was resolved. And I’m no longer horrible.)


Seeking Slumber: A Review of Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli

Is there anything more annoying than not being able to sleep?

When I was in high school/college, I would lie awake at night, tossing and turning, seeing the clock change from hour to hour. There was much on my mind, I worried about the next day, imagined things, and ultimately, kept myself awake by my own fault.

In Greg Pizzoli’s Good Night Owl, it is a different story. The story begins with owl settling down into what appears to be a very cozy bed. But then owl hears a small sound… and he wraps up his robe and heads to check out what all the commotion might be.

Owl finds nothing but the wind.

The noise goes on, and time and time again, owl is clueless as to what is making the noise. In the process of searching for the culprit, he empties shelves, pulls up the floorboards, tears down his own roof, and dismantles the walls.

This book is a perfect instance where the readers know what is causing the noise, put the poor owl has not a clue. Readers will be chuckling, and sympathizing for owl as he goes to such extremes to rid his home of the SQUEEK! he continuously hears.

Greg Pizzoli’s signature screenprinting style illustrations lend themselves to much giggling and hilarity as the absurdity of the situation rises along owl’s sleepless night.

And, at the end, when Owl discovers the culprit of the noisemaker, he settles into bed. The best part is that owl is not even mad.

Children will be able to relate to Owl on many levels, as I am sure they can recall nights when they weren’t able to sleep. Their own imaginations lead them to race to bad conclusions about what may lurk about in their homes.

Pair this book with Pat Hutchins’ classic Goodnight Owl! , where all the animals squawk and screech and scream and keep Owl awake. And when it’s Owl’s turn to wake up, he lets out a big screech to wake everyone else up.

I am thankful for yet another one of Pizzoli’s tales, and lovely illustrations . SQUEEK!


Almost…But Not Quite: A Review of The Almost Terrible Playdate by Richard Torrey

“That could have ended badly.”

Those are words we often mutter at the end of an event that could have had a terrible outcome, but, thankfully, for some reason or another, didn’t.

When two friends are put together for a playdate, in a story by Richard Torrey, readers are warned up front that things could be almost terrible. The book’s title, The Almost Terrible Playdate, published by Random House suggests readers open the book and find out exactly what could have made this playdate terrible.

Using only oil based pencils, crayons, and colored pencils, and sparse color, this book has a “feel” to it as though it is about to tell the story from the perspective of two children. And it does.

The girl, who wears and thinks in purple, makes a suggestion for something the two could do together on their playdate.

The boy, who wears and thinks in green, makes an alternate suggestion for something the two could do together.

It becomes a back and forth argument as we readers see the scenarios played out in the imaginations of the two young children.

Ultimately, the two nearly call it quits. Neither of the other can suggest a viable option for their playtime that afternoon.

But, then things change. As they begin to build their own castles…mansions.. and begin discussing their creations, they understand the possibilities of what lies ahead.

And suddenly, the boy and the girl believe that their friend has a good idea, and they exclaim that they should play again tomorrow.

In this book, Richard Torrey has laid out a common childhood occurrence. Speaking from my teaching experience in preschool, I can tell you that children are always arguing about what to play.

There really are no answers, as this book suggests. It only begins with the spark of an imagination, the willingness to dream, and the willingness to share and work together, marveling at the possibilities.

This is a book for any child looking for a good playmate, which invites readers to open their hearts and minds to what may lie ahead in one afternoon with nothing more than a few blocks and a big imagination.



Coming Soon: 2016 Picture Books PART TWO

Back in November, I published a blog post about picture books coming in 2016.
If you missed part one, visit it here! (Much you won’t want to miss!)

I’ve been compiling books for the part two post ever since, and tonight I realized, there really needs to be a part three as well, as two is getting quite long.

So, before the new year hits, here are the books for part two!  And part three I hope to publish by the end of January!- So any other books that are coming, please let me know!























I Don't Want to Be Big.jpg













Also be on the look out for…

Maxwell the Monkey Barber by Cale Atkinson

A Hop is Up by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Lori Richmond

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Raschka

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Penguin’s Christmas Wish by Salina Yoon

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk

How to Build a Snow Bear by Eric Pinder

Dog Rules  by Jef Czekaj

Swallow the Leader by Danna Smith

Would you Rather be a Princess or a Dragon? by Barney Saltzberg

Five Little Ducks by Denise Fleming

Max and Ruby’s Preschool Pranks by Rosemary Wells

Otis and the Kittens by Loren Long

The Happiest Book Ever by Bob Shea

Fly Guy: Ninja Christmas by Tedd Arnold

Catch a Kiss by Debbie Diesen

The Bot that Scott Built by Kim Norman

Ten Little Fingers, Two Small Hands by Kristy Dempsey



This is NOT a Cat by David LaRochelle

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer

Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney

The Water Princess, by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds

Teachers Rock! by Todd Parr

Memoirs of a Parrot by Devi Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers

Return by Aaron Becker

Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet

Fire! by Donald Crews

Charles Darwin’s Around the World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes

It is Not Time For Sleeping by Lisa Graf, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Quack and Daisy Beyond the Meadow by Aileen Stewart

Bella’s Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde illustrated by Susan Gal

“Baby Bear’s NOT Hibernating” by Lynn Plourde illustrated by Teri Weidner

I Am The Mountain Mouse by Gianna Marino

Still A Gorilla by Kim Norman

She’ll be Coming Up the Mountain by Kim Norman

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole

SHY by Deborah Freedman

Sea Monkey and Bob by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Norbert’s Big Dream by Lori Degman

Goodnight! Goodnight! by Carin Berger

Gingerbread Christmas  by Jan Brett

I WILL NOT EAT YOU  by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Groovy Joe by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

T Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum

Your Alien Returns by Tammi Sauer

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre


Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins


I’d Want These in Their Hands: 2015 Books

I struggle with “best of…” book lists. There are so many wonderful books out there, and “best” is very subjective. I always knew that when I taught first grade, if I had students make the “best” books of the year lists, almost every book would be included in someone’s list because everyone has their own favorites and interests. It’s all about the students.

So, with what I know about first graders, I’d like to present to you a list of books. If I was still a teacher, and I had a class, I’d want to get copies of these books into students’ hands. These are books only published in 2015.


How many assignments have you had (or have you given) that said “Write 3 facts about…” The girl in this story takes homework like that home, and finishes in a jiffy. It’s easy to spout of three facts about polar bears. But when a polar bear takes her to his home, and they explore together, research takes a completely different spin. This book stresses the importance of hands on experiences for research and should be a part of everyone’s collection.


What can I say about a book like Float? Just that its use of color, design, and imagination makes it a wordless wonder.


I’ve always believed that when you’re laughing together, you’re bonding. If you want a laugh out loud read, try Mother Bruce. Its humor will draw your class together and provide some comic relief to your day.


Momo is a little different and his cousins aren’t sure of him. We all have children like this in our class, and this is the perfect book about acceptance and making new friends with Zachariah O’Hora’s signature illustrations, which I love.



Boys like to be tough. I could always tell when a boy was ready to cry, they were using every fiber of their being to try to fight away the tears because of we typically believe boys don’t cry. This book shows the contrary- some of the toughest, roughest guys express their feelings. And it’s okay.



What can I say about Dewey Bob. He’s a little critter that will capture your hearts and teach you what it means to give.


Looking for a book to spark imagination? Looking for a book that will inspire young readers to think “beyond” the ordinary? Beyond The Pond is what you need.



First grade is full of embarrassing moments! During my tenure as a first grade teacher, I heard many burps, farts, hiccups, mispronunciations, and other slips. This book reassures students that it’s okay to make a little mistake, and to be able to laugh about it.


I loved this book from the first time I saw the cover. How will the boy get the whale back to the sea? In a very warm, tender tale, Cale Atkinson weaves a story that will stick to your heart and soul.



Is there anything more interesting than a book? Find out in this title, which uses only two words, “Look!” and “Out!”

Cover Reveal: Little Boy Soup

I went to college with two illustrators who are starting to make their way into the children’s literature world!

The first, is Kristin Easler, who has illustrated Alan Katz’s recent Mustache series from Bloomsbury.

The second, is Amalia Hillman, who has a debut picture book coming June 12, 2016. Amalia asked me to reveal the cover, and how could I say no to an old friend? 🙂

In Little Boy Soup, Joshua Russell offers a delightful recipe for that wonderful ritual that parents call bath time―one that often includes washing favorite toys along with your favorite little boy. What’s unique in this bath time book is the little boy loves the time spent with his dad, and the illustrations are uniquely contemporary, fresh and bold.

Russell and Hillmann have created a special book for the men in the family that is perfect for any time of day, but especially fitting for those sleepy moments between bath time and bed time. Illustrator Amalia Hillmann utilizes her unique process of hand-painted art on paper, mixing pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, and cut-paper illustration. Every image is hand painted and hand cut, offering a distinctive overlay effect that adds depth and a unique style all her own. As a result, Little Boy Soup is eye-catching and perfect for getting the attention of preschool and beginning readers.

Here it is…. pre-order now!