A Pig on a Rock in a Pond


What’s a pond full of frogs to do when they find a pig sitting on a rock one morning? Of course they asked who he was and why he was in their pond, but all the pig would say is ribbit. Getting more and more frustrated about why the pig was there – because all he would say is ribbit – the frogs decided to ask the wise beetle what they should do. When they return with the wise beetle, the pig is gone. It turns out the beetle is indeed wise. Things are not as strange as we make them out to be, if we just get to know one another.

Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira and illustrated by Poly Bernatene (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) is one of those picture books I wish I’d written. It is silly and poignant, simple and deep and the illustrations are a wonderful complement to the text. I love all the expressions the animals have in their growing anger. We are kept either also wondering what the pig is doing or we’ve figured it out and can’t wait for the frogs to catch on. That tension building makes the ending all the better. Two endings in fact, a characteristic I love in picture books.

Rodrigo takes a universal theme of friendship and creates a unique and powerful book to celebrate it. Maybe if enough of us read it we won’t need wise beetles to tell us the obvious.



A Whole Bunch of Sweetness


Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Neal Porter Books, 2019) is a whole bunch of sweetness beautifully packaged in a picture book. In it we follow Rabbit and Bear as Rabbit asks Why? for everything Bear does. Does this remind you of your young reader? Just as the children around us ask why often to make sense of the world, so does Rabbit. The story is layered with the story of seasonality and friendship, showing that Rabbit is indeed trying to make sense of his world.

I love Seeger’s watercolor illustrations for their simplicity and power to pull us into Bear and Rabbit’s world. But also the illustrations are doing much of the story telling  – a characteristic of a good picture book. If your young reader is engaged with this story, you could have fun together asking what Rabbit was asking why about, allowing your child to fully engage with the illustrations and their implications.

Why? is so much more than a story of a rabbit who asks too many questions. Don’t read it too quickly and miss all that is going on. Finally, Bear asks why to something Rabbit says, making for a super sweet ending. Enjoy!


Two by April Pulley Sayre – Squirrels Leap . . . and Crabs Have Ten Feet


Does your young reader love squirrels? Or do you want to know more about them? Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Henry Holt & Company, 2016) is the book you need to get you started. With lyrical works and a quick pace, we learn about squirrels antics, habitat, anatomy, and types of squirrels. Jenkins classic collage illustrations are a perfect complement to Sayre’s text.

There is back matter for inquiring minds to learn more. This book would be fun as a mentor book for kids to research another familiar backyard animal, and then write and illustrate a similarly styled book. But it is also just fun.

Another fun book I found this week is One is a Snail Ten is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre and illustrated by Randy Cecil (Candlewick Press, 2003). I wasn’t actually looking specifically for Sayre’s books! It’s got everything your budding math wiz will love – silly animals, learning who has how many feet, and interesting groupings to get to each number as they count along from 1-10 and then count by tens. It’s a fun and quirky way to learn basic counting skills and makes for great impromptu counting throughout the day.

I am familiar with other books by Sayre – see my post about Bloom Boom – but I am encouraged from this serendipitous find of two of her books without actively seeking them out to go and read the ones I do not know. Do you have an author you follow? Does your child? I hope whatever you’re reading makes you smile.




Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family


Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family by Elisabeth Zunon (Bloomsbury 2019) is a sweet book I found in my library this week. Told in first person, the main character is making her own chocolate birthday cake with help from her Daddy. Throughout the story, we learn the connections between the girl’s chocolate cake, her father and her grandfather who worked on a chocolate farm on the Ivory Coast. We learn where chocolate grows, how it is harvested and processed into the cacao beans that are then sold and make into chocolate.

The illustrations are done in oil with some collage, but also with screen-printed images to depict the African scenes in the girl’s imagination. These images are white and printed onto the colorful backgrounds, making them seem both real and ghost-like. This technique helps to distinguish the present day scenes from the imagined scenes. Many of the page spreads show a parallel image of past and present, adding a beautiful touch to the story because this is a story about family, not just chocolate. For example, one page spread shows the girl and her father cracking the eggs and working together on the left page, as the right-facing page shows the father as a boy helping his father bag the cacao beans to sell in the village.

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family has a lot of great back matter about the author, who spent her childhood in Abidjan, as well as how chocolate bars are made from the cacao beans, and the difference between cacao and cocoa. There is even a recipe for chocolate cake. However, the best part of the book is the surprisingly sweet ending. Mom has been away during the book, presumably to get a birthday present. When she returns she brings the sweetest gift ever. I hope you enjoy Grandpa Cacao as much as I did.


Back to School – Part Two

It is still hard for me to fathom going back to school in August. I grew up in Pennsylvania and we never went back until after Labor Day. Of course we got out in early June instead of late May, but despite living in Virginia for 20 years, I still find mid-August too early to start the school year.

But many many schools are back students and teachers are hard at work. Below I share some more lesson plans available at my TeachersPayTeachers site. Please share with any elementary teachers you know. Thank you!

Guided Reading Lesson with The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

In this lesson plan students will explore things they fear, then listen, predict and answer questions while reading The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Students will discuss ways to minimize their fears as they realize some things are not scary, but perceived as scary. This lesson plan takes 30-45 minutes and is best for kindergarten through third grade.

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Reading in Science Lesson for Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch

In this lesson for grades 1-3, students investigate movement words and learn about regular and irregular verbs as they read about plant movement and seed dispersal. A fun way to engage students with verbs, this lesson is four pages long and includes a verb
worksheet for student use and two extension activities to reinforce science concepts.

Guided Reading Lesson on Sharing using Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown

A sweet story perfect for pk-first grade about two preschoolers who have trouble sharing. In this guided reading lesson using Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown students participate in discussions about sharing and answer guided questions about the text. Solutions to problems sharing are shared and students can use the example from the book to help them in the future.
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Reading in Science Lesson Plan for the book Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas

Water Can Be… written by Laura Purdie Salas is a delightful read for use in science or language arts and will broaden student understanding of the many uses and roles of water in our lives. I use it in this lesson plan as an introductory lesson to water or to seasons, or simply used in language arts to address Common Core standards while reinforcing science concepts. This lesson plan is directed toward k-2 with targeted Common Core standards for literacy listed for each grade level. It includes 2 teacher keys and a worksheet template for the independent study.



Back to School

Back to school is a time for new beginnings. I like to set new goals or revisit my goals from the New Year. I am working on several projects plus a few new ideas that I would like to work on, but my main energy is being spent on writing a third book that follows the mantra But that’s not all found in Milkweed Matters and Salmon Matters. More on that as the project develops. I am also working on another manuscript that I would like to illustrate myself and self-publish by January – again more on that when it’s worthy of sharing.

Teachers too are busy this time of year. I thought this week I would highlight a few of my favorite picture books for which I have written lesson plans. Please share this post with any elementary teachers you know. Many of my lesson plans cost only two or three dollars.

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon

The delightful story Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon is perfect for Valentine’s Day but also as a reminder about friendship and caring any time of the year. This guided reading lesson is for grades K-2 and has extensions and cross-curricular options. It is aligned with Common Core standards for reading that you can see on the preview. It has lots of suggested discussion questions to help your reading lesson go smoothly.

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Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally M. Walker and illustrated by Sean Qualls

This book makes a wonderful introduction to a unit on The Underground Railroad or for a stand alone guided reading lesson, helping students to predict, infer, and connect to text. I have aligned it to Common Core English standards for grades 3-5 under informational text.
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ribbit by Jorey Hurley

 Ribbit tells the story of the life cycle of a frog using only a verb on each page. This book can be used to reinforce verb knowledge and as an extension to write a similar story with another animal using only verbs. This is a guided reading and writing lesson.


The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

This lesson plan covers 1-3 days of reading and activities using The Gardener, a Caldecott Honor Book by Sarah Stewart. This book is useful for teaching context clues and inferring. It includes the lesson plan, a predicting activity using a Probable Passage, vocabulary for student notebooks, a sequencing worksheet, and a vocabulary quiz.

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I hope you find something you like or know a teacher you can send this post to. I will share some more next week. Thank you!


I will love you anyway


What do you do with a dog that never listens, that won’t sit, stay or fetch, and that runs away all the time? Some would give it away. But in I will love you anyway by Mick Inkpen and illustrated by Chloe Inkpen (Aladdin, 2015) we can guess that the dog gets to stay. Sweet, right? Yes, but Inkpen tells this story in a way that will have you laughing.

The story is told from the dog’s point-of-view and largely in verse, creating a sort of frenzy that matches the dog’s temperament and activity. Owners of most puppies will relate. The illustrations are big, bold and a lot of fun. Through the verse and antics of the dog, we are presented with a classic new pet conundrum where the pet endears itself to the people and gets to stay despite it’s bad behavior. But in I will love you anyway, this is the backstory to the dog’s perspective. DOG will love the boy anyway, despite not being able to sit, stay, fetch . . . and more. The last page made me laugh out loud.

If you’ve ever cared for a new pet and felt overwhelmed with it’s interruption in your life, you will get a kick out of this book. If you’ve pondered getting a dog and worried about bad behavior, I daresay this book might make you take the plunge and try it. And if your dog is like most dogs and only sometimes disobeys you, this book will make you want to give it a big hug. I will love you anyway is pure fun in the name of love.