Dog is Back!


OK, I know, Dog didn’t go anywhere. I just found a book new to me about him. I first fell in love with Dog when I read Dog Loves to Read by Louise Yates. https://lisaconnors.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/dog-loves-read-across-america-day/

Now I’ve discovered an equally endearing read in Dog Loves Drawing (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). Your young reader will delight in Dog’s imagination as he and his friends not only take, but also create their own journey though the blank pages of an art journal. I won’t give it away; you’ll need to see for yourself – but there is a monster!

You and your young reader will delight in sharing Dog’s journey. Just make sure you’ve a new blank journal and some crayons for when you finish. There’s sure to be some wild imagination flying about.


When You Need a Little Hug



This week’s recommendation is not a Valentine’s Book, but it easily could be. Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper (Henry Holt and Company, 2015) gives the reader a heavy dose of cuteness and love. Hattie and Horace, two adorable hedgehogs, are best friends. One day they come across a caterpillar egg and embark on a wonder journey very similar to that which young children experience when observing the life cycle of a butterfly. However, Horace and Hattie take their wonder a step further, hoping they too can transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly – a notion that might enter into young minds too*.

I won’t steal the magic of how they try to transform for you. Obviously, hedgehogs can’t turn into butterflies. However, if you’ve ever marveled at nature – whether a grand event, a glimpse of something rare, or the daily happenings in your backyard – I dare say you may agree with me that Horace and Hattie indeed were transformed.

So for this time of year, a time when we’re often feeling a little down, I highly recommend Hudgehugs and the Hattiepillar. It will have you humming, and it just might get you excited about finding some magic of your own.


* My son loved to count the callies on my asclepias in the mornings of our Houston home. When he was three, we moved to Virginia. One day soon after arriving, he told me that he was once an egg in my belly, and then a caterpillar, but that he turned into a butterfly and flew to Virginia.


Kate Scarborough Takes Us Inside a Wasp Nest


A Wasp Builds a Nest by Kate Scarborough and Martin Camm (Firefly Books, Ltd. 2016) is a masterpiece almost amazing as a paper wasp nest itself. If you don’t know how amazing and intricate a paper wasp nest is, you need to read this book. Its pages build along with the description and illustrations of how each layer of cells is constructed, making it easy to understand what is going on inside. There are close-up illustrations of the cells and larvae, and informative text to explain what is happening.

That’s all pretty magical, but what struck me the most is the layered concept of the seasons in the description of all this nest building. I already knew that wasps build new nests every year, but I was still overcome with awe. Why? Once I saw what’s happening inside and understood the detail of the nest construction, all the work involved, and the cooperation among the wasps – with all this occurring between March or April and September – and ending in the death of the original queen, well, awestruck is the only way to describe how I felt.

This is not just a book for insect or nature lovers. It’s a book for everyone, because a daily dose of awe-inspiring nature is sure to enthuse, and hopefully motivate a reader to care for the world around him or her.


I Dissent


“She made change happen and she changed minds.” These words are in the 2016 picture book I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster). I came across this book last week when I discovered that the author would soon be in town visiting a creative writing class. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself is speaking at Virginia Military Academy on February 1st. Yes, I’ll be there!

This book is incredibly timely to help encourage young readers in understanding that dissent in the name of progress is their right as a citizen and their duty to humanity. I know that such a book would have empowered my twelve-year-old self that wrote letters to my representatives to save the whales. I still have their response letter, naively thinking at the time that they actually wrote the reply. My much older self knows that staffers write these replies, but I also know that calls and letters work, most recently evidenced in the stopping of a new proposal that would overhaul the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The biographical information on Ruth Bader Ginsburg is engaging – from her early childhood up to and including her position as a Supreme Court Justice. It is filled with adjectives for dissent in bold print, and illustrations that help cement the messages of progress and hope in the reader’s mind. The features of big text in places and the large images work to pull the reader in, to help the reader feel what Ruth was feeling and even to imagine that we, the readers, can do this too. I Dissent is definitely worth reading over and over.

I saw so many  women, men and children marching for human rights at the Woman’s March on Washington this past Saturday. We made history. Now it’s time for us to make change happen and change minds. I Dissent can help inspire your young readers to keep up the hard work.


For the Love of Octopuses


A few years ago I read The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonders of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. I decided then and there to never eat octopus, and by extension, calamari again – I am not yet unilaterally consistent in this decision as I still eat other meat – but I am eating less and less and thinking about my choices. I mention this abrupt conclusion I made to emphasize how I fell in love with octopuses. And why I picked up Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson and Robin Page (Beach Lane Books, 2016).

Octopuses One to Ten is a great example of a multi-concept book, and it’s told in rhyme. It’s adorable, educational and fun. The main story is told using illustrations of the giant Pacific octopus. Each spread has a side bar – I love the use of sidebars – without being too busy. After 9 full-page spreads of a rhyme and information on the giant Pacific octopus, the book transitions with #10 to back matter on 10 different octopuses. These pages show how big each octopus species would be next to a human with a small graphic in the corner that is both simple in execution and powerful in its message.

There is so much information packed into this book, yet it doesn’t scream at you. It didn’t overload my senses like so many busy books do. It pulled me in and made me want to start over again as soon as I’d finished. It’s perfect for sharing with your little reader.


Stuck Inside and Can’t Sit Still? Neither Can Plants!


I found a fun and educational book this week at the library. Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch and illustrated by Mia Posada (Millbrook Press, 2016) is loaded with colorful kid-friendly illustrations, fun to read text and lots of action verbs all meant to show the many ways that plants grow, move and disperse. It’s perfect to read when you’re feeling a little cabin fever. I can just see all the squirmy little bodies itching to imitate some plant movement when they hear the words wiggle, slither, creep and explode!

This book would be perfect for teachers to read with elementary students at the beginning of a plant unit, for teachers to use to teach regular and irregular verbs, and for families feeling antsy with cabin fever. Read it and see if you can keep from tumbling, bouncing or sprinkling along!


For a lesson plan to go with this book please see my Teachers Pay Teachers store.



Sea Otter Inlet


Sea Otter Inlet by Celia Godkin (Fitzhenry &Whiteside) was written 20 years ago, but its message is still needed and its design and illustrations beautiful and still fitting to today’s picture book market. I picked it up because it’s about sea otters and I wanted to compare it to my book Oliver’s Otter Phase (Arbordale Publishing, Fall 2017). It’s beautiful.

Godkin enthralls the reader with the sea otter world before slowly, page by page, showing what happens when an ecosystem engineer is removed from its habitat as the sea otter was by over hunting. It’s a gentle process, simply explained without science jargon such as ecosystem engineers and food chains, but we know something horrible has happened. Just as we feel the despair that mirrors this damaged ecosystem, she tells us how, once a sea otter returns to the inlet and their numbers increase, the system heals over time. It’s magical how Godkin does this without preaching or teaching, just facts and illustrations working together to show what hope looks like. This book is perfect for any budding naturalist, or any teacher wanting to introduce the concept of ecosystem engineers, or any adult who thinks it doesn’t matter to wipe out a species. Sea Otter Inlet is a keeper!