May 2017 Round Up

Check out my reviews for the month of May! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

December Grab Bag

As we head toward the change of seasons, I thought I’d put together a grab bag with snow as the theme. There are lots of excellent choices out there, so this list is in no way complete. It’s just enough to get you started. Many of these books are classics; all of them are just waiting for us to snuggle up with our children on a cold winter day (or night) for a cozy reading session.


Katy and the Big Snow

Author: Virginia Lee Burton



Author: John Rocco


First Snow

Author: Peter McCarty



Author: Uri Shulevitz


The Mitten

Author: Jan Brett


Cold Snap

Author: Eileen Spinelli


Twelve Kinds of Ice

Author: Ellen Bryan Obed


Bear and Hare: Snow!

Author: Emily Gravett


First Snow in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy

Author: Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick


The Snowy Day

Author: Ezra Jack Keats


Too Many Mittens

Author: Florence and Louis Slobodkin


The Runaway Giant

Author: Adelaide Holl


The First Snowfall

Author: Anne and Harlow Rockwell


Snowflake Bentley

Author: Jacqueline Biggs Martin


The great thing about these winter books is that they can be followed up with so many fun activities. It could be something as simple as sharing a mug of hot chocolate together. You might want to make some paper snowflakes. Or during a snowfall, go out and catch a few snowflakes on your tongue! Better yet, be prepared with some black felt glued onto cardboard. You can catch snowflakes on the board and look at them through a magnifying glass – a very simplistic version of Snowflake Bentley.


November Grab Bag

This weekend we change the clocks – and hopefully we all remember to change the batteries in our smoke alarms, as well. Although fire safety week was actually earlier this month, I don’t feel it’s too late to review safety policies. So, my first three selections are fire safety picks.

Also, as the weather turns cooler it is the perfect time to change gears – and head outdoors. Didn’t expect that? Well, I am really happy that my school is encouraging families to go hiking together. We have begun offering “Family Hiking Backpacks” which include binoculars with a compass, magnifiers, field guides, a book on hiking with children and safety suggestions. These backpacks can be loaned from our library for a one week time period. I hope other libraries follow suit.

I’m Brave!

Author: Kate and Jim McMullan

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc., 1st printing October 2015

Fire Engine Man

Author: Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc., first printing October 2014

City Firefighters

Author: Meish Goldish

Publisher: Bearport Publishing Company, 2014

The Dandelion Seed

Author: Joseph Anthony

Illustrator: Cris Arbo

Publisher: DAWN Publishers, 1997

Flight School

Author: Lita Judge

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2014

Muddy Boots: Outdoor Activities for Children

Author: Liza Gardner Walsh

Publisher: Down East Books, 2015


October Grab Bag

For this month’s grab bag, I’m listing some of the most commonly banned books. There are plenty of lists available, and this one is by no means complete. It is not presented in any particular order, nor am I giving the reasons they are controversial. However, here are a couple of links that go further into the matter:

And Tango Makes Three

Author: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexis


Author: Majurie Safrapi

The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky


Author: Raina Telgemeier

Captain Underpants

Author: Dav Pilkey


Author: Jeff Smith

Harry Potter series

J.K. Rowling

Slaughterhouse Five

Author: Kurt Vonnegut

Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

The Color Purple

Author: Alice Walker

The Lord of the Flies

Author: William Golding

Bridge to Terebithia

Author: Katherine Paterson

To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Author: Mark Twain


September Grab Bag

Hi everyone,

It’s finally upon us – the end of the summer and the beginning of the new school year is here.  So to start off the school year right, our grab bag this month includes a few “back-to-school” reading selections.

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)

By Peter Brown

Publisher: Little, Brown and Co., 2014

It’s a miracle – teachers are real people, too!

Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand

By Audrey Penn

Publisher: Tanglewood Press, Inc., 1993

A classic, comforting story for dealing with those first-day-of-school fears

Oliver and his Alligator

By Paul Schmid

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Press, 2013

A funny story sure to help even the most timid reader swallow their school-worries


David Goes to School

By David Shannon

Publisher: Blue Sky Press, 1999

A humorous story of the familiar character from Shannon’s earlier book, No, David!


I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

By Jennifer K. Mann

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015

Here’s a chance to recognize the creative students in your classroom!


And check out our earlier review of a perfect first-day-of-school book:

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly School Bus

Author: Barbara Parks

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books, 1992

These are just a few great books to share for the start of the new school year!  What others would you suggest?


August Grab Bag

This month’s grab bag contains several things. First, several of the choices (those with the asterisk) are books from the CT State Library Favorites & Classics Summer Reading list for Kindergarten to Grade 2. It’s time to finish up those summer reading assignments! They are all great read-aloud choices. If you haven’t read them already, you should do so right away. They are also great choices for your personal library.

Since I am not yet ready for summer to end, I’ve also listed a few “beach” themed books. These are a little more varied, with a true historical story and a non-fiction book included among the selections.

Last of all, I included a specifically non-fiction group about astronomy. Did you know that August evenings are one of the best times for stargazing? There is also a major meteor shower each August. Watch for the Perseids shower on August 12th.  Though I only choose two books in this category to highlight here, there are many other books available on this topic.

*Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Author: Judi Barrett

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1978

*Goodnight Moon

Author: Margaret Wise Brown

Publisher: Harper & Brothers, 1947

*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Author: Eric Carle

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 1967

*The Carrot Seed

Author: Ruth Krauss

Publisher: The Viking Press, 1945


Author: Leo Lionni

Publisher: Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1967

*Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Author: Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc., 1989

*Bear Snores On

Author: Karma Wlson

Publisher: Margaret K. Elderberry Books, 2003

Keep the Lights Burning Abbie
Author: Peter and Connie Roop

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989

The Whale’s Song

Author: Dyan Sheldon

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Books, 1990

Sophie’s Bucket

Author: Catherine Stock

Publisher: A Voyager Book, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1985

What the Sea Left Behind

Author: Mimi Gregoire Carpenter

Publisher: Down East Books, 1981

Waiting for the Whales

Author: Sheryl McFarlane

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers, 1991

Out-of-This-World Astronomy: 50 Amazing Activities & Projects

Author: Joe Rhatigan & Rain Newcomb

Publisher: Lark Books, a division of Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., 2003

Discover the Stars

Author: Richard Berry

Publisher: Harmony Books, 1987

July Grab Bag

As I was getting ready to put together this month’s grab bag, I took a trip to both the local Barnes and Noble and my local library. My interest was to grab a few books from summer reading lists. At Barnes and Noble, I was surprised to find there was no central table of summer reading books at the store. At the library, I was even more surprised. Instead of the traditional book list, there were “bingo card” lists (at least up to middle school level – I feel sure high school students have the regular lists). These cards are much like the reading challenge that Julie is doing and contain things like instructions to read a mystery, a scary story, a book recommended by a friend, a non-fiction book, a book that was made into a movie, etc. I was pleased to see this trend for I think that by choosing books on their own, students may actually read more. In tomorrow’s post I’ll talk more about why summer reading is so important. For now, here are the grab bag choices:

Welcome to the Zoo

Author: Alison Jay

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group; 2008

Comments: This is a wordless book with detailed and amusing illustrations.

Fourth of July Bear

Author: Kathryn Lasky

Illustrations: Helen Cogancherry

Publisher: Morrow Junior Books; 1991

Comments: I chose this one for its Fourth of July theme. It’s about a very unexpected sort of bear.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Author: Doreen Cronin

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2000

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades K-2.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Author: Crockett Johnson

Publisher: Harper and Brothers, 1955

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades K-2.

Where the Wild Things Are

Author: Maurice Sendak

Publisher: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades K-2.

Charlotte’s Web

Author: E. B. White

Publisher: Harper & Row Publishers, 1952

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades 3-4. Look for a more detailed review of this book as a June birthday review!

The Velveteen Rabbit

Author: Margery Williams

Publisher: George P. Doran Company, 1922

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades 3-4. This is a very moving story. I always cry reading it.

Because of Winn-Dixie

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2000

Comments: This choice was part of the CT State Library Summer Reading list for grades 3-4.


June Grab Bag

National Geographic Kids Caterpillar to Butterfly

Author: Laura Marsh

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2012

Source: school book order

Comments: Another great informational book on butterflies.

Wildlife Conservation Society Amazing Dolphins (I Can Read Level 2)

Author: Sarah L. Thomason

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2007

Source: school book order

Comments: A good nonfiction book on a topic of perennial interest.

Diary of a Worm

Author: Doreen Cronin; Illustrated by Harry Bliss

Publisher: Scholastic, 2005

Source: school library

Comments: A cute and funny book with a unique perspective!

Gardening Lab for Kids

Author: Renata Fossen Brown

Publisher: Quarry Books, 2015

Source: purchased from Eric Carle Bookstore

Comments: I hate books that have too many overly complicated activities. This book is a good resource because the activities range from simple (like Lab No. 1 Seeds in a Bag) to those suited for the more ambitious gardeners (Lab No. 37 Hypertufa Planter). I have successfully tried several of these activities, both with my own children and at school and found them to be fun and pretty stress-free.

Although I am not going to list specific books, add some of Cynthia Rylant’s series books to your bag (hint: a review coming up soon!). They are very popular at school, and she has written a number of series: Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Mr. Putter and Tabby. These are good books for early readers.

May Book Grab Bag

Hi everyone,

We’re doing our May Book Grab Bag a little differently this month.  Last month, we compiled a list of bird-themed books for you to check out for April.  This month, we’ve got two lists to share with you!  May is Short Story Month (, so we’re planning to share some short story collections with you.  But in honor of the coming spring, we’ve included a second list of spring-themed books for you, as well.

Short Stories:

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Several versions of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale – we also suggest you check out Vande Velde’s other collections of short horror stories


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Clearly, we like our short stories with a side of spooky…Although this isn’t really short stories, we think the chapters could be read similarly.

Girl Goddess #9 by Francesca Lia Block

Short stories about young women as they grow up and face new challenges


And a few I’m looking forward to:

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marr

For more suggestions of short story collections (many of which I’m excited to read!), check out this list:

Spring Books:

Miss Rumphius

Author: Story and pictures by Barbara Cooney

Publisher: Viking Penguin Inc., 1982

Comments: We should all do something to make the world a more beautiful place!

Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2004

Comments: This is historical fiction. It’s written using very entertaining language and the students in my classroom loved it.

Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrator: Terry Widener

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2003

Comments: I included this as I was thinking of King of the Mound, the Nutmeg nominee. It’s another great baseball story!

Julia and Barbara

April Book Grab Bag

Since we are starting to see birds returning to our area, I’ve included books on birds – fiction and nonfiction – in my April grab bag selection. It reminds me how one of my kids used to love to watch the birds at our feeder. I used to set up the chalkboard with a chart that included pictures of birds to compare. Then he would stand and complete the chart as he watched the feeder. He loved this and it entertained him for hours!

Bird Chart

Flora and the Flamingo

Author: Molly Idle

Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC, 2013

Source: public library

Comments: A beautifully illustrated wordless book

Ollie’s Easter Eggs

Author: Oliver Dunrea

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009

Source: public library

Comments: A cute, humorous picture book

A Home for Bird

Author: Philip C. Stead

Publisher: A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2012

Source: public library

Comments: Charming illustrations

The Life Cycle of a Bird

Author: Bobbie Kalman and Kathryn Smithyman

Publisher: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2002

Source: public library

Comments: If you are looking for something factual, this has lots of photos and illustrations. It ends with bird-related activities, and my only complaint is that there weren’t more of them!

Adopted by an Owl: The True Story of Jackson the Owl

Author: Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen; Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenjuyzen

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, 2001

Source: public library

Comments: A heartwarming story of a rescued owl

The Birdwatchers

Author: Simon James

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2002

Source: public library

Comments: Granddad and Jess are both very cute!