February 2012

Almost ten years into life with our first-born, we are still trying to understand his curious food-related quirks. Spaghetti is a hit, as long as the tomato sauce has no chunks or visible spices, and preferably comes out of a jar labeled, “Ragu.” Pizza is acceptable as long as the edges are cut cleanly and don’t involve any “flying cheese.” Sandwiches consist of meat and bread only…condiments of any kind are right out. And the cereal bowl must be rinsed out before refilling it, as mixing cereal is strictly prohibited. Perhaps that is why I am so in love with this week’s Perfect Picture Book pick, THE SEVEN SILLY EATERS. Poor Mrs. Peters has SEVEN kids with quite particular tastes that she can’t seem to kick, and she’s still a good mom, right? RIGHT???


    • Published by: Harcourt Children’s Books, February 1, 1997, Fiction
    • Suitable for: all ages
    • Topics/Themes: Family, Food, Picky Eaters
  • Opening/Synopsis:

“Not so long ago, they say,
A mother lived–just like today
Mrs. Peters was her name,
Her little boy was named the same.
Now Peter was a perfect son
In every way–except for one.
When Peter was just one year old,
He did not like his milk served cold.
He did not like his milk served hot.
He liked it warm…
And he would not
Drink it if he was not sure
It was the proper temperature.”

The birth of each new baby in the Peters household brings with it a new and unusual food request. Lucy only wants lemonade, Jack insists on lump-less oatmeal, and Mary Lou requires homemade bread. Mrs. Peters lovingly tries to fix their food according to their specifications, but with seven children all wanting different things, she becomes overwhelmed. When Mrs. Peters’ birthday arrives, the children try to come up with a special gift and accidentally produce a treat which becomes a family favorite for years to come…a birthday cake made from “all the foods/that kept them in such happy moods.”

  • Links to Resources: Wondersome Storytime has a great post on ways to use this book for the preschool age group, including setting up a Peters Family Picnic and recipes for homemade applesauce and lemonade. Mary Ann Hoberman herself posted a much-asked-after recipe for Mrs. Peters’ birthday cake on her website. This book could definitely be a jumping-off point for conversations about good nutrition and the food groups as well.
  • Why I Like this Book: I first picked this book up because I am actually one of seven children! So I love books about large families. Marla Frazee does such a beautiful job illustrating the comforting chaos of the Peters household. From the piles of laundry and kindergarten art projects, to the homemade forts and makeshift jungle gyms, to the cello gathering dust in the corner (since Mrs. Peters no longer has time to play), Ms. Frazee nails it. And the rhyme in this book is definitely an example of how to do it right. No surprise, considering Mary Ann Hoberman is our former Children’s Poet Laureate. It is perfect. Tired moms and dads will especially appreciate this book for its accurate portrayal of life with little ones, while kids will laugh at the absurdity of these childrens’ requests. Such a fun read!

For more fun reads and links to helpful resources, please visit Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Leonard Hill‘s amazing blog!

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My favorite moments as a mom often come when I am eavesdropping on my children. If you are friends with me on facebook, you have seen a multitude of status updates that are simply the things I have overheard in the midst of their play. This morning alone, there were snakes that had transformed into robots and penguins in polka-dotted underwear roaming the halls of our home. Their imaginations are incredible. I think that is why I love my pick for this week’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, HARRY AND HORSIE, so much. In a time when it is tempting to try and wrangle our kids into a daily routine that includes a minute-by-minute schedule, it is a great reminder to let our kids just play. The things they can do in their imaginations, even in the dark of night, are often so much greater than whatever we have planned for them.


  • Written by: Katie Van Camp                                                                Illustrated by: Lincoln Agnew
  • Balzer + Bray, August 25, 2009, Fiction
  • Suitable for: ages 3 and up
  • Topics/Themes: Friendship, Adventure, Imagination, Outer Space

Opening/Synopsis: “It was way past bedtime, but Harry wasn’t tired. Neither was Horsie. The moon was keeping them awake. It was shining on the shelf where Harry’s brand-new Super Duper Bubble Blooper had been put away for the night.”
Harry and Horsie are best friends. They do everything together. So one night, when Horsie becomes trapped in a bubble and floats out to outer space, Harry embarks on an out-of-this-world adventure to rescue him.

Links to Resources: The official Harry and Horsie website has a seven-page, downloadable activity book that includes adorable coloring pages and two Harry and Horsie word search activities.

Why I like this book: The art, the art, the art…


I am absolutely in love with the “retro-comic style” art of Lincoln Agnew. Harry and his little pal Horsie couldn’t be drawn with more charm. The story is adventurous and outer-spacey and is my new go-to gift for the little boys in my life. Though it must be noted that my 3-year-old daughter asks me to read this to her over and over again. I think that’s because at it’s core, it is a story about friendship with universal appeal.

…and did I mention that I love the art?

**interesting side-note: Katie Van Camp worked as a nanny for David Letterman’s son, Harry, who inspired this book. Read more about that in this article.

Head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog to read other picks for Perfect Picture Book Friday.


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I must confess that I have been in a bit of a writing rut lately. I haven’t had much trouble revising my manuscripts to smithereens, but I have had more than a smidge of trouble writing anything new. So when I read about this Valentine’s Day writing challenge on Friday, I thought I would give it a try, in the hopes that actually writing something from beginning to end would help. The guidelines were that it must be a children’s story about unlikely valentines, in less than 200 words. 200 words, people! And I used every single one.


From the moment Reggie pushed out of his egg, his best pal, Lila, had been there.

“You’ve got a whole lot of legs!” she said to him.

“And you’ve got polka dots!” Reggie replied.

“Wanna go for a ride?” Lila stretched out her tiny wings and Reggie hopped on.  They zoomed through the garden until Reggie’s belly couldn’t take any more laughter.

They shared their snacks, as best pals do. Lila learned to love leaf pudding, but Reggie had a little trouble with aphid stew.

One day, Lila made Reggie a card out of a heart-shaped leaf. Red with black polka dots, like her. She flitted over to his branch, but he wasn’t there. Lila waited and waited. No Reggie. But she did find a giant green pillow. Just perfect for a nap.

Lila jumped as the pillow began to shake.  A wave of orange rolled out.

“You’ve got wings!” she exclaimed.

“And you’ve still got polka dots,” Reggie replied.

“It’s you, Reggie!”  Lila grinned and gave him his card.

“Thanks,” Reggie said, flexing his wings. “Wanna go for a ride?” 

And they zoomed through the garden, laughing together until they thought their bellies would burst, as best pals do.

To read the other entries in the challenge, head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and check them out!


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Oh, CAPS FOR SALE, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

This has got to be one of the most well-loved books on our bookshelf. Surprising, considering it breaks one of the major picture book writing rules, which is that the main character should never be an adult. But guess what, folks, there isn’t a child to be seen anywhere in this book! But there are monkeys. Oh, the monkeys! Now be warned, you will have to explain to the children you read it to exactly what a peddler is. And you will have to convince them that although yes, they do have 50 cents in their piggy-bank, that no, it will no longer buy them a gray, brown, blue, red, or even a checked cap.

CAPS FOR SALEA Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

    • Written and Illustrated by: Esphyr Slobodkina
    • Published by: HarperCollins Publishers, September 1987 (originally published in 1938)
    • Suitable for: ages 4-8
    • Topics/Themes: Folktale, Humor, Monkeys!
  • Opening/Synopsis: Once there was a peddler who sold caps. But he was not like an ordinary peddler carrying his wares on his back. He carried them on top of his head. First he had on his own checked cap, then a bunch of gray caps, then a bunch of brown caps, then a bunch of blue caps, and on the very top a bunch of red caps.”

One day, when a peddler isn’t having any luck selling his caps, he takes a nap under a tree. Mischief ensues when some monkeys decide to test his wares, and the peddler wakes up to find his caps missing.

  • Links to Resources: There are so many lessons plans online and available for use with this book! One that was really cute was this printable template to make construction paper caps. I also found a whole downloadable unit that covers so many aspects of the story, including cap counting, how to identify 50 cents, and even a recipe for banana treats!
  • Why I like this book: This book is so simple, and yet so fun! The best thing about it is that it is a great read-aloud. My kids always shout with me, “You monkeys, you!” and shake their fingers and stomp their feet in time with the peddler. Then they giggle as they imitate the monkeys’ reply of, “Tsz, tsz, tsz.” The juxtaposition of the grumpy peddler and the silly monkey antics is just perfect. Folktales are not usually my first choice, but this one really is delightful.

To take a look at more Perfect Picture Books, visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s fabulous blog here. 0

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I want to be here right now telling you how great this Newbery Challenge is going. How I am enjoying every word written by our brilliant, award-winning, children’s writing forefathers. But I am struggling. To be on track, I should be at least on book 6. But as it stands, I am halfway through both book 1 and book 2. See, I was having a hard time with the first book, as I told you about here. So I thought, I’ll get book 2, start it, then make myself read a few chapters of book 1, and then as a reward, I can read a few chapters of book 2. Well, turns out that book 2 wasn’t quite as compelling as I had hoped.

So, in an effort to re-motivate myself, I am going to focus on the positive, and tell you a few things that I am LOVING about THE STORY OF MANKIND. I’ll save DR. DOLITTLE for another post, but I’ll get to him as well.

Okay, dear Hendrik, here we go…
I can’t quite figure out how this dude decided to write this book. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall as he pitched the idea to his editor…”I have a great idea for a book! I will write about the ENTIRE history of the world, starting from darkness all the way to present-day! One chapter for every 10,000 years or so should work, right?”

I can definitely say that I have learned some things about history that I didn’t know before. You probably already knew them, because I have such smart friends. But here is a sampling:

    • The Egyptian pyramids were originally cemeteries. They were forced to build them out in the desert because they ran out of space. But the desert was full of wild animals and robbers, so they started to build small mounds of stones on top of them so they wouldn’t be disturbed. Of course, the richest Egyptians felt they should have the biggest piles of rocks. So in the good old-fashioned spirit of competition, these mounds got bigger and bigger until they became the pyramids that we know today. The largest one was built by King Khufu, and it was over five hundred feet high and covered more than 13 acres of desert.
    • Greek theater has its origins in parades that were held to honor Dionysos, the god of wine. This particular god was thought to live in the vineyard among a merry band of satyrs, who were half man, half goat. They would commemorate Dionysos each year by wearing goat-skins and dancing around hee-hawing. They were called goat-singers, or “tragos-oidos.” At first these singing goats were entertaining enough, but the people of Greece soon grew tired of the bleating and called for something more. So the goats began to talk, and act out scenes, and out of these tragos-oidos, the Greek tragedy was born.
    • The knights of the early Middle Ages could neither read nor write. It was not considered manly.
    • The explorers of the late 1400s and early 1500s had a lot of trouble recruiting crews to work their ships, because of the high mortality rate out on the sea. They would take whoever they could get, and that meant that, “Famous discoverers like Magellan and Columbus and Vasco da Gama traveled at the head of crews that were almost entirely composed of ex-jailbirds, future murderers and pickpockets out of a job.”

Informative? Yes. A page-turner? No. It is a book filled with interesting tidbits, but Mr. Van Loon himself tells us that reading this book will be quite an undertaking. On page 168, he says, “I do not expect you to catch the meaning of what I write without re-reading this chapter a number of times.” And on page 240 he says, “I wish I could make this book a thousand pages long.” Oh Hendrik, I think the 500 plus you wrote is quite enough. And if I ever actually make it to the 1930s (when this book was written, and presumably, the end), I think a parade will be in order. Anyone have an old goat-skin I can borrow? 0

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