Seal Island School

Seal Island School by Susan Bartlett, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

sealislandschoolcoverSeal Island, Maine had one school and one teacher.  Forty-nine people lived on the island.  Each year a new teacher came to the school, and each year he or she left in June.  The teachers all said it was too lonely there.

Pru Stanley really liked this teacher, Miss Sparling, and wanted her to stay on the island and be the teacher for a long time.  Pru discoverd that Miss Sparling was saving up money for a Newfoundland dog because, “they’re good company.”

Pru received a pony for her birthday and Miss Sparling taught her how to care for him and ride him.  Pru realized that she had a gerbil, a dog, and a pony, but Miss Sparling was alone.  Pru decided to save up and buy her teacher a Newfoundland dog so Miss Sparling would stay on the island.  Pru and her friend, Nicholas, collected cans for cash, and even worked helping unpack boxes in the local store.

Other story threads include a message in a bottle from a girl on the mainland – the students wrote to her via mail and she wrote back – and even visited; and the worry that the Seal Island School would close the next year because there must be “at least five kids to afford a teacher” – six children attended the school, but one would be too old the next year, and one might move away.

With the help of many friends, Pru succeeded in getting a Newfoundland dog (from a rescue organization) for Miss Sparling and giving it to her at the end-of-year ceremony.  This book has a happy ending – with Miss Sparling staying on as the school teacher, the girl who sent the message in a bottle coming to live on the island, and the school having enough students to stay open.

This is a good book for young readers who are ready for chapter books, but still enjoy shorter chapters with some black and white illustrations throughout.

Up! Tall! And High!

Up! Tall! And High! (but not necessarily in that order.) by Ethan Long

Up!Tall!AndHigh!This is a silly, colorful book for emerging readers.  Using only a few, easy-to-read words, Long presents 3 stories with fun bird characters.  The stories center around the birds, and the words/concepts of tall, high (flying), and up (in a tree).  Each story has a fold-up page that reveals a silly twist with one of the bird characters.

Up! Tall! And High! is a fun book for children just beginning to read.

This book won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2013.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.   The winner(s), recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading, receives a bronze medal.  For more information about the award:

Toys Go Out

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

ToysGoOutAccording to the subtitle, this book is “…the adventures of a knowledgeable stingray, a toughy little buffalo, and someone called Plastic.”

The three main characters, StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic, are toys who live in a house with the Little Girl and her parents.  When the family is asleep or away, StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic roam the house, play with the other toys in the girl’s bedroom, and visit TukTuk the towel in the bathroom.  And, they have adventures – with the Little Girl, and just with each other.

The book begins with StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic inside a dark backpack that swings and bumps them.  Their personalities emerge as they wonder what is happening, and where they are going.  StingRay likes everyone to think she is wise – and explains things even if she doesn’t know what she is talking about.  For instance, StingRay suggests they are being thrown away, and taken to the dump where there are garbage-eating sharks.  When the backpack stops moving, the Little Girl reaches in and pulls them out and announces that these are her best friends.  She has brought them to school for show and tell.  (In later chapters, when StingRay tries to explain things, she often adds that she has been to school.)

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about talking toys, and a story told from toys’ point of view.  But, this works – in a fun way.  The toys are childlike in their limited knowledge of the world and their curiosity.  They also have very human character flaws.  Each is likeable – but Lumphy is my favorite.

Lumphy gets into a sticky mess while on a picnic with the Little Girl and her father.  It involves lots of peanut butter on buffalo fur.  The Little Girl says Lumphy needs to be washed.  Lumphy is afraid of the washing machine – it is in the basement which StingRay has described in a frightening way, and TukTuk the towel has said that the machine spins you around in a dizzying way – so he crawls into the closet and hides in a shoe.  Many days later, he hears the Little Girl crying and creeps out to see why.  When he discovers she misses him and thinks he’s gone forever, he thinks about the girl and about the washing machine…and the girl….and the washing machine.  He decides on the girl, and lets himself be found even though it means facing the washing machine.

Lumphy discovers that the washing machine is called Frank, that he is friendly and lonely, and that he can sing.  When Frank starts the wash cycle, Lumphy feels frightened and motion sick.  Franks explains that he has to continue the wash cycle, and suggests Lumphy think of it as a dance, and sings to Lumphy.



Greasy little


Tough-y little buffle-y

Dance that buffalo shuffle with me!

Dance, dance, prance, prance

Dance that buffalo shuffle with me!”

Lumphy sings along, and ends up enjoying his time with Frank the washing machine.  Later, he thinks of ways to get himself sticky again so he can visit Frank more often.

This has become a favorite in our house.  In fact, I even encouraged young people who were out of bed (again) to get back into bed and go to sleep by singing: “Shuffle-o buffalo, sleepy little buffalo, back into bed you go…”

This is a chapter book (6 chapters) with black and white illustrations here and there.  It is best for younger chapter book readers, and works well as a read aloud, too.

There are two other books in this series:  Toy Dance Party, and Toys Come Home.



The Big Balloon Race

The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr, Illustrated by Carolyn Croll

The Big Balloon RaceIt is 1882.  Horses, buggies, and wagons are common forms of transportation.  Large crowds turn out to watch balloon races.  The huge balloons are filled with hydrogen gas.  Carlotta the Great is the best female aeronaut (balloon pilot) in America.

On the morning of a big race, Ariel asks her mother, Carlotta, if she can ride in the balloon too.  Carlotta says no, that racing a balloon is hard work, and that Ariel is too young.  Ariel will need to ride with her father in the buggy to the finish line.

When the family arrives at the race site, there is a big crowd.  Many balloons are being inflated for the race.  The mayor gives a speech.  Carlotta tells Ariel that she can wait in the balloon basket until it is time for the race to begin.  Ariel climbs in and grows sleepy as the mayor talks on and on.  When Ariel wakes up, the balloon is in the air, and the race is on.

The balloon can’t go as fast as it usually goes, and sinks in a draft, scraping treetops.

“Can we go higher?”  asked Ariel.

“The balloon and ballast are for only one passenger,” said Carlotta.  “You are extra weight.”

Carlotta empties sand over the side, and the balloon rises.  They have a few adventurous moments – being pulled in an updraft into a raincloud, sailing low over a town, and narrowly missing a steeple.  Finally they see the lake and the finish line on the other side.  Carlotta catches a good wind that blows them over the lake.  However, the gas in the balloon begins to cool and the balloon sinks.  Carlotta and Ariel throw everything out of the basket that they can, but the balloon still sinks.  Their basket lands in the lake, with the balloon floating above.

“We lost the race,” cried Ariel, “and it is all my fault.  I am extra weight.”

Ariel knew what she had to do.  She held her nose and jumped into the lake.  The water was only up to her waist.”

Carlotta is surprised, and tells Ariel that was brave.  But, the basket is too wet and heavy for the balloon to lift, even without Ariel.  As another balloon appears and begins to descend, Carlotta throws Ariel a rope and Ariel pulls the basket and balloon to shore.  They win the race.

“Carlotta hugged Ariel.

“I’m proud of you, too,” she said.

“Perhaps you are old enough to fly.”

Ariel smiled happily.

She was sure of it.”

This story is based on the lives of the Myers family of Balloon Farm in Mohawk Valley, New York.  Carl Myers was an inventor and balloon maker.  Carlotta was an expert balloonist in America in the 1880’s.  Their daughter, Ariel, became a balloonist, too.

This is a fun story with strong female characters.  My daughter loved hearing and reading this story frequently.  The Big Balloon Race is an I Can Read Book, Level 3.

Thinking of Maurice Sendak

Thinking of Maurice Sendak

This week marks what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday.  Google even did a little animation showing some of his well-known characters.  Sendak was born June 10, 1928.  He died on May 8, 2012.  Sendak was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964 (Where the Wild Things Are); the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1970; the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983; the National Book Award in 1982; the U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1996; and the Astrid Lindgren Award in 2003.

where the wild things are coverSendak’s stories and illustrations have reached children and their parents throughout the world.  They reached my house, too.  My children loved to dance around a room chanting:  “Rumpus!  Rumpus!  Rumpus!” as they held their own wild rumpus across the furniture.  And, they loved Little Bear and his wonderful imagination – often pretending to be on adventures just like Little Bear imagined, like making a space helmet and going to the moon.


where the wild things are max“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another….” Sendak begins Where the Wild Things Are with Max at home in his wolf suit.  Max is sent to bed without any supper, and imagination takes over.  A forest grows in Max’s room “until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.”  Max gets into a boat, and sails “through night and day, and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.”  There, he becomes the king and celebrates with the wild things.  Eventually, Max becomes lonely and wants “to be where someone loved him best of all.”  So Max gives up being king, and sails back home – where he finds his dinner waiting for him in his room – “and it was still hot.”

I have some friends who didn’t like Where the Wild Things Are  — or their children didn’t like the wild things.  But it was very big in my house for a long while.

Little Bear coverThe Little Bear books also were big in my house.  These were written by Else Holmelund Minarik, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and are written for beginning readers (but work as read-alouds too).  Little Bear books are sweet, and full of joys of childhood – and were written in the late 1950s and early 1960s (the first, Little Bear, was published in 1957).  Little Bear has a fantastic imagination – and has wonderful adventures through his imagination.  The grown ups in his world are supportive and loving, and give him enough space to play and have those great imaginary adventures.  I read these books to my children when they were toddlers, and we shared many Little Bear – style imaginary adventures.

Thank you, Maurice Sendak!

What are your favorite Sendak books?


Where is the Green Sheep?

Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek

GreenSheepcoverThis is a fun picture book for the toddler and preschooler set.  My daughter loved this book – I think we read several times a day for months.

The text and illustrations are simple, but engaging.  The text has a rhythm that moves the story along.

The book shows the reader various sheep doing things, and pauses a few times to ask, “but where is the green sheep?”

Concepts such as color, thin and wide, up and down, sun and rain, scared and brave, near and far, and different objects and activities are explained through the simple, fun illustrations.

“Here is the blue sheep.

And here is the red sheep.

Here is the bath sheep.

And here is the bed sheep.

But, where is the green sheep?”

Of course, the reader and the young listener want to keep turning the pages – both to see what the sheep will be doing next, and also to find that green sheep.  At the end, the book asks us to turn the page quietly…and there is the green sheep.

This is a fun picture book to share with toddlers and preschoolers.  This story would work well for those beginning to read, too, as the text repeats words, and uses a basic sentence structure.

For a fun sheep puppet art project, click here.

For Gifted Young Readers

I’m adding a new page on Bookworm Bear – Young Gifted Readers – a page for those who learn to read very well at an early age.  It is very exciting to have a strong, young reader.  As a parent, you try to help him or her find books that are fun to read, and a little challenging, and that keep your young reader excited about reading.  Because these strong young readers (who read above grade level) are often called “gifted readers,” I’ll use that term to identify my page.

advanced reader photoSometimes it is a little more difficult to find books for these really strong, young readers.  What books do you look for when your preschooler or kindergartner has moved beyond Henry and Mudge?  What books are interesting and written at a good level for advanced readers, and are appropriate emotionally, socially, and in general topic matter?

The books on this page are ones that my young, early (and sometimes very sensitive) readers have enjoyed. I hope the list will help you find books that might work for your young reader, whatever age.  I will include links to books I’ve reviewed on Bookworm Bear, and I will update the suggestions frequently.  Happy reading!

Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop

Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop in Honor of Children’s Book Week

Kid Lit Giveaway Hop - Button

I’m trying something new here with Bookworm Bear:  the Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop in Honor of Children’s Book Week.  Bookworm Bear will be giving one lucky reader a $20 gift certificate to  All you need to do to enter (one entry per person, please) is leave a comment with the title of a favorite children’s book, and complete the Rafflecopter entry below.  Good luck, and thanks for stopping by Bookworm Bear!

Since I’m asking you to tell me one (or more) of your favorite children’s books, I’ll share some of mine with you – ones I’ve reviewed on this site already.  So if you want to know more about any of the books, just click on the cover.  Happy reading.

Picture Books

Bears-picture-review-BookwormBear.comMouse-MessIsh-review-BookwormBear.comBear Snores

Bear’s Picture and ish have themes that deal with self expression, and being yourself – and art as you, the artist, want to make it.  Mouse Mess and Bear Snores On are cute, sweet, and were big favorites in this house.

Beginning Readers and Chapter Books

Meet Mr and Mrs Green-review-BookwormBear.comGooseberry Park-review-BookwormBear.combecause of WinnDixie-review-BookwormBear.comTuesdays at the

Meet Mr. and Mrs Green is a wonderful beginning reader, sweet and silly.  Henry and Mudge is a good series for beginning readers, too.  Gooseberry Park is a sweet story of friendship and adventure for readers ready to move into chapter books.  Because of Winn-Dixie and Tuesdays at the Castle are great books for 8-12 year old chapter book readers.


Giveaway Details:

To enter, make a comment with the title of a children’s book you like.  The book can be a picture book, beginning reader, or chapter book — this also helps me know that yours is a real entry, not made by a random computer on its own.  One entry per person only, please.  Entering several times will disqualify you (sorry, but just trying to be fair here).

This giveaway uses Rafflecopter to collect entries and randomly select a winner.  The winning entry must have made a comment with the title of a children’s book to actually win.  The Giveaway starts at 12:01am on Monday, May 13, 2013, and closes at 11:59pm on Sunday, May 19, 2013.  (Times are EST.)

The prize:  The winner will receive, via email, a $20 gift certificate to

To enter:  So, to enter the Bookworm Bear Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate, enter through the Rafflecopter form below. Don’t forget, you need to leave a comment with the name of a children’s book.  Thanks, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop in Honor of Children’s Book Week is hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews.  If you get a chance, stop by their blogs.

Kid Lit Giveaway Blog Hop Linky

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…



Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss and Read Across America

Dr Seuss books groupToday, March 2, is the anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel – Dr. Seuss.  Today also is Read Across America (  Folks in my town organized a day (they are guessing it may take 8 hours to read all the books) of reading books by Dr. Seuss.  The local event was the result of efforts by a kindergarten teacher, the library, and volunteer readers.  They had children’s crafts, special snacks, and decorations based on illustrations from different books.  What a nice way to celebrate the birth of someone who contributed so much to children’s literature, literacy, and imagination.

Geisel was born in 1904, and died in 1991.  His first children’s book, To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937.  The Cat in the Hat, his thirteenth book, was published in 1957.  The success of The Cat in the Hat “inspired Seuss, his wife Helen, and Phyllis Cerf to found Beginner Books, a division of Random House that would publish books designed to help children learn to read.”*

Seuss’ fantastical creatures and many, many stories continue to appeal to children (and their parents) today.  “Indeed, treating children with respect was key to Seuss’s philosophy of writing for them,” says a brief biography by Philip Nel.  And, once in an interview, Seuss lamented the way many children’s authors are patronizing to children and said, “I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”*

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

* Biographical information taken from an online biography by Philip Nel (2010)

Orange Pear Apple Bear

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett

orangepearapplebear coverThis is a sweet, simple picture book for the youngest audience, or for beginning readers.

The story is presented through just five words:  apple, pear, orange, bear, and there.

This book explores the concepts of color, food, and shape.

The lively illustrations convey much about the bear’s playful character.

Each item is presented first on its own orangepearapplebear eatpage, then in combination with other objects.  The bear changes color – taking similar color and shading as the orange and the apple.  The bear takes on the shape and color of the pear.  The bear stacks the fruit and juggles the fruit.  Finally, the bear eats the fruit.