Up and Down

Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

upandDownbook“Once there were two friends… who always did everything together.  Until the day the penguin decided there was something important he wanted to do by himself…”

Jeffers funny and sweet story of the boy and the penguin is a tale of friendship, of trying new things, and finding out who you are and what matters most to you.

The penguin wanted to fly.  He tried different things like jumping off a high place, and trying to float with a helium balloon.  The boy helped the penguin try different things, and looked in books for answers.  Together, they headed into the zoo to get advice from the birds there.

While there, the penguin saw an ad – a circus needed a new performer for the cannon act.  The penguin rushed off and was hired for the job.  The boy looked everywhere for the penguin – even with the other penguins, but none of them knew how to play his favorite game.

The boy and the penguin missed and worried about each other all night.  When it was time for the penguin to do the fired-from-the-canon act, he wasn’t as excited as he’d expected to be.  And, he missed the boy.  As the penguin shot out of the canon, the boy rushed into the circus to find his friend.  The penguin was frightened and worried as he flew, and he missed the boy.  But, the boy was there to catch him.

“The friends agreed that there was a reason why his wings didn’t work very well…because penguins don’t like flying.”

Jeffers simple color illustrations bring the story to life.  This fun picture book is the sequel to Jeffers’ Lost and Found.

You can find out more about Oliver Jeffers’ books at: http://www.oliverjeffers.com/picture-books/up-and-down


Muddigush by Kimberley Knutson

MuddigushThe snow is melting where I live.  Maple sap is running and sugar houses work to turn sap into syrup.  Hillsides and yards have stretches of white patches – and lots of mud.  Around here, we call this mud season.

Knutson captures a child’s joy in playing in mud and muddy water in her picture book, Muddigush.  Knutson brings the muddy experience to life with her silly descriptive words.

“That sludgy mudge

grabs at our boots

making squelchy slimy smucky sounds.

Smucky mush

Smacky mush

Squooshy slooshy muddigush!”

The child and two friends play in the mud – splashing in puddles, making channels in the muddy water, making mudpies, and having a wonderful time.

Eventually the water and mud dry up:  “The sqoosh and the qoosh are gone.”  And the children return to their homes.  The main character child takes off rain gear and boots, then washes hands.

“Muddigush washes clean

and the water turns black

as it gurgles

and slurgles

and snurgles

down the drain.”

Knutson’s collages beautifully illustrate the story.

This is a good book to share with children – then put on rain gear and go outside for puddle splashing or mud pie-making.

The Tree Lady

The Tree Lady – The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry



Kate Sessions grew up in the woods of Northern California in the 1860’s.  Kate loved exploring the woods and didn’t mind getting dirty while playing.  In the 1860’s girls were not encouraged to study science.  But, Kate wanted to learn.



“Kate felt the trees were her friends.  She loved the way they reached toward the sky and how their branches stretched wide to catch the light.”

In 1881, Kate graduated from the University of California – the first woman to earn a degree in science from that university.  She took a teaching job in San Diego after graduation and found that town to be a desert-like place with very few trees.

After two years, Kate left teaching and worked to find trees that would grow in the dry soil.  She requested seeds from gardeners all over the world, and went to Mexico to hunt for trees that might thrive in San Diego.

Before long, Kate had a tree nursery – and her trees were planted all over town.  In 1909, the city officials announced the Panama-California Exposition would come to San Diego in 1915.  In preparation for this, they wanted more trees for the city park, Balboa Park.  Kate felt Balboa Park needed thousands more trees.  She invited friends to help and held tree-planting parties.

When the Exposition opened in 1915, Balboa Park had millions of trees and plants.  Visitors marveled at the wonderful plants and gardens and strolled in the cool shade.  Kate was given many awards over her lifetime, and continued working with and planting trees until her death in 1940.

“Back then, few could have imagined that San Diego would become the lush, leafy city it is today.  But all along, year after year, Katherine Olivia Sessions did.”

This is wonderful picture book about a woman who changed a desert town into a city filled with plants and trees – with the act of planting trees.  She was called “The Mother of Balboa Park.”  Kate Sessions used her courage, her love of trees, and her scientific knowledge to do this.  The author included a page with more detailed information about Kate Sessions.  A good book to share!

Groundhog Day 2014

groundhogdaybookToday Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, predicting 6 more weeks of winter.

How does Phil know what to do?  How does he gain his weather-predicting skills?  Perhaps he attended Groundhog Weather School as presented by Joan Holub and illustrated by Kristin Sorra.

This clever picture book is packed full of interesting facts about groundhogs, weather, shadows, and seasons.  There is a spread on famous ‘Furry Hognosticators,’ like Punxsutawney Phil, from various parts of the United States.  A final page includes more information about how Groundhog Day began.

Groundhog Weather School presents all this information in a fun, colorful format – a graphic novel/comic book style – that gives information without seeming to overload the reader.  Groundhog Weather School is an excellent choice to share with children – even into the upper grade school years due to its format and information.



No by Claudia Rueda

noNo is a fun picture book that celebrates a child’s independent spirit.  Of course, in this case, the child is a brown bear cub.

“It’s time to go to sleep,” said mother bear.

“No,” said little bear.  “I don’t want to go to sleep.”

So begins the story….with mother bear telling little bear that it will get cold, there will not be any food, winter is long, and the snow will be deep.  Little bear responds that he is not cold, he saved some food, he doesn’t mind a long winter, and he loves snow.

The adventurous cub stays out in a snowstorm building a snowman while his mother goes into their cave.  The snow comes down harder, and the wind blows.  Little bear calls out for his mother and looks for their cave.  When he finds her, little bear tells her: “Winter is very long and you might get lonely.”

The last page shows mother bear and little bear snuggled up together in their cave with snow falling outside.

Rueda’s illustrations are large and simple – yet they convey the bear’s emotions, and help tell the story.

This is a good book to share with young children – especially ones who like to do things their own way.

What Is Disney Telling Our Daughters?

What is Disney Telling Our Daughters?

AdvdNot long ago, my daughter was ill and stayed home from school for a few days.  One of those days, she asked to watch The Aristocats while snuggling with stuffed animals and blankets on the sofa.  My daughter and I have watched The Aristocats before (we own a copy).  I agreed that she could watch the movie.

I joined her on the sofa and, this time, I noticed things I had not noticed before.  Instead of a sweet, sometimes silly animated story of a cat and her kittens trying to return to their home in Paris (after being cat-napped by the butler and left in the country), I saw some startling gender stereotypes and messages.

It started when I heard Marie, the female kitten, say to her brothers, “Ladies first,” as they raced to get through a cat flap in the front door.  Not too bad, I thought, and began to watch Marie’s roles vs those of her brothers.  Duchess, the mother cat, is trying to raise her kittens with manners befitting ladies and gentlemen.  Comments on Duchess and Marie by humans focus on their appearance, their beauty.

When Duchess and her kittens meet Thomas O’Malley the alley cat out in the country, he mentions her beauty.  Eventually he agrees to help them return to Paris.  O’Malley saves Marie’s life twice – she falls off of a milk truck, and she falls off of a bridge.  Her brothers manage not to fall.  When the cats finally reach the rooftops of Paris, O’Malley is carrying the exhausted Marie on his back, while her two brothers plod slowly along on their own four paws.

Marie is beautiful, needs to be rescued, and tires more easily than her brothers.  Duchess is beautiful, tries to protect her kittens during a storm, and needs O’Malley to show them the way home.  Do the young girls watching this Disney movie notice?  Do they absorb these messages?

Luckily, my daughter doesn’t think Marie is the best character.  My daughter favors O’Malley, Scat Cat (a musician cat), and Toulouse (a spunky kitten – one of Marie’s brothers).

Disney released The Aristocats in 1970.  Certainly attitudes have changed?

But what about the Disney Princesses – all beautiful, most needing to be rescued.  Is Disney telling our daughters that what matters is how they look?  That what matters is their appearance?  That they need to let the men take on the more challenging aspects of life? That to be a girl means to embrace this way of thinking and being?

We’ve avoided reading books about silly princesses who need to be rescued.  I’ve made a point of finding books with a different twist – these main character girls (or princesses) are the ones who leave their safe castle to go live with dragons, or who rescue the witch from the prince.

I understand that the Disney Princess movies (and associated items for purchase) are very popular with young girls.  And, some little girls love pink and want to be princesses.  Do they outgrown this?  Is it just imaginary play, or does that message of appearance mattering most, and of pleasing others, and of being weaker than boys come through?

And, if my daughter rejects the ideal of the pink and pretty, does she chose not to be friends with girls who embrace pink and pretty? Do they reject her?

Or, is it just a movie?  Or just one company retelling fairy tales to entertain families?


December 21 – The Winter Solstice

solsticebookThe Shortest Day – Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Jesse Reisch

Why does it get dark earlier at night in Winter than in Summer?  What is Solstice?  Pfeffer addresses these questions and others in this colorful book about the Winter Solstice.

In the Northern Hemisphere, near December 21, the sun reaches its lowest point on the horizon – making that day the shortest day of the year, or the day with the least amount of daylight.

This day is called the Winter Solstice.  It marks the beginning of Winter.  Humans have recognized this time of the year for thousands of years.  Long, long ago people didn’t know about the Earth’s rotation, tilting, and orbit.  They just knew that they had less and less daylight.  Some thought evil spirits caused the sun to go away, and held ceremonies asking their gods to bring back the sun.  Later people discovered patterns in shadows, or in the sun’s position on the horizon.  They celebrated the shortest day of the year because it meant the days of more light were returning.

Today people still celebrate at the beginning of winter by decorating their houses, lighting the darkness, gathering together, and exchanging gifts.


They no longer worry that the sun will disappear forever.  People know that days get colder when their part of the earth tilts away from the sun.


For more than 5,000 years, people have welcomed the Winter Solstice because it’s a new beginning.


Pfeffer’s text takes readers on a journey from early peoples fearing that the sun will disappear forever, through history to the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Romans, through England and Ireland of 1,000 years ago, to more recent times – with Sweden’s St. Lucia’s Day.

The book includes several pages with Solstice facts, information about the Earth’s tilting as it orbits the sun (including Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, and Autumn Equinox).  Activities include charting sunrise and sunset, measuring shadows, noting the position of the sun over the year, and a way to demonstrate the tilt of the Earth making seasons.

This is an excellent book for children in preschool through grade school — with interesting illustrations, and factual information.

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

(I first published a review of this book in December 2012)

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

WhoSaysWomenDoctorsWhen Elizabeth Blackwell was a child, in the 1830’s, women were expected to become teachers, seamstresses, or wives and mothers.  They were not supposed to become doctors.

As a girl, Elizabeth Blackwell didn’t talk about becoming a doctor – she didn’t like blood, and hated being sick.  But, she was a spirited girl with courage.  She “wanted to explore around every corner and….never walked away from a challenge.”

When Elizabeth Blackwell was twenty-four, she visited a friend who was very ill – and who encouraged Elizabeth Blackwell to become a doctor.

“At first, Elizabeth could not believe her ears.  Even if a girl could be a doctor, why would she want to be one?  But Mary’s idea gnawed at Elizabeth.  A female doctor.”

Elizabeth Blackwell thought about the idea a great deal.  Her family supported the idea.  So, she worked as a teacher to earn money and began applying to medical schools.  She did not get enthusiastic responses.

“Twenty-eight Nos in all.  In different ways, the letters all said the same thing:  Women cannot be doctors.  They should not be doctors.”

She was accepted at Geneva Medical School in New York state.  The people in the town stared at her and whispered.  The other students didn’t want her to be there.  Eventually, with much hard work, she proved herself – and she graduated (in 1849) with the highest grades in the class.

Marjorie Priceman’s bright illustrations complement the text.  This is a good book to share and use as a starting point for discussions of limitations, women’s rights, gender roles, and the classic “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

The book has two pages of additional information about Elizabeth Blackwell.  The reader learns that after she graduated from medical school, no one would hire her.  Eventually, Elizabeth Blackwell opened a free clinic in New York City, and taught people about cleanliness and staying healthier.  Elizabeth and her sister, Emily (who also became a doctor), started their own hospital, The New York Infirmary for Women and Children – the first hospital run by women, for women.  Elizabeth Blackwell later opened a medical school for women in New York, helped create the London School of Medicine for Women in England, and helped start the National Health Society.  She died in 1910 at the age of eighty-nine.  Today over half of all medical school students in the United States are women.

Grandma Drove the Snowplow

Grandma Drove the Snowplow by Katie Clark, illustrated by Amy Huntington

GrandmaDroveSnowplowBilly and Grandma are baking cookies and listening to the radio in the kitchen on the day of the Carol Sing.  The radio brreeps in with an emergency broadcast warning of blizzard conditions and up to two feet of snow.

Grandma runs the snowplow business in their small town.  She tells Billy not to worry, that the plows are out doing their work.

“And for everyone in town there was no bigger winter celebration than the Carol Sing.  Starting the day after Thanksgiving people baked cookies, practiced songs, and knit pairs and pairs of mittens for the mitten tree.  They hadn’t missed a Carol Sing for as long as anyone could remember.”

The telephone rings and, after speaking for a minute, Grandma tells Billy that Buster is stuck in a snow bank and can’t get the truck unstuck – so he can’t plow the roads in time for the Carol Sing.

The telephone rings again, and Grandma tells Billy that Burt is stuck in a ditch and can’t get his truck out – so he can’t plow the roads either.

Grandma’s other son and snowplow driver, Bill, has his leg in a cast – and can’t drive to plow the roads either.

Billy hands Grandma the keys to a snowplow telling her they have a job to do, and they set off.  Grandma drives the snowplow, but not very carefully.  They help their neighbors out, and plow the streets in time for the Carol Sing.

But, by the time they arrive at the Carol Sing, the snowplow has picked up a wreath, some holiday lights, and an evergreen tree.  The townspeople use these to decorate for the Carol Sing – and put mittens on the tree.

This is a cute book with a touch of silliness mixed with a small town sense of community.  Amy Huntington’s illustrations show a small town with New England character blanketed in snow – and complement the text well.  This is Grandma’s second adventure – in Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck, Grandma and Billy collect the town’s garbage in time for the Fourth of July Parade, running into a few things along the way and winning the prize for most creative float (available at Amazon).

Picture Book Month

Picture Book Month

PBMLOGO-COLOR_WEBRESPicture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November.

Every day in November, there is a new post from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.

Check out the website at:  http://picturebookmonth.com/ They’ve put together tons of activities and a calendar with suggestions for each day.  Today, for instance, features the subject of libraries and librarians.

Bookworm Bear recommends:

library lionLibrary Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (reviewed)





thelibraryThe Library by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small




November is Picture Book Month. Read * Share * Celebrate!