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.

Roald Dahl Day September 13, 2013

Roald Dahl Day September 13, 2013

Roald dahl day 2013Some of our long-time family favorite books are those written by Roald Dahl.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Giraffe the Pelly and Me, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Danny Champion of the World.  These books tend to have unlikely heroes, involve creative solutions to problems, fantastical situations, and elements that celebrate childhood.

Today, September 13, 2013, is Roald Dahl Day.  For some fun reading and activity ideas, visit  You’ll find free downloadable pdfs with activity guides, posters, sticker templates, and party packs.

James and the Giant Peach guideThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of James and the Giant Peach.  There is a special Teacher’s Resource Pack – as a free pdf.  This is a fun guide with ideas on exploring teamwork and friendship, science, dance and drama, creative writing, and history.

Celebrate reading, celebrate childhood.  Read and giggle together.  Cheer on unlikely heroes.  Think about an enormous chocolate river, a clever window washing team, a brilliant plan to capture pheasants, and a bighearted giant who sends wonderful dreams to sleeping children.


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.



More Learn to Read Treasure Hunts

More Learn to Read Treasure Hunts

Treasure Hunt 10We’ve just added some new learn to read treasure hunts to the series – free to download and use.

These are ready to use, fun treasure hunts that use words and pictures in each clue.

My young readers loved doing treasure hunts.  It was a fun way to practice new reading skills.  And, they enjoyed running from one clue to the next, deciphering the words and finding the next clue…and eventually the end.  I hope your new reader(s) enjoy these treasure hunts, too.

Learn to Read Treasure Hunts

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.

Reading Treasure Hunts

Learn To Read Treasure Hunts On Bookworm Bear

Ad site button reading treasure huntsMy young readers loved doing treasure hunts.  It was a fun way to practice new reading skills.  And, they enjoyed running from one clue to the next, deciphering the words and finding the next clue…and eventually the end.

Bookworm Bear is offering you printable treasure hunts clues to help the child (or children) in your life enjoy reading.  So far, there are 5 treasure hunts to try.  More are on the way.

Click on the treasure hunt you want – and print out the pdf.  Cut out the squares, and fold along the dotted lines so that the clue is on the inside, the clue number is on the front, and the little clue for you about where to hide it is on the back.

I hope you and your children have fun with these!

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?


Make Fun Sheep Puppets

Make Fun Sheep Puppets – Art Project for Where is the Green Sheep

make sheep puppetsHere is a fun art project to do with preschoolers that goes along with reading Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox.

Read the book, gather your art supplies and young artists, and let’s get started.






  1. Where is the Green Sheep? 
  2. construction paper
  3. pencil
  4. black pen
  5. glue stick
  6. scissors
  7. popsicle sticks
  8. masking tape


greensheepactivity2Step 1:  Find a sheep you like, and draw the sheep parts on the construction paper.  You can draw in pencil first, then go over it in black marker.



greensheepactivity3Step 2:  Make additional sheep on different colors of construction paper if you’d like to have several sheep.





greensheepactivity4Step 3: Cut out the sheep parts.






greensheepactivity5Step 4:  Add details with black marker.  I did little spirals for the wooly sheep body.




greensheepactivity6Step 5:  Glue your sheep parts together with glue stick.  You can use the book as a guide, or make up your own sheep.



greensheepactivity7greensheepactivity8Step 6:  Tape your sheep to the popsicle stick with masking tape.





greensheepactivity9Step 7:  Make as many sheep as you like.  Have a puppet show.  Act out Where is the Green Sheep?  Make up your own story.  Have fun!

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!