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.

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.

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: 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!

Fortunately, The Milk

PrintFortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Guest Reviewer — Reviewed by Daughter, age 9


The setting of the book is in the main characters’ house, outside on the street, and in a lot of other places, all over.

FortunatelytheMilkThe main characters in this book are:  the children, their father, and Professor Steg.  The backup characters are:  the people in the jungle, the green, globby aliens, the wumpires, and the volcano god, Splod.

This book is about when the children’s mother leaves to present a paper on lizards.  The next morning, the family runs out of milk.  The father goes to the corner shop to get more and is gone for hours.  When he returns, he tells of being abducted by aliens, nearly being sacrificed to a volcano god, having incidents with wumpires, being rescued from pirates by Professor Steg in a floaty-ball-person-carrier, and an encounter with singing space police dinosaurs.

I would recommend this book to people who like adventurous and hilarious books.

Flora’s Very Windy Day

Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan

FlorasVeryWindyDayFlora got upset when her little brother, Crispin, knocked over her paints, again.  Their mother sent them outside to play.

Flora protested, saying that the wind was so strong it would blow her away.  Then Flora said:  “Of course, I could wear my super-special heavy-duty red boots.  They’ll keep me from being blown away.”

They bundled up, and Flora put on her special red boots. Crispin had only regular purple boots that “couldn’t do anything but keep his feet dry.”

The wind blew, but Flora laughed at it and told it that she was wearing her special red boots so it couldn’t blow her away.  The wind blew harder, but Flora laughed at it.

“However,” said Flora, “you may notice that my little brother is wearing regular old purple boots.”

So the wind blew harder still, and lifted Crispin off the ground.  Flora realized that her little brother was being blown away.  She kicked off her special red boots, and went sailing up after Crispin, and held on to his hand as they were blown away together.  They were frightened at first, but soon realized that the wind was comfortable, like “riding along on a squishy flying chair.”

Several different things approached Flora, asking her to give them Crispin:  a dragonfly, a sparrow, a rainbow, a cloud, an eagle, and the man in the moon.  Each time, Flora said no, “He’s my brother and I’m taking him home.”

Finally Flora asked the wind to let them go home.  The wind replied it would as soon as it found the right spot for Crispin, since Flora wanted to get rid of him.  Flora realized that she didn’t really want Crispin to go away, and the wind took them home.

There likely are times in the lives of most young older siblings when they wish (even briefly) that they didn’t have a younger sibling.  Underneath that momentary frustration, they really don’t wish any harm to the toddler or baby…’s just hard to remember when paints are knocked over, favorite stuffed animals are being chewed on, or a grown-up is busy with baby.  This is a very sweet book showing a big sister who realizes that she really does love her brother.


The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

the matchbox diaryA young girl visits her great-grandfather for the first time ever.  The girl looks around the room – full of books, boxes, collections, photos, antiques.  The great-grandfather says,

Pick whatever you like the most.  Then I’ll tell you its story.

The girl brings the old man a cigar box full of matchboxes.  The old man tells her the box is full of stories – that it is his diary.

When the girl asks what a diary is, the old man replies:

A way to remember what happens to you.  Usually it’s a book people write in.  When I was your age, I had a lot I wanted to remember, but I couldn’t read or write.  So I started this.  Open the first one.

Each matchbox contains a small object that holds a memory for the old man.  He shares them with the girl.

The first matchbox has an olive pit.  The old man tells of when he was a child in Italy and his family was terribly poor.  His mother would give him an olive pit to suck on when he was hungry if the didn’t have enough food.

One matchbox has a ticket to his first baseball game – in the United States – that he went to with his father.  Another matchbox has printer’s letters – and the old man tells about learning typesetting and working with a printing press.

The final picture shows the girl in a seat on an airplane, putting two objects into compartments in an empty chocolates (or something like that) box – one of them is a printer’s letter.

Through saved objects and stories from memories, readers learn about the life of the old man – from a poor boy in Italy, to traveling to the United State on a ship, to Ellis Island, to time as a migrant worker, to learning to read and write, to learning printing as a trade, and owning a bookshop.

This is a book with a sense of mystery and of history.  It is also a story of a great-grandfather and great-granddaughter getting to know each other.


International Talk Like A Pirate Day

International Talk Like A Pirate Day – September 19

talk like a pirate dayToday is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Recent dinner conversations in our home have been peppered with silly pirate talk like, “Avast ye scurvy dogs!” and “Shiver me timbers!”  and “Arrr!”

What is International Talk Like A Pirate Day?  and what is the point?  Well.  Um.  I think it is just to be silly….a little lighthearted silliness.  And, couldn’t everyone use a little just plain silliness once in a while?

I’ve recommended a good book with an engaging pirate main character, and included a link to learn to read treasure hunts at the end of the post, so, read on….

According to the official website,

Talking like a pirate is fun. It’s really that simple.

It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers.

In other words, silliness is the holiday’s best selling point.

The folks who started International Talk Like A Pirate Day do point out that they are talking like “movie pirates, the pirates of books, myth and legend. Think Long John Silver in “Treasure Island.” Pretend pirates.”  And, they point out that: “Real pirates were and are bad people and are in no way worthy of emulating.”  This is just a way to be silly, to have fun being silly.

So, me mateys.  Be ye wantin’ te know ’bout pirates?  This be a good read:



Bookworm Bear recommends Jack Plank Tells Tales – you can read the review here.




Ad site button reading treasure hunts

Be thar treasure?

These fun treasure hunts help children learn to read – free downloadable learn to read treasure hunts.

International Dot Day

International Dot Day – September 15

interntl dot dayToday is International Dot Day, “a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration.”  This creative celebration was inspired by the book, The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

A teacher’s guide, some videos, Celibri-dots blog (dot images by authors, illustrators, and other famous folks), and a gallery of images of creative projects folks have done in the past to celebrate International Dot Day.  To learn more about International Dot Day, or to find ideas for activities, visit the website:

Bookworm Bear loves Peter H. Reynolds books.  We’ve reviewed The Dot and Ish here – they are well worth looking for at local libraries and bookstores.

Dot cover smallIsh


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.