Monthly Archives: February 2014

Friday Favorite: Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas

Lullaby_ThomasI read Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy in a silly-themed story time this week and the kids looooved it- I have some very squirrely, outspoken boys in my preschool groups and even they were mesmerized. I read it in my best “country western” accent, and I wish I had remembered to wear a fake mustache and cowboy hat (next time…). I sang the opening lullaby, using a tune similar to the one in the book trailer. I invited the kids to sing along with me, once they’d heard it a couple times. This is one you could get props for, or act out with a storytelling partner. And if you played banjo or guitar (a skill I long to have), it would be fantastic to incorporate.

Other Jan Thomas titles include: What Will Fat Cat Sit On?, Rhyming Dust Bunnies, The Doghouse, A Birthday for Cow, Can You Make a Scary Face? and more. To learn more about Jan Thomas, here’s an author interview from “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast” a wonderful book blog worth your time.

Jan Thomas books are hilarious, and I love their innate invitation to play and interact, whether it’s with an individual child or an entire audience. They are great titles with large appeal; quite likely to help your child develop print motivation (an interest in and enjoyment in books), one of the six early literacy skills children need to have before learning to read.


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss: A look at

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I’ve always loved Dr. Seuss, for his rhymes and imaginative worlds, his silly vocabulary and his wonderfully creative characters. His books are a delight for people of all ages. In honor of his 110th birthday on March 2 and NEA’s Read Across America day, schools, libraries and bookstores all over the country are having events to celebrate (the library I work at, CMCL, is having a “Seven Days of Seuss Celebration!” all week- if you’re local, come check it out).

If you haven’t seen the Seussville website, it’s worth your time. This is the top resource for everything Seuss. The American Library Association has listed it as one of their “Great Websites for Kids” Packed with games and activities, it will get kids excited about books and reading. It’s also full of helpful resources for parents and educators. I love their list of “Tips for Reading with your Children“,  all the activities and craft ideas they have, and fun printables for kids! There are book and character guides, videos, author info, and more. If you’re an educator or librarian, don’t miss the great lesson plans to expand on your favorite Seuss titles. Here’s a description:

“Not only do Dr. Seuss’s imaginative stories make reading and learning fun, they also spark lively discussions about subjects as varied as conservation, racism, greed, perseverance, and self-discovery. These guides will help you think of fun and interesting ways for your students to learn about Dr. Seuss’s world and their own.”

One of our family’s favorite Seuss books lately is And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street but it’s really impossible to choose just one. I have fond memories of many Seuss stories from my own childhood and am thankful for all those weekly trips to the library and zillions of hours being read to. My top suggestion for raising a reader? Read! Have books everywhere (not only on bookshelves, but in the bathroom, car, playroom, office, etc.) and read to your kids every day. If you need more reading tips and suggestions, I highly recommend Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book, character, or resource? I’d love to hear from you!

The Bullying Disconnect: Picture Books and the Playground

I haven’t seen this one yet, but looks worth checking out!

Read Aloud Picture Books

Leave Me Alone

The intersection of bullying and picture books makes me cringe. The issue is extremely troubling; but most of the picture book “solutions” are worse: possessing all the street cred of a wannabe suburban gangster.

In this dreamworld, one act of kindness can reform a bully and saying, “STOP IT” works. Meanwhile, back on reality ranch, bullies target the isolated and exploit them because no one stands up for them.

Not in Leave Me Alone.

Despite the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that dominates our unnamed protagonist, friends rally to his side and turn the bully back with a realistic solution: strength in numbers.

Unfortunately Kes Gray and Lee Wildish’s work is not completely uncontaminated by the picture book fantasy of easy solutions. (The bully never returns.) But Leave Me Alone reduces the disconnect between picture books and the playground by showing how to actually stop a bully; and I’m all for…

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Friday Favorite: Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup

Big Smelly Bear

Sometimes it takes a caring friend to deliver a hard-to-digest truth.  Sometimes to make things better we just need a warm bath and a friend to scratch that hard-to-reach itch.  Big Smelly Bear by German author Britta Teckentrup has quickly become a favorite in our house lately.  It stars a big brown bear- a big smelly brown bear- who has no interest in taking care of himself by brushing or bathing until he realizes it is keeping him from having any friends.

“Big Smelly Bear never brushed. Big Smelly Bear never took a bath. Big Smelly Bear was followed by a big smelly stink wherever he went. Flies buzzed all around him. But they were the only ones that ever came close.”

One day, he meets a Big Fluffy Bear who offers to scratch his itch if he takes a bath. They argue back and forth, but when Big Fluffy Bear finally shouts, “you stink!” Big Smelly Bear decides to give bathing a try.  On its surface, this picture book is simply a silly story about bathing. But it also features themes about friendship, stubbornness, caring for yourself, and being honest even when it’s hurtful.

Big Smelly Bear makes a fantastic read-aloud because of its large, colorful illustrations; its humor and fun.  It would fit well in a preschool story time about bears, bathtime, friendship, or silly stories.  The argument between bears invites an opportunity for audience participation.  In writing this post, I realized that I’m already familiar with Britta Teckentrup through her stories Animal 123 and Animal Spots and Stripes, as well as Grumpy Cat, Clumsy Duck and more. Hopefully you’ll fall in love with her books as much as I have!

Friday Favorite: Five Favorite Love Themed Books for Children


There are many Valentine-themed picture books for children, but I tend to favor those loved-themed books that aren’t specific to Valentine’s Day- maybe because I can read and enjoy them with my kids any day of the year. After all, we express love for our children every day in big and small ways, not just on February 14. Here are 5 of my favorites that have the love theme, but only the first one is specific to the holiday. Great choices for the 2 and up crowd. Enjoy!

The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond

When hearts start pouring down instead of raindrops, Cornelia Augusta is inspired to make special Valentines for her friends.

Hello Baby by Mem Fox

A stunningly illustrated, animal-themed rhyming book with a narrative that ends with the message “You are my treasure”

The I Love You Book by Todd Parr

Fun and bright, this book expresses unconditional love for a child in any situation.

Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

Sappy, but I love it! Will totally inspire a snuggle-fest with your child. With a poetic narrative and magical illustrations, this book reminds us that we can feel love no matter where we are.

A Kiss Means I Love You by Kathryn Madeline Allen

Introduces various expressions and emotions with beautiful photos of children of all ethnicities. A great read-aloud too!

Scholastic has some other suggestions if these titles don’t appeal. What are your favorite love-themed children’s books? I’d love to know. Happy Valentine’s Day!