Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fabulous Books Published in 2010: The Odious Ogre


The Odious Ogre written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer marks the return of the duo that brought us the tale of The Phantom Tollbooth. With the tale of The Odious Ogre, they do not disappoint their readers. The story is about an Ogre whose reputation precedes him throughout nearby towns. Everyone is terribly frightened of the Ogre for good reasons. When he enters towns and villages, he terrorizes the place and feasts on the population. The people run and hide in hopes of escaping the terrible Ogre, but usually most are not successful. He finds it easy to find dinner and to frighten the people. In fact, the Ogre feels unstoppable because everyone is scared of him and no one tries to stop him. It is all just too easy for him. However, one day, he comes across a small cottage removed from the rest of the town. There he runs into a young woman who has no idea about the Ogre’s reputation. So the young woman is kind to the Ogre, and soon he is wondering if he is really all that unstoppable.

Norton Juster does a great job of telling this story in a fun way that kids will enjoy. This story is written in a fun and clever way that will be sure to grab children’s attention. The language of the book is wonderful and really keeps the story flowing. This is a wonderful read aloud book where the words easily roll off of your tongue. Juster’s use of descriptive language is just wonderful. I loved the combination of words Juster uses to describe the Ogre, and the way he describes the people’s perception of the Ogre is also impeccably done in my opinion. Sometimes you just can’t help but find yourself smile while reading this book. Juster does use some words that many young children will have no idea of what they mean, but it just offers children a great opportunity to expand their vocabulary. The message of the book is also a good one for children. This book shows you that kindness can go a long way, which is an important lesson for kids to learn.

The illustrations in this book are amazing. Jules Feiffer does a great job of illustrating just how hideous and disgusting the Ogre is. He also does a good job of scaling the illustrations. From the illustrations, you can really get a sense of how big the Ogre is. I especially, like the pages where you cannot see the entirety of the Ogre, but only his bottom half because that is just how gigantic he is. Feiffer’s watercolor illustrations really do a fantastic job of bringing the story to life. The illustrations are really eye catching and you just can’t help but to stop and look at them. The layout of the book is also done very well. The text and the illustrations are integrated very well with one another. I also really liked how in some of the pages there was the incorporation of word bubbles in the illustrations.

Overall, I thought that this book was amazing. Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer both did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life. Both the language and the illustrations of the story are fantastic. I would highly recommend this book to others because it is a fun read aloud that both children and adults would really enjoy.

Happy Reading!


Wonderful Books From the Past: Cowboy and Octopus


Cowboy and Octopus is an endearing tale of a not-so-likely friendship between a stereotypical cowboy and a rather intelligent octopus. Cowboy meets Octopus during a chance encounter at what Cowboy thinks is a broken seesaw. Octopus shows Cowboy how to use the seesaw correctly, thus leading to the decision to become friends:

“So Cowboy and Octopus shake hands…and shake hands, and shake hands, and shake hands, and shake hands, and shake hands, and shake hands, and shake hands.”

With their new friendship intact, Cowboy and Octopus go around and participate in typical friend activities. For example, Octopus asks Cowboy to help him build a toy boat, and later Cowboy surprises Octopus with a homemade meal of Cowboy’s favorite food. Cowboy also offers Octopus advice on his Halloween costume and, later on, his hat. Octopus attempts to share a knock-knock joke with Cowboy, but the punch line goes terribly awry. Of course, that in and of itself, is enough to laugh about.

The artwork in this book exemplifies the truly unique style that can be found in many of Scieszka and Smith’s books. They use a collage medium that encompasses many different pictures, ranging from real photographs to comic book images. There are very eclectic headings on each page that begins a new friendship adventure that resembles a cross between a very attractive scrapbook and a ransom letter.

The wonderful thing about Scieszka and Smith’s work is that it’s different. There are not a lot of books out there that capture the amazing intertwining of witty writing and one-of-a-kind illustrations. This book would be a great tool for providing children with examples of how different books can be. Scieszka and Smith really know how to push the envelope in the children’s literature world. And after listening to Scieszka at the Southern Festival of Books, I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Check out Jon Scieszka’s website for more laughs.

Happy Reading!


Marvelous Picture Book: Don’t Make Me Laugh


Don’t Make Me Laugh, written and illustrated by James Stevenson, is a light-hearted book filled with humor. Mr. Frimdimpny, a bossy crocodile who never smiles, speaks directly to the reader and lays down several rules to keep in mind while reading the book. “Are you LISTENING?,” he asks. No laughing or smiling are allowed during the reading of the book, and if those rules are broken, Mr. Frimdimpny requires the reader to go back to the beginning. As Mr. Frimdimpny introduces the reader to Pierre the waiter, Fendently the elephant with a cold, and a hippo who works in a china shop, he continues to speak to the reader as indicated by bold text. Three very silly stories are told that will surely have children and adults laughing (and breaking the crocodile’s number one rule!) This innovative, interactive style of writing will engage children in the text and get them excited about reading.

The ink and water color illustrations are cartoon-esque and pop on the stark white pages. Shocking colors, like the bright green shade of Mr. Frimdimpny, make the book look appealing and exciting.
Children will love reading this book and feeling like a part of the story. Each character speaks to the readers directly and ask them not to do something. This comical picture book is unique and fun to read.
Happy Reading!



The Night Fairy an exciting junior novel written by Newbery Medal Winner, Laura Amy Schlitz is an exciting novel that takes you into the world of a tiny, spunky night fairy named Flory. This bewitching tale begins when Flory, not yet used to her wings, gets them crunched off by a bat! Flory is forced to brave the big, scary, world alone without her wings or another night fairy like her. This book puts the reader directly into the story with Flory while she overcomes the many difficulties in her miniature life!

I definitely enjoyed reading this novel, and know I would have loved it even more if I was a little younger. I believe that it is a story that mostly girls would enjoy over boys because the main character is a female fairy, but there is definitely enough adventure to suit a boy just fine! To test this theory, I asked my nine year old sister, Jessica, who is currently in fourth grade to read this book and
tell me how she felt about it.
Here’s her response:
The Night Fairy was a very interesting book. In my opinion I thought it had a weak beginning storyline. However, it managed to become an amazing, detailed and sparkled junior novel. I thought Flory was an intriguing character because of her ability to become stronger. She was brave, honest, powerful, and understanding. With those four features she had to face challenges that other Night Fairies don’t ordinarily have to because of her broken wings. My favorite part of the book was the solution of saving the bluebird & her babies. I also enjoyed when the bat came along, she was very kind and gave Flory the characteristic of forgiveness. As I said before I loved this book and would be proud to say it was AMAZING!!! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this book. As my final statement I will say THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

….I think she enjoyed it! This is a great read aloud for any age and an enjoyable junior novel for readers age 7-11!



a special thanks to my brilliant little sister, Jessica D’Agostino

to learn more, click here!


This hilarious picture book, written and illustrated by Nina Laden in 1994, tells the tale of a boy who becomes suspicious of what his dog does at night and decides to follow him. He is shocked as he watches his dog, decked out in a tux, hop into a limo speed away to a swanky downtown nightclub for dogs! The clever story and comical details about the secret life of a seemingly boring pet are exciting and unique.

While the brightly colored pastel illustrations chock full of witty detailing are wonderful, my favorite characteristic of the book is the playful aspect of the text itself. Several words on each page are creatively printed in an artistic way, like the phrase “roll over” printed upside down or the word “eats” depicted with bite marks on it. This provides great opportunities for young children to interact with the book, as they may be able to help “read” along or make connections between the text and illustrations. Stronger readers will be able to appreciate the humor and creativity of the text and will love to look at this book.

Recommended for ages 4 to 8, The Night I Followed the Dog is a book that will entertain both children AND adults. I loved revisiting this childhood favorite of mine!

For more information about Nina Laden and her other works in children’s literature, visit

Happy Reading!


Marvelous Picture Books! Cookies: Bite-Sized Life Lessons


Cookies: Bite-Sized Life Lessons is a splendid book Remove Formatting from selectionwritten by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Illustrated by Jane Dyer. The content of the book teaches children manners and respect. While the book sends a great message, the whimsical illustrations are what capture the reader’s attention. The pastel watercolor illustrations have a softness to them that is inviting and endearing. I love how animals are portrayed as humans and intertwined with the young children in the story. The illustrations enhance the meaning of each lesson and clearly demonstrate what the author is trying to get across.

The layout of the text is integral to the charm of the book. Lessons which have steps to understanding the meaning were paired with a small picture to show what the lesson looks like. Text on full picture pages seamlessly interacts with the illustration and do not take away from the quality of the artwork. The cookies make this book enticing for children and parents or teachers who get to read it!

Jane Dyer has illustrated the entire series of cookie books written by Amy Rosenthal. Her work can also be admired in Time For Bed by Mem Fox as well as Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead by Ruth Krauss.

Happy Reading!


Weekend Wonderings


In my humble opinion, the students of Peabody’s ENED 2100 class have done one spectacular job in the first less-than-two months of the BLOG!

Neely’s News has been tweeted about by Vanderbilt Twitterers. Former students have sent me e-mails telling me how they are enjoying the BLOG and several have even left comments. And one former student has even suggested that we need to expand what we are doing.

Since you were all once undergrads, you know that for a professor to spring some new assignment on students at mid-semester is despised. So, I shall refrain from that! Rather, I’ll start my own

                                             Weekend Wonderings 

postings. Each weekend (probably on Saturday nights, as that is still the dullest and slowest time of my week), I will post a short piece inviting requests for what future posts might be of use.

For example, Amber Parks wrote me this week with this comment and question: “I have enjoyed reading students’ reviews and recommendations of great children’s books. Where/how do I post my request for them to keep an eye out for books that deal with big moral themes such as courage, determination, believing in yourself, etc.?”

So, when we all return from our Fall Break (i.e., long weekend), I will ask the class to look for books to review that relate to Amber’s request.
Whether you are a practicum student, student teacher, excellent classroom teacher of Preschoolers through Sixth graders, consultant, parent, blogger, whatever…..
please leave comments that will help us all keep you all informed!  

Happy Reading, Ann

Wonderful Books From the Past: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is a story about a boy named Alexander who is not having the best of luck throughout his day. From the moment he wakes, it seems as though the world is against him and nothing is right for him. I guess that is how you feel when you wake up to find gum in your hair. Throughout the day, Alexander keeps on encountering problems like not finding a prize in the cereal box, losing his position as the #1 friend, not having dessert in his lunch box, and having lima beans for dinner. All he wants to do is move to Australia in order to get away from all the bad things happening to him. However to his dismay, his mother tells him that everyone has bad days, even in Australia.

The main reason that I really like this book is because it touches on something that every child will experience. We all have had at least one bad day where we felt as though nothing was going right for us, but was just fine for everyone else. This book is a great book for children because it can help tshow them that everyone has bad days and that they are not alone in their experiences. Alexander is a great character for children to relate to because we have all felt the way that he does in the story, and I am sure we have had some of those things that happened to him happen to us. This story is a great way to introduce discussions onabout bad days and experiences with children. On top of all of that, the story is charming and funny, and it has a catchy phrase that is repeated throughout the book, “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” that is bound to catch on with the children.

The illustrations of the book are done by Ray Cruz and they are hand drawn illustrations. The illustrations are done in black and white, which I think adds to the mood of the story. When you think of colors that go along with a bad day, you think of black and grayish colors. The illustrations are very well done and go along with the story quite well. The text and illustrations are also integrated with one another very well.

This book is recommended for children 6 to 9. The book was first published in 1972, and it is great book that children will enjoy for many more years to come!

Happy Reading!

Marvelous Picture Books: Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child


Happy Monday, everyone! Before I get into my review of Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child by Bob Graham, I wanted to tell you a little about this weekend’s excitement. The Southern Festival of Books was held in Nashville, and on October 9 members of our class attended the preview screening of Library of the Early Mind at the Nashville Public Library. Library of the Early Mind is a documentary directed by Ted Delaney that explores children’s literature through interviews with various writers and illustrators including Mo Willems, Natalie Babbitt, Brian Pinkney, and more. Following the viewing was a panel discussion with Ted Delaney, Mo Willems, and Jon Scieszka, moderated by our very own Dr. Ann Neely!! The discussion was very entertaining and informative and I was pleasantly surprised by how much they joked around with one another. I would definitely encourage you to seek out and view this film because it will give you a lot of insight on children’s literature and the creators of children’s literature. The film will premier at the Askwith Forum, Harvard University on October 19 and other screenings can be found on the Library of the Early Mind website.

With that said, Happy Viewing and on to the review!

Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child by Bob Graham is a story of a young girl named Annabelle who looks for fairies in her yard until she suddenly finds a families of fairies who fall from the sky in an ice cream truck. She meets a fairy child, Jethro Byrd, and invites him and his family over for tea. Although her parents cannot see the fairies because they are too grown up and “don’t have time for fairies,” her mom makes tea and fairy cakes for the Byrd’s. Annabelle is enchanted by the fairy music made by the family and is very disappointed when the Byrd family must leave to attend the Fairy Travelers’ Picnic. As a token and a thank you, Jethro gives Annabelle a fairy watch telling fairy time that she can wear as a ring; fairy time goes by much slower than human time.
One of the things I like most about this story is that although her parents cannot see the Byrd family of fairies, they do not discourage Annabelle from what she is seeing. While they are not particularly engaged, they do support what she is experiencing. This book would be great for children because it reminds them that while adults may not see the same things as them, imagination and exploration are important. The illustrations are engaging because they vary from cartoon-style reels, full page illustrations, and double page illustrations; the format of the illustrations really add to the quality of the story and fit together seamlessly. The words are also woven into the illustrations meticulously, and the way the text is broken up seems to mimic that of a poem. Further, the font is large and would make a good read aloud, despite being a relatively long story.
The book is recommended for ages 4-7 and is published by Candlewick Press. Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child has won the Kate Greenaway Medal and was chosen as a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Children’s Literature Choice List Title, a Parenting Book of the Year, a Smithsonian Notable Book for children, and a Chicago Public Library Best Book for Children. The story of Jethro Byrd reminds us to keep searching for magic in our backyard and to slow down and go by the fairy time every once and a while. The British version can also be found under the title of Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child.
Happy Reading!


Fabulous Books Published in 2010: BONES

Steve Jenkins’s Bones, Skeletons and How They Work is a refreshing new nonfiction book published this year. Jenkins dives head first (literally) into uncovering a world of bones. He shows his audience the wide variety of bones through his gorgeous cut paper collages. He strategically places bones of different animals side by side to show the huge differences bones can have. Soaring through the world of bones, Jenkins starts with a brief description of “Bones, Bones, Bones”. He then begins to trace the human skeleton starting with bones in the hands, arms, feet, legs, ribs, back, neck, and all the way to head, showing how they all essentially work together to help us perform everyday activities. He allows his reader to learn about bones in their own bodies while being able to compare it to the bones in other animals.

He creatively titles each section of the book which helps key the reader in on what he is writing about but still leaving room for the reader to interact with the book and have fun. Some of the illustrations are shown in actual sizes and others are shown two times the actual size or even one-seventh of the actual size. It really allows you to be able to think about the wide range of sizes bones come in! You can even compare your own hand to the bones of the hand that is shown in this book!

Jenkins crafted a beautiful cover jacket for this book. It is a nice deep red that will surely capture your attention with a life size skull on the front and a full human skeleton running away in the back. The front part of the jacket gives a brief description of bones and the back part of the jacket tells you a little bit about Steve Jenkins. The cover page and the end page brilliantly wraps up the whole book. Instead of just telling you about bones, he really takes you on an adventure of the skeleton! For the text inside the book, he uses a white font with dark rich colors in the background that really makes the words pop. It works so well with the topic of bones that it really just helps unify the text and the illustrations. The text and the illustrations complement each other in the sense that it both enhances the overall effect on the reader. Jenkins purposefully ends the book with a few pages that allows the reader to find out even more about bones. As he ends his adventure of discovering the skeleton and its functions with the reader, he provides some facts, stories, history, and science about bones to help satisfy the reader’s craving for more information about bones. It is indeed very interesting and now I feel like I know more about bones than I have ever before!

If you want to know everything you need to know about bones in just five minutes AND have fun doing it, pick up Bones, Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins and you will surely be b(l)one away!

To find out more about Steve Jenkins and his other books, check out his website:


Betty Sat