Monthly Archives: November 2012

Otter and Odder


Otter and Odder is an adorable book about love written by James Howe and illustrated by Chris Raschka.  It tells the story of an Otter who is out looking for his lunch one day, when he comes across a beautiful fish named Gladys.  Instead of eating her, Otter immediately falls in love with Gladys, and Gladys returns his love.

All of the other otters talk about how odd Otter is, and how falling in love with a fish is not the correct way.  Gladys and Otter know that they love each other, despite what everyone else had to say.  However, Otter must eat fish to survive, and Gladys is afraid he will eat her friends and family.  Otter wishes he could not eat fish, but eating fish is the way of the otter.  In order to protect her loved ones, Gladys leaves Otter.

Otter, deeply heartbroken, visits his friend Beaver.  Beaver, who is known to be very wise, convinces Otter to change his diet to apples and tree bark.  This way, Otter and Gladys can still be together.  Gladys comes back to Otter, and despite the oddness of their relationship, they live happily ever after!

Otter and Odder is a tale of everlasting love and how we should never give up once we find that love.  It teaches us that despite all odds, love will always find a way.  It also teaches us that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the people we love, but it’s worth it because we get to be with them.  With bright, colorful illustrations and an uplifting ending, this is a book that people of all ages (not just children!) will enjoy.

– Abbey Stephens

Amelia Bedelia


Amelia Bedelia is so excited for her first day at work. Although the Rogers cannot be there to talk her through her first day, Mrs. Rogers leaves Amelia Bedelia a list of chores for her to complete. With much optimism, Amelia Bedelia starts her work but quickly realizes that the Rogers do things a little differently than she is used to: the Rogers like to “dust the furniture, “dress the chicken”, and “change their towels”. This confuses Amelia Bedelia but she remembers that Mrs. Rogers told her to do exactly what the list said. Amelia Bedelia changes the Roger’s home with quirkiness and yummy pie; their house will never be the same.


This is a great book to read one-on-one between a parent (or teacher) and child. Children in first or second grade who are still working on mastering their reading skills would be the best audience. Amelia Bedelia shows her readers that it is okay to do things your own way. Being your own person allows people to love you for who you are; therefore, embrace your uniqueness.


Reviewed by: Nichole Forde


Giraffes Can’t Dance


ImageGerald is very good at reaching the highest leaves on the trees to eat and standing still; however, due to his wobbly legs and knobby knees, he is quite clumsy for a giraffe. Every time Gerald tries to skip, run, or jump, he ends up tripping over his own two feet and tumbling to the ground. All of the other animals know Gerald’s reputation of being a klutz, so when he shows up at the annual Jungle Dance and contemplates stepping out on the dance floor, the animals all laugh at Gerald. Very embarrassed, Gerald sulks away from the dance feeling very lonely. Suddenly a cricket appears and tells Gerald that “sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” The cricket then helps Gerald listen for his own rhythm and song in the wild and Gerald gradually starts to sway until he is dancing a most extraordinary dance. With his new sense of courage and confidence in his new dance moves, Gerald returns to the Jungle Dance and dazzles the other animals with his graceful movements. The animals cheer on giraffe and have to admit, Gerald the giraffe can dance. 

This is a great book to teach children that everyone is unique, and sometimes when we feel lonely and discouraged from not fitting in, we need to discover what is special about ourselves and share that with the world. Gerald overcomes his fears of dancing in public and the bullying from the other animals by finding out that he had to find his own way of dancing. This is truly a rich story to teach about embracing diversity and overcoming fears of being an outcast. 


-Megan Wongkamalasai

Who Lives in the Zoo? by Lisa Bonforte



“Who Lives in the Zoo?” first published in 1981 is an Oldie but Goodie! “A Golden Storytime Book” it uses a picture book format to teach young readers about all of the wonderful animals they might find on a trip to the zoo!

Chimpanzees appear to be puzzling through what to do with a tree branch, lion cubs lounge about on their mother, and an ostrich kicks up dirt as it is indeed very fast. One camel has one hump and two camels have two humps and a big hippopotamus takes a swim. Three sea lions play in a pond, a giraffe takes a yoga pose to take a sip, and big tigers use their stripes to hide in tall grass. There is even an itty bitty elephant who uses its small trunk to take a bath!









“Who Lives in a Zoo?” provides detailed illustrations of all of the zoo animals and their appropriate environments from the ice caps to the Sahara, with particularly well done shading work. The text is also separated in outlined boxes on every page with a good sized font and  only a few sentences on every page to provide for an easy but informative read for a younger child. A great choice for children interested in animals or one already gearing up for a trip to the zoo themselves. However, fair warning, if they  aren’t already going to the zoo, they probably will want to after this!


Review by: Bianca Novo


This week, I had the privilege of hearing Rebecca Kai Dotlich speak about her picturebook, Bella and Bean. The book tells a story about two very different friends (and mice!).

Image Bella is a creative yet obsessive poet who is constantly writing, trying to find the perfect words for her poems. Bean, on the other hand is an adventurous and outdoorsy mouse who simply wants Bella is come explore with her! Bella is quite annoyed by her fellow mouse’s constant interruptions but as soon as Bella gives in she finds herself inspired by Bean’s adventures. In the end, the two mice compose the perfect friendship poem, solidifying their bond. 

After hearing Rebecca Dotlich talk, I could see so much of her in this story. She is witty and playful in speech and that is evident in the dialogue between Bella and Bean.  It was great to experience an author’s background and passion for a story. I would recommend this book for all ages, especially 1st-3rd grade. This story provides its readers with lessons of friendship and acceptance.


This is definitely a must read!


Anna Tobia

Guess How Much I Love You


Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, is a story of a young rabbit, Little Nutbrown Hare, and his parent, Big Nutbrown Hare. As the story’s title implies, the book is about the two rabbits telling one another how much they love each other. The whole book is a competition to illustrate how much they love each other, and Big Nutbrown Hare always one-ups Little Nutbrown Hare.


The competition starts with Little Nutbrown Hare saying, “This much.” He stretches his arms out to show Big Nutbrown Hare.

Big Nutbrown Hare replies by stretching his larger arms out even further and saying, “But I love you this much!”




The book goes on and on with the two of them reaching as high as they can, jumping as high as they can, and stating as far as they can see. The book ends with with Big Nutbrown Hare putting Little Nutbrown Hare down to bed after Little Nutbrown Hare says, “I love you right up to the moon.” Big Nutbrown Hare kisses him and says, “I love you right up to the moon–and back.”

This book is wonderful to read to your children as toddlers. They will be stretching their arms wide and up to the sky just like Little Nutbrown Hare. Turns out that love is pretty difficult to physically measure! It’s a great reminder to your children about how much you love them. It’s a classic book that will stick with your children forever, and will probably be passed on to future generations!


-Elizabeth Gunckle

Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens by Cindy Neuschwander


On October 9, Tamara reviewed Cindy Neuschwander’s Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland (illustrated by Wayne Geehan), a mathematical adventure involving angle measurement.  Since the “Sir Cumference” series is such a great tool for math teachers to review important concepts, it’s a good idea to get to know one of the other books in this series, also written by Neuschwander and illustrated by Geehan…

This story involves Sir Cumference and his wife, Lady Di of Ameter.  They decide to throw their king a surprise birthday party and invite everyone in the kingdom.  When the guests begin arriving, the unfortunate couple has the impossible task of figuring out how many meals they need to provide, in order for everyone to eat.  After trying various options – including forming circles of people and having them form a single-file line – they figure out that the guests could line up in rows of 10, so that all Lady Di of Ameter needs to do is count the rows.  There are still so many rows, though, that she needs to tell the guests to separate themselves by every ten rows, to equal 100 guests in each group.  Throughout the story, so many guests arrive that groups of 1000 need to be made to make the counting easier.

The mathematical adventure here is place value.  Sir Cumference and his wife ultimately organize the guests into groups of 1000, then 100, then 10, and finally the remaining individuals.  The cool thing about this story is that the numbers within the text are represented as words (e.g. “They had eight groups of one thousand, nine groups of one hundred…”), but the illustrations express the numbers as numerals.  This allows students to directly compare the plot to the colorful pictures they are seeing on every page.

Of course, the story has a happy ending, too — all of the guests get fed and enjoy a huge cake shaped like a castle!

–Derek Reinhold

Mem Fox’s Wombat Divine


I don’t know about you, but this cold weather has already gotten me in the holiday spirit, so I have chosen to share Wombat Divine, a 1995 Christmas treasure by Mem Fox.

This is a wonderful story of a wombat dreaming of being in the Nativity play at Christmas. He tries out for part after part, but he is not right for any part. He is too heavy to be an angel, too big to be Mary, too sleepy to be Joseph, too clumsy, too shortsighted, too short, until he is completely discouraged and sad. Finally, the animal who beat him out for Mary realizes the role of Baby Jesus has not been cast. The director (a bossy Emu) forgot to cast that part! Wombat is perfect for the job! He gets to be the star of the show and be himself, a too heavy, too big, too short, too clumsy, too shortsighted, too sleepy Wombat.

This sweet Christmas tale incorporates so many beneficial elements for children, starting with the theme of being accepted and appreciated for being oneself. The story embodies this theme so well. The characters, although possibly unfamiliar to American children, demonstrate the life and background of the Australian author Mem Fox so well. The repetition throughout the story of “Wombat! Don’t lost heart. Why not try for a different part?” is fun and engaging for young beginning readers who can begin to follow this pattern and contribute to the reading.

The book is packed with emotion as we experience with Wombat the sadness of not being good enough for so many things, and then the pride of finally getting it right. Although this book could not be read in public schools without causing quite a controversial because of its religious content, it would be a great read for a family at Christmas time!

Reviewed by Olivia Calandro

The Underground Railroad through Primary Sources


This may seem like an odd book to feature on this blog, but as its reviewer’s choice today I decided to do a nonfictional text that I’ve been using as a resource lately. The Underground Railroad: A Primary Source History of The Journey to Freedom by Philip Wolny is a GREAT TEXT to use in the elementary (or even older!) classroom when teaching the Civil War and seeking a new angle. The book features a great timeline about the abolitionist movement and really helps to put a face on the other abolitionists in the North, not just those involved in the Underground Railroad. Featuring a primary source on essentially every other page, this book is a great way to get your students (or even one’s children) involved in learning the Civil War from the people who were actually there, rather than a textbook.

One of my favorite chapters was about William Lloyd Garrison who published a weekly newspaper called The Liberator for over thirty years with the sole purpose of educating the masses and ending slavery. I’ve been researching the Civil War for over two weeks and this was the first time I’d even heard of William Lloyd Garrison! There are so many cool facts and interesting people to meet in this book, I’d highly recommend it to any person wanting to teach or just learn more about the abolitionist movement during the Civil War.



– Jillian Kemper

An Oldie but a Goodie: Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh



This well-known story begins with three white mice and a cat. The three mice cleverly hide from the cat’s view on a white piece of paper, their colorless camouflage.

However, one day when the cat was napping, the mice had a colorful adventure! They discovered three jars of paint. Thinking it was mouse paint, they hopped into the jars and covered themselves in paint! Image

Now our three mouse friends were blue, red, and yellow. Their new colors dripped all around them, creating puddles, perfect for jumping! First, the red mouse danced in the yellow puddle. His dancing feet mixed the colors together, and, to their surprise, made orange!


The yellow mouse to his turn in the blue puddle, which got all stirred up and turned green! Next, it was the blue mouse’s turn. He splished and splashed in the red puddle until all his dancing made it purple!

They learned that red and yellow make orange,

Yellow and blue make green,

And blue and red make purple.

After they washed themselves from the hardened paint, the three white mice started painting their white paper in all six colors they had discovered. They painted a part blue, one part red, one part yellow, and then did three parts orange, green, and purple…

but they left one part white, just in case the cat went looking for them again.

A favorite among elementary art teachers, Mouse Paint has charmed children and adults for years. It is perfect for adventurous toddlers and young artists who want to learn about the three primary colors and how they can be mixed into their favorite secondary colors. The simply story is playful and engaging, but explicitly conveys to readers how to mix colors. Working with many art teachers, I have seen several fun ways to incorporate the mischief of the mice into a fun art activity, like using colored icing on cookies for the children to mix and create their own colorful treats!

Though it is useful as a classroom book for art, Mouse Paint would be an excellent addition to any home or school library for early readers, from toddlers to first or second graders. This adventure in a mouse’s world of color will remain a family favorite for years to come!


Grace McKinney