Monthly Archives: November 2013

Series Saturday: The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart


The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, part of The Very Fairy Princess series.

Meet Gerry, the very fairy princess!  Although she may not be a crowned princess, she knows that she is a true princess at heart, and that is all that matters.  She spent weeks and weeks working on special valentines for each person in her class, even the boys that like to collect bugs, and keeps them in a special folder to bring to school on Valentine’s Day.  Except, when she gets to class that day, she realized that she brought the wrong folder to school, so she has nothing to give to the rest of her class! In the end, she decides to make each of her friends feel loved by telling them what makes each of them sparkle.

With the abundance of sparkles and the use of red, pink, and purple in the illustrations, any true girlie-girl will fall in love with this picture book!  Also many girls could relate to Gerry’s desire to impress all her classmates with her fabulous homemade cards.  The storyline of this book is also really sweet and could be used to bring up to children how they would solve a problem like Gerry encountered when she realized that her cards did not make it to school with her.  Also, Gerry can show young girls that they do not have to be a real princess in order to feel special. Overall, this book is sweet and humorous and would be a great choice to read to a young girl to get her in the Valentine’s Day spirit!


Traditional Thursday: “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale”


For Traditional Thursdays this week, I was so excited to review “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters”, by John Steptoe. Steptoe takes on an African tale for a unique version of the traditional story of Cinderella. I thought this was a wonderful representation of a story we were all accustomed to. In this book, the Cinderella story runs through the main idea – a girl who is very beautiful, but somehow ‘less fortunate’ finds her ‘true prince’ through kindness and compassion. However, the details are quite different! First of all, our Cinderella, called Nyasha, is not a step-sister, but a true sister, to the catty and mean-spirited Manyara. Both girls wish to marry the King of the land, as they are the most beautiful daughters! Throughout the book, we see examples of Nyasha’s kindness to everyone and everything she meets – be it a garden snake or an old woman! However, Manyara is filled with greed and lust for power (much like Cinderella’s evil step-sisters) and wishes to beat Nyasha to the call of marrying the King. Sure enough, upon arriving at the King’s court, Manyara finds herself too frightened to see the truth in the world. Nyasha is rewarded for her kindness, and finds that the King was with her in every kind endeavor she came across, and truly knew her heart.

I think this book is a great way to challenge students’ perspectives – the same stories and messages can be told in every language! It is also a beautiful and engaging rendition of a popular story – thus engaging students in a new world with new settings, new characters, and new themes. The pictures really help the text come alive for the reader! I really think students would enjoy comparing and contrasting this story with the one they are usually familiar with.

Suzannah Sitterle 9780688040451 Lewis-Family-Playhouse-Mufaro-5-1

Winner Wednesday: “So You Want to Be President?”


This week, for Winner Wednesday, I selected “So You Want to Be President?” written by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small. With his fantastically accurate, yet hilariously cartoonish depictions, David Small took the Caldecott Medal for this book in 2001.

Through quippy anecdotes and interesting fun facts, children can really get a sense of the humanization of our presidents! Not only were the pictures phenomenal and so entertaining, but the text made everything worth while. I think this book really shows children what the presidents were like as actual people rather than powerful authority figures, which really helps give a more accurate and relatable insight into their presidencies. The text and illustrations go together so well, making this a grade-A Caldecott Medal Winner! I remembered reading this book in elementary school and was so glad to read it again for this post. I would definitely use this book in my classroom to teach students about our former presidents, because the information is valid and relevant, as well as presented in an engaging and accessible way. The unique portrayals of each president (be it looks, personality, background, etc.) really help get the message across that anyone can be President!

Suzannah Sitterle

Presidents Named William! president

Trendy Tuesdays: “It’s a Big World, Little Pig!”


For Trendy Tuesday, I decided to review “It’s a Big World, Little Pig!” written by Kristi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Tim Powers, because I had recently heard great reviews of it! It is definitely a more recent book, published in 2012 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. After reading it, I was so endeared by the message of diversity it sent – especially from such an inspiring author!

The book is about a talented, hard-working little pig named Poppy, who is competing in the World Games ice-skating championship in Paris. While she is nervous for her new adventure, she has a great support system that rallies around her. On her travels, she meets new competitors from different places. Her biggest accomplishment is learning that no matter how different her new friends seem, they all have so much in common on the inside!

While diversity is not considered ‘trendy’, it has become a topic that people are increasingly more aware of! I think Kristi Yamaguchi is such an incredible athlete that so many kids look up to, and I think the message she tries to send in this sweet book is just as admirable. Everyone smiles in the same language!


Suzannah Sitterle






The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper


This book tells the famous story of the little engine that thought, “I think I can.” Watty Piper tells readers about a train taking toys to the good little boy and girls around the mountain. On the way to deliver the toys,  the train breaks down and the clown driving the train had to flag down different types of trains for help. He asked many different kinds for help, but none of them could or would do it. Finally, a little blue engine helped them go around the mountain before the sun came up. The blue engine kept saying, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can,” until it could reach the mountain and could give the children toys and good food to eat.

The book teaches kids to never ever give up and keep going when something gets hard. It provides a valuable lesson in optimism and hard work. It is a really good book to read to kids who are struggling with something, or even as a classic bedtime story.


Haley Kellar

Sentimental Sunday: Corduroy


For Sentimental Sunday, I chose to review Corduroy by Don Freeman because it was one of my favorite books as a child.  I loved the adventure and the idea of being in the store at night with no one else around.  Corduroy is a great story about a lonely teddy bear looking for his forever home.  Children will love Corduroy’s adventures in the store after the people leave for the night.  The innocent teddy bear simply wants to find his missing button, but ends up causing quite a fuss!

I think Corduroy  is a fantastic children’s book about finding friendship and loving someone for who they are, even if they’re missing a button!  Corduroy  is also part of a series.  Fans of Corduroy should also check out A Pocket for CorduroyCorduroy Lost and Found, and the many other books about Corduroy!

Reviewed by:  Lindsay Freeland

Series Saturday: Clementine by Sara Pennypacker


I loved this book!  The main character and narrator, Clementine, is a hilarious girl that reminds me of myself at her age.  Clementine also reminds me of Junie B. Jones, which was my absolute favorite series as a child.  Throughout the book, Clementine is nervous that her parents want to give her away because she is the “hard” child because she somehow gets herself into these sticky situations. She is always trying to help other people, but somehow gets in trouble for it every time!  Whether it is for cutting her friend Margaret’s hair or using her mother’s fancy pens to draw hair on Margaret’s head, she was just trying to help a friend!  Clementine is really just a sweet, misunderstood, girl.  

Although Clementine would have been one of my favorites as a child, reading this book as an adolescent was still so enjoyable!  I think that any parent would also love to read this to their children because many parents can relate to Clementine’s parents’ struggles and laugh at the absurdity of Clementine’s thoughts and actions.  For example, one of my favorite parts in the book is when Clementine’s parents give her a kitten and she says that she has come up with the greatest name for it: Moisturizer.  

Clementine is the first book in the Clementine series and I think that this would be perfect for young girls in the lower elementary grades that are first starting to read chapter books.  They will be laughing at every page, especially the black and white illustrations.  Even though the drawings are so simple, they add even more humor to this book.  Overall, I would definitely recommend this book! 


Reviewed by Emily Rice


Free Friday: Penguin Cha Cha


In the Romping Chomping Park and Zoo, some mischievous penguins certainly know how to groove…

Meet Julia, an energetic girl with a passion for animals and a rhythm for dancing.  When she discovers that the penguins at the zoo have been keeping a huge secret about their amazing dance moves, she attempts to persuade her tuxedo friends to let her join in on the choreography.  After multiple disguises and the help of a few other wild animals, Julia finally gets to dance the cha cha of her dreams.


The author, illustrator, and salsa dancer Kristi Valient began working on this story after experimenting with drawing dancing penguins for fun.  The story came to her as a publisher became more interested in her adorable penguins that were considered Kristi’s unique artistic venture. From the twirls and flips, to the highly decorated costumes of these dancers, the illustrations look like they are hand drawn onto the paper.  The fine lines and blending of colors were actually done on a Wacom tablet with the Brush Creator; new computer illustrative technology used by artists for easier publication.  Penguin Cha Cha is one of the first books to be illustrated entirely by hand on a computer, but still looks like wonderful watercolors. This new movement of art involving technology will move in a more positive direction for publishers and illustrators due to the popularity of this tale.

I chose this book for Free Friday because it involves two of my favorite things- penguins and dancing.  I would recommend this book in a heartbeat for anyone enthusiastic about dance, from swing to ballet.  This book is a great read for young children interested in animals as each member of the zoo has their own secret talent.  Young readers delight in learning what is possible and what is impossible in delightful ways, such as when the zoo keeper checks on the penguins and seeing Julia in her penguin costume and believing all is well.  Readers will also love this book for its unique storyline and humorous characters, both wild and tamed.PenguinChaChaCover482x600cover

For future reading, I would recommend Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Angelina Ballerina, and Because of Winn-Dixie.



Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans


“In an old house in Paris/that was covered in vines/lived twelve little girls in two straight lines”, thus begins the classic story of a little Parisian girl named Madeline. Madeline is a universal story of a little French girl. She is the smallest of the twelve girls, who are watched over by Miss Clavel. They take all sorts of trips around the city. Madeline is fearless when it comes to mice and tigers in the zoo. She loves getting into mischief, which mostly involves scaring Miss Clavel. Unfortunately, one night Miss Clavel wakes up in a panic. Madeline is crying out in pain! She has to get her appendix removed. She gets to eat all the ice cream she wants, and gets some new toys too. All of her friends are jealous, and they want their appendixes removed too!


I loved this story growing up, because of the simple rhymes that guide the narrative. There are only a few words per page, yet the simple words coupled with the pictures tell a timeless tale.  My parents always used to quote “In two straight lines they broke their bread/and brushed their teeth/and went to bed” (probably to hasten the nightly routine). Since the story is set in Paris, France, the girls naturally visit the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Church of the Sacre Coeur, and many more famous Parisian sights. Because of the endearing and enduring character of Madeline, this story has continued to be a classic. It is so popular that there are many sequels and even a movie!


Reviewed by Emily Kreid


Trendy Tuesday: My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young


While reading, I unconsciously thought about the meaning of colors. For example: my blue is relaxing like the still waters of Lake Michigan on lazy summer nights. Or my yellow is excited like spring daisies growing in long

meadow grass. I think the idea of colors and the associations that accompany them would make for fun writing activities. How do you feel about colors? How can one connect colors with emotions and memories? Not only writing exercises, but also interactive discussion and narratives. Why does that color make you happy? Is there a story behind it’s meaning? More broadly, the book highlights the differences of individual’s thoughts. Children at young ages tend to think egocentrically, so having a book that illustrates different outlooks can help them to think in dimensions other than their own.

The cover image of the narrator eating a popsicle is inviting and welcoming to children and adults. Not only that, but also the semi-abstract illustrations perfectly demonstrate the meaning of the text. Colors do not have concrete meanings as Young has proved. As well, people think of colors differently because they trigger specific emotions, memories, or feelings. Consequently, the pictures have fluidity and are not tied down by harsh lines or restricting colors. In this way, Young is opening up different possibilties for seeing the world in wonderful and colorful new ways.

Lexie Fisher