Monthly Archives: February 2015

Free Fridays: The Juggling Pug


The Juggling Pug, written by Sean Bryan and illustrated by Tom Murphy, is a perfect picture book to read aloud with beginning readers. The sentences flow smoothly due to Bryan’s use of repetition and rhyme, and there is minimal text on each page (usually only one sentence per page), which makes it very approachable for early readers. This entertaining writing style is perfect for a short, humorous book.


The content of the book is silly and entertaining, centering around a pug who juggles just about everywhere he goes, leaving a mess behind him.  The people obviously do not care about his messes- I mean, seriously, he’s a juggling pug! There is one young girl, though, who gets pretty fed up with the juggling pug: he drinks all of her soda, digs holes in her yard, and let’s not forget his tendency to poop on the rugs of various homes. The pug and the girl work through their differences and come to an agreement; but, just when you think the pug’s shenanigans will come to an end, he visits a friend’s house and, yet again, poops on the rug.


While it may seem immature, I was thoroughly entertained by the content of this book; it truly brought out the inner child that still exists somewhere inside of me.

By Alyssa Janco

Traditional Thursdays: Madeline


71Q5QKZC2VL._SS500_One of my favorite books growing up was a compilation of all of the Madeline books by Ludwig Belmelmans. I read and re-read it until I earned the title “Mad about Madeline.” I watched the 1998 movie “Madeline” over and over, and was enchanted by the French school girls and their adventures.


I recently came across this book again. In reading it now, many years later, I was surprised how Belmelmans was able to convey so much with so few words. Most of the pages have one or two lines of text, and sometimes only one word. The story is told in rhyming poetry, often leaving much to the imagination of the reader.


 I was also surprised at the coloring of the illustrations. A large majority of the pages have$_35 only two colors: yellow and black. But then you’ll hit a two page spread with brilliant color, almost always an outdoor scene, and often with a famous landmark in the background. In both Belmelmans uses simple black lines and scribbled shading, often only enclosing part of an object in line.


I wondered at the capability of such sparse wording and simplistic illustrations to capture my attention as a young reader, and came across these quotes from the website


“What is it about this character that has endeared her to readers for more than 60 years? The answer is—attitude.”


“Madeline is a gutsy little girl, and that’s what makes her such a unique role model in a time when storybook princesses defined femininity for girls. Madeline gave young girls a reason to explore who they were as individuals, even if that meant being a tad disobedient. She gave girls the courage to speak their mind and showed them that there was nothing unfeminine about being smart and strong.”


I love that. And I love that Madeline has lasted from its original publication in 1939. And I love that it is continuing to last with new Madeline books from Belmelmans’ grandson! Check them out!

                                                                              madelinexf-8-web    Madeline-White-House

– Jocelyn Wildhack

Winners Wednesday


It might be Wednesday but today’s winner is Tuesday! Tuesday by David Wiesner, that is.

tuesdayWinner of the 1992 Caldecott Award, Tuesday tells the story of flying frogs and their adventures, through pictures. The text in Tuesday is minimal. Yet, what is lacking in words is made up for in thrilling illustrations. Every thing in every picture on every page adds to the magical mayhem that’s occurring on this Tuesday night. From the facial expressions of those flying frogs, to the hint of flying pigs and magic every night of the week, Wiesner’s work is extraordinary in every sense of the word.



flying pigs






Since reading this book for the first time in this class, I have fallen in love. Seriously, the frog’s facial expressions are some of the best illustrations that I’ve ever seen and probably, my favorite. Without words, something has to tell the story and draw the reader in and the facial expressions do just that. With every page and every action, you want to know what the frogs are thinking, how much they’re enjoying themselves and what they’re planning on doing next.

This book is fun for all ages and would make a great story to enjoy as a family. Parents may pick up on a few details of the pigs’ expressions that children may not understand. And children can enjoy making up their own words to what’s going on with the frogs on this Tuesday night.

One thing is for sure. Wiesner reminds his readers that the extraordinary can emerge from any day of the week. So this Wednesday, make sure you check out Tuesday!

–Shae Earl




Trendy Tuesday: Troll Swap


What is trendier than being yourself? With recent attention to ending bullying and getting kids to feel good about being themselves, being proud of who you are is definitely trendy! Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson (the author of the popular Charlie and Lola series) follows a little girl and a little troll that switch places.

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Timothy Limpet is a troll that is cleaner and quieter than all the other trolls, so he is made fun of because he does not fit in with everyone else. Tabitha Lumpit is a human girl that is loud and messy, but her parents want her to be nice and polite like them and like the other children. Timothy and Tabitha run into one another and realize that neither of them fit in with the rest of their kind, so they decide to trade lives.

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After they both fit in perfectly in their new lives, they realize that being the same as everyone else is boring, and that their families missed them. Timothy and Tabitha switch back, realizing that their homes are where they really belong.  Hodgkinson’s writing style is definitely embellished by the different fonts that the characters speak in and the bolding and size changes of the text.  It makes the book more active and engaging and practically begs to be read out loud!

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This book definitely shows that being you, even if you don’t fit exactly in with your peers, is the best way to be! Children may wish they could trade places with other people, but this book shows that your life is the best life for you. It also shows that your friends and parents may want you to be a different way, but if you change, you won’t be the one that they know and love already.  I think this book’s content is important for children to experience so they can be confident in themselves and realize that it is okay to be different.  It also shows that your family and friends really do love you, even if you guys do not agree on everything!

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The illustrations and style of this book are Hodgkinson’s typical style. Her cartoony drawings are cute and the different fonts, drawings, and collages make the book fun to look at and fun to read. The different fonts can help you read in different characters’ voices. The font of the text looks childish and silly, like a child wrote the book. I would recommend this to children in elementary school because it can be enjoyed by younger as well as older kids.  This book would be a great read aloud with children and would definitely bring humor into reading time, as well as the message that it is great to be yourself!

-Holly Reichert


Free Fridays: The Very Cranky Bear


This week in Nashville, the weather has been atrocious. Snow storms, ice storms, freezing temperatures, you name it. Today, I decided to finally venture out and trek to the book store. On my way here, I managed to almost fall three times on the ice, which  put me in not the best mood. When I got to Barnes and Noble, I spotted The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and decided to read and review this story because I, like the bear, was very cranky.


Reading this story definitely cheered me up. Nick Bland tells the story of four friends, a moose, a lion, a zebra, and a sheep, who on a cold and rainy day – oh the irony – meet a very cranky bear.  To cheer the cranky bear up, moose gives him antlers, lion gives him a mane, and zebra gives him stripes. 


What can the animals do to cheer up the very cranky bear? The bear exclaims that all he really wants is to sleep, so sheep decides to make him a pillow out of his wool. The story is told in a rhyming way making it a really good read aloud, and teaches the moral of sharing with others. The illustrations are really expressive and detailed, which draws the reader or listener in. I would definitely recommend reading this book aloud in a classroom, and then doing an activity! CIMG2555_thumb4

In the classroom, you can also introduce The Very Cranky Bear app to the students or read another one of Nick Bland’s bear stories: The Very Hungry Bear and The Very Itchy Bear.

This story helped me not be cranky on this cold, wintery day.

Julia Fleming

Marvelous New Picture Books Monday: Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise



Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien, is a wonderfully fun and playful new picture book. The owl starts out by stating his intention to use his master of disguise skills in order to catch an animal to eat. He cleverly thinks to disguise himself as a carrot in order to lure an unsuspecting rabbit. However, his disguise does not work. So he hatches another plan to disguise himself, which fails, and another, and another, until he is finally able to outsmart a pizza by disguising as a waiter. Before he tries each new disguise, he states how tough and scary he is, only to have his disguise fail, well, expect when it came to the pizza.


This book is delightful. The illustrations are simple but fun. I couldn’t help but laugh at the story. He is so confident in his sneaky skills, only to be outwitted at every turn.It is perfectly suited for a bedtime story. It is engaging and lighthearted. Some of the text might be written at slightly above the reading level of children who would find the story interesting, but there are a few lines that are repeated throughout the book, such as “and look there” which could be read by young children in order to enhance the experience.


The element which really made this book shine, was that I can see many adults enjoying the story as well, making it easier for them to read it over, and over, and over again to children who make it their favorite bedtime story. I think this book would make an excellent addition to any children’s library.

-Jake Lesser

Traditional Thursdays: The Lorax


The Lorax is a book that Dr. Seuss published in 1971. I first heard this story in fourth grade when I went to a theatre camp and performed the tale. The story transcends time; a movie version of The Lorax came out in theaters in 2012 and was very popular. It is an amazing story with an even better message: unless someone who cares tries to make a change, the world will not get better.

The story begins with the narrator talking about how in town one can still see places where the Lorax used to be. However, the Once-ler is the only one who remembers the story of the Lorax, so the narrator encourages the young boy to go talk to the Once-ler to get the full story. The Once-ler then becomes the narrator and talks about when it first came to town and discovered the amazing Truffula trees. The Once-ler began to cut down these trees to make and sell thneeds. As soon as the Once-ler started cutting down the trees, the Lorax appeared and told it to stop the deforestation. The Once-ler would not stop because it was making money off of thneeds.

All the animals in the town had to migrate because of all the pollution the Once-ler’s factories produced. As each animal had to leave, the Lorax warned the Once-ler. As soon as the last Truffula tree was cut down, the Lorax sadly left the town. At this point in the story, the Once-ler returns to the present and gives the boy the last Truffula tree seed and tells him that unless people like him care a lot, nothing is going to change. If the boy plants the seed, the Once-ler thinks that maybe the Lorax and his animal friends will return to the town.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. The bright colors of the Truffula trees emphasize the fact that while nature is preserved, life is good. However, as soon as the Once-ler begins to chop down the trees and release pollution, the pictures become darker and less colorful. The pictures are not as cheerful, which embodies the idea that nature needs to be respected. The images are simple, but they are memorable. I think the simplicity of the images almost makes the story more realistic because it shows how easy it is for pollution to take over the environment.


I do not think there are many books written about conservation, so I love that this book is still popular today. Conservation will always be important, and including important topics in children’s books ensures that children will not be ignorant to these important issues. I believe the major theme of this book is that anyone can make a change as long as he/she cares. Children need to know that if they do not like something, they have the ability to change it. I feel like sometimes children think that only adults can make lasting changes, but certainly they can as well. I believe that The Lorax encourages children to stand up for what they believe in and make change.

I love the story of The Lorax, and since it has remained well-loved in society for almost 45 years, I have a feeling it is here to stay.

By: Emily Barker