Monthly Archives: October 2019

Traditional Thursday: Eloise


Bonjour, all! This Traditional Thursday, I’m bringing up a book I don’t recall ever reading during my childhood, Eloise. I was reliably informed that Eloise was a childhood favorite of many and I can see why. Eloise was written by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight, and published in 1955.

A foldout spread, showing Eloise taking/racing the elevator.

Eloise is a precious young girl that lives in the Plaza Hotel. Eloise follows the title character throughout the hotel, exploring her world. Her life is populated with simultaneously doting and exasperated adults – which I think, is quite typical of the life of a six-year-old.

Eloise is longer than many picture books. The portrait orientation lends itself to the scenes set in the larger hotel rooms. The added height also benefits the multiple Eloises on most pages, as the reader follows her down each page. The illustrations are done in a simultaneous succession on most pages which can be difficult for the youngest readers/listeners to understand the first time around. This could be one of the reasons the title page designates the book for “precocious grown ups.”

The illustrations are primarily in black and white with shades of red and pink adding interest to the pages. The pinks can color in the real things in Eloise’s world such as robes or tablecloths or bows but they can also indicate the happenings of Eloise’s active imagination.

Eloise is a very precocious young girl and in her efforts to engage with those around her, she often unintentionally causes trouble. As such, adult readers may not want to encourage children to be exactly like Eloise. That being said, Eloise encourages making your own fun and creating excitement out of your own life. Hers is filled with opulent rooms but also the simple pleasures of racing down a hotel hallway – which is something we have all wanted to do (don’t lie). The setting may be unfamiliar to many children but the experiences are relatable, which is what makes this an ideal children’s book.

This may have been my first time reading Eloise but I can see why so many cherish it to this day. However, I have a confession, the thing I was most excited about with Eloise was learning that the author, Kay Thompson, was Maggie Prescott in Funny Face, which was a massive part of my childhood.

~Grace Billman

Winner Wednesday: “The Watermelon Seed”


The Watermelon Seed, written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, is the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Winner, and it is no wonder why. The fun and colorful cover immediately drew me in, and the cover under the jacket did not disappoint either. Upon opening the book, it is as if the reader is actually going inside of a watermelon thanks to the pink watermelon endpapers.

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The Watermelon Seed follows a crocodile as he eats his favorite food, watermelon. Everything is going great until something extremely relatable happens: he swallows a seed! Most kids have heard that if you swallow a watermelon seed then a watermelon will grow in your stomach. This book follows the main character on a stress-filled hilarious journey as he pictures the watermelon growing in his belly and the vines growing out of his ears, among other symptoms.

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Throughout the book, Pizzoli makes use of full bleed images and double page spreads that make the reader feel as if they are actually in the story. The pink and green color scheme is very bright and combined with the simple and cute drawings, create an aesthetic that is enjoyable and very appropriate for beginning readers. Pizzoli also makes use of variety of font types and sizes and puts few words on each page. The language used is easy to understand without writing down to the intended audience. This book is really fun to read aloud, especially the pages with extra large font and silly words, such as this one:

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Luckily for our crocodile friend, he burps up the swallowed seed. He vows never to eat watermelon ever again, but very quickly gives in (I mean come on, who can resist some yummy watermelon?!). The book comes full circle as he eats the watermelon and swallows a seed once again. This comical ending is very fitting for the book.

Overall, this book is entertaining to read, relatable, and aesthetically pleasing for kids and adults alike. The watermelon theme and the crocodile main character are an unlikely pairing, but super cute and work well together in this book.


-Kelly Santiago


Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: “If I Built a School” by Chris Van Dusen


Today’s Marvelous New Picture Book Monday presents “If I Built a School” by Chris Van Dusen. This picture book, published this year, takes you on a playful journey through a students’s imagination of how he would build a fun and exciting school as opposed to his plain school.

Both the illustrations and writing style in this picture book are absolutely captivating. The author uses a rhyming style throughout all of the writing in this book. This rhyming style makes the story very catchy and easy for readers of all ages to follow (or listen) along. During the book, a young student reflects to his teacher on the “plain” old school that they go to and talks about the type of school that he would design if he built a school.

The author starts the book with the student’s feelings about the “plain” school on a plain yellow page. To me, this is so powerful because the plain background is matching the student’s feelings about the school. This format becomes especially powerful when you turn the pages and are transported into a colorful, vibrant and futuristic school, featuring zoo animals, robots, and crazy transportation systems.

Overall, this new picture book is engaging for both younger and older audiences as the reader is transported into this creative and futuristic school. I love how the book stresses the importance of school and shows how school should be a fun and interactive place.

-Amanda Epp

Free Fridays: “The Wall In the Middle of the Book”


Published in 2018, Jon Agee is the author and illustrator of The Wall In the Middle of the Book which is the featured book for this weeks News Post.


This creative picture book is about a knight who is certain his side of the wall is better and far more safe than the other. However, while standing on a latter fixing a brick in the wall he notices that the water has been raising from underneath him and there are fish in the water that want to eat him. An ogre hears his cries and reaches over the wall and saves the knight bringing him to the other side of the wall! But was the knight right all along about his side being safer since a giant ogre did save him? You will have to find out for yourself and read this clever little book.


I thought this book was easy to follow, unique with its story, and would be a great “read out loud” to a classroom of children. I could see children laughing and imagining them being in the book, having this huge wall in the middle. Would they want to be like the stubborn knight? An animal? The giant ogre? Jon Agee does a wonderful job using the white space in the book and the illustrations look as if they were water color paint or even drawn with soft pastels and eye popping cut outs.


This book would be great to start off the year to remind a classroom of kids that there are positive people around them that want to be their friend if they allow them to be. As a teacher you could discuss that sometimes we put up walls and boundaries to make ourselves feel more safe but that is not necessary in their classroom, they should feel free and safe enough to make new friends this year and cherish the ones they made last year.

-Kaylann Boyd

Traditional Thursday: One of Each


Written in 1997, One of Each by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman is the featured book for this week’s “Traditional Thursday!” Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 10.48.39 AM

This wonderful picture book is about a dog named Oliver Tolliver who lives alone in a house, where he has, as the title suggests, one of each thing he owns–from one door and one window, to one peach and one plum. This book has many potential classroom applications and would be a great mentor text for discussions about character development, artistic styles, poetic language, mathematics, SEL and much more!

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The book begins with Oliver introducing the reader to his many singular possessions, reinforcing the mathematical idea of “one.” The illustrations are very bright and painterly, as the brush-strokes are visible, presenting a very homey style of art, which aids the reader in understanding Oliver Tolliver’s contentment with his home. To begin a conversation about artist style, a teacher could ask their students, “how does the style of art make you feel? Why did the artist decide to make the illustrations this way?” A wide and varied color palette is used, which is very engaging for the reader. In addition to artistic illustrations, the language is very poetic in nature, causing the book to read almost like a song, with rhyme and repeated refrains, as reflected in the text on the page above.

After some time, Oliver Tolliver realizes he would like a friend, and decides to show his home and everything in it to the first person he meets. After showing around a cat Miss Peggoty, she doesn’t give Oliver the reaction he expected:

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Peggoty helps Oliver realize that having one of each thing isn’t very welcoming. Although Oliver was very happy with all of his singular items, he also wants friends, so he decides to change his actions. This moment of character development, with scaffolding, can raise questions for students about SEL–For example, why did Oliver feel the need to buy more items after Peggoty comes over? Maybe because he was lonely, and also wanted to make everyone feel welcome!

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After Oliver and Peggoty enjoy some time together, more friends come along. Oliver learns that he can share his fruits with all of the friends by cutting them, even though he only has two of each! This book teaches great lessons about loneliness and sharing in the context of childhood, during which we love our things very seriously while simultaneously trying to learn how to make social connections with others. Oliver’s story can be read with a child who is having difficulty sharing, whether it is food, toys, or anything else. Enjoy this fun read!

-Emma Waldman

Trendy Tuesday: Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty


A trend can either refer to a fad that is popular but will likely go away or it can describe a pattern that has emerged that is expected to continue. I hope children of all genders and races identifying as scientists and being excited about science is a trend that continues to grow and grow. This book really highlights how being a curious kid is a lot like being a scientist and how parents can encourage their curious kids to take on that role. The book is Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. 


The book follows Ada Twist, who started out as a quiet young girl and became someone who had so many questions to ask about the world. When she discovers a terrible smell, she makes it her mission to solve the mystery of the source of the smell. She comes up with some hypotheses and asks lots of questions to see which is true. 


I think the audience of the book could really include children and parents. I think children would enjoy hearing about all the things Ada Twist attempts to do in the name of science and trying to make sense of the smell, too. However, Ada’s parents go through their own conflict when they are unsure of how to handle Ada’s curiosity because it can often cause chaos. But ultimately, they accept that this is part of who she is and that she has a skill for asking questions and getting to the facts. Her parents really model how to adjust to the needs of their own child. They have to sacrifice some of their own comforts to understand that this is the way that Ada works best and to allow her to express her creativity. I think this model is something children and adults could benefit from seeing. 


The images are colorful, exciting, and reveal all kinds of fun details that complement the story. You can see Ada’s inquisitive nature on her face. You can also see how her enthusiasm excites her classmates around her or draws some concern from adults, at times, but leaves them ultimately impressed. The book includes great vocabulary like hypothesis and frazzled. The author really allows Ada to show readers why it is so important to hold onto that curiosity from childhood and use it to understand. She can be an inspiration to all in that way.

-Karima Raharjo

Marvelous New Picture Books: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights


As the voting season is almost upon us, the state of the country is being talked about more than before. As a powerful woman, I feel it is crucial to inform our children about how to be an advocate and not a bystander. For this new picture book Monday I chose Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr for this exact reason. The book is progressive and not subtle about it.

The book is written as a to-do list for change and advocacy. Schorr uses strong and biting imperatives that sting the reader. For example, the first page reads “Assemble. Take action. Create allies.”  This type of language leaves the audience empowered. It is essential to teach children from a young age that they too can make a difference and how to do so.

Some illustrations reference specific movements as well. The is a poster that says “LOVE IS LOVE.” This aligns with the goes with the fight for LGTBQI inclusivity and rights. There is another page where a football player is taking a knee on the television. This hints at the demonstration done by several athletes, such as Colin Kaepernick, who have taken a knee during the national anthem to show solidarity against racism.

The contrast between white and black are played heavily in this book. One page has a white background with “pray” in black in the center of the right page. It is small and in an almost pretty font. In contrast, “STRIKE” is a few pages later. The background is black and the letters are white in all capitals and bolded. It is a full bleed spread compared to the acuity of pray. This comparison is done on purpose. The size of each word elicits is significance. Prayers can only do so much, but striking is direct action.

This book has received a lot of backlash for being too progressive and as garbage that will “poison child’s mind[s]”  (Amazon reviewer). Despite these one-star reviews, however, I think this book is what the world needs right now. It teaches kids how to peacefully get their voices heard. No voice is too small.


Sarah Hirsh

Free Friday: Spoon by Amy Rosenthal


Are you a fork person? Or do you prefer a knife? Me? I am a big spoon gal. It became a convert after reading the ridiculously cute book Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. The book is about a little spoon who is envious of the other utensils and their abilities to do things that he cannot. Knife can spread, fork can do everything, and chopsticks are exotic. But what can Spoon do? The story is about self-acceptance and appreciation. The story is full of puns so no matter the age, everyone can revel in the cuteness of Spoon.

The mother is listening to Spoon’s complaints. Rather than saying “no” or “not true,” Spoon’s mom offers a listening ear. The ability for her to acknowledge Spoon’s feeling is a key lesson for parents to take away. One should hear what their kids are saying rather than shutting them down immediately.



There is also a lot of repetition. Spoons says that knife, fork, and chopsticks are all so lucky. That same language is used when the fork, knife, and chopsticks all say that Spoon is so lucky. This highlights jealousy and that it always seems better to be/do something else. “The grass is always greener on the other side” is a perfect saying to parallel how Spoon is feeling.

This is the only full bleed spread in the entire story. Since it goes from edge to edge, the feeling of comfort and family is felt and embraced. It makes the audience fell a sense of love and self worth.

This book is one of my new favorites. So if your not already a spoon person, you will be after reading.


Sarah Hirsh

Traditional Thursday- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


Today’s Traditional Thursday on Neely’s News is featuring The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats! This classic book is one of Keats’ most famous publications out of his over twenty children’s books. Keats is renowned in the field of children’s literature for setting new standards on diversity and inclusion. It is incredible that in 1962 he understood the crucial need for diverse characters in books. I have not read this book since I was a child, but was immediately encompassed in the cheerful and amusing nature of the story as soon as I opened the first page!

The main character in this book is a young African American boy named Peter who goes on an adventure outside after a snowstorm. The reader gets to follow him through his trek around his neighborhood, playing around with the footprints he leaves in the snow and watches as he discovers what happens when you smack a snow-covered tree! Many of the activities he did in the snow were exactly what I did as a child, such as making snow-covered angels and sledding down hills. The book does such an incredible job of taking simple activities and making them incredibly appealing and relatable to readers.

I could guess that many people could see the cover of The Snowy Day and instantly remember reading the book as a child.

I believe a reason for this is the iconic and vibrant illustrations, personally one of my favorite features of the book! Peter is dressed in a bright red snowsuit and the plain backgrounds contribute to poignant foregrounds with snowy mounds, footsteps left in the snow, and a much-needed bubble bath after a long day of playing in the snow. The collage-like construction of the images allows the reader to focus on the important details on each page. Every page has illustrations that stretch from corner to corner, showing the expansiveness of the world Peter is exploring and inviting the reader to step into this winter wonderland with Peter as their guide.

On top of incredible illustrations, Keats makes sure to include rich vocabulary to excite children with. There are heaping mountains of snow and tracks left behind by Peter dragging his feet. The reader can even imagine what it would be like to be there with Peter as they read about the  “crunch, crunch, crunch” of his feet sinking into the snow!

The Snowy Day is an iconic, progressive book that is every child’s picture-perfect winter day!

-Abigail Suzman

Winner’s Wednesday: “You are (Not) Small”






Husband and wife team Anna Yang and New Yorker cartoonist Christopher Weyant bring to the table the 2015 Theodore Geisel Award winner, You are (Not) Small.  A great picture book to introduce children (and entertain adults) to the size of the world around them, You are (Not) Small follows a conversation between two fuzzy bears who cannot agree who is small and who is big. 

The two bears argue about each other’s size until a couple of new friends (one even bigger and one even smaller) comes along and shows the bears that they can both be big and small at the same time!

A wonderful short, simple, and colorfully illustrated book for young children, You are (Not) Small is a fantastic way to introduce kids to the concept of perspective, and resolving simple arguments.  The story is told quietly but effectively, with just a few words per page and a major emphasis on the illustrations.

Naturally, the theme of two bears arguing about their size presents the book filled with humor and a few classic punchlines.  Though younger readers might need help understanding the significance of perspective in the book, the cartoon-ink style, use of watercolors with oversized format, large typeface, and effective use of white space easily draws in the attention of kids K- Gr. 2.  

 Overall, a wonderfully cuddly read that deserves a spot on this Winner’s Wednesday!!

-Alexandra Traini