Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dear Santasaurus by Stacy McAnulty

One of the 5Family's Christmas traditions is getting out our Christmas Library. 

It started when the Bud was born. Every year we have added books to this special collection we enjoy together each year.

Dear Santasauraus by Stacy McAnulty is a perfect title to add to the 5Family Christmas Library!

What it's about in one sentence: Young Ernest the dinosaur writes to Santasaurus first as a thank you for his Christmas gift, but then continues writing letters throughout the year all the way to the next Christmas.

I love that Ernest reminds me of a few little dinosaurs I know!

Stacy finished 5 of my sentences. I wrote the words in purple.

Ernest is… not earnest at all. He’s a mischievous little spinosaurus, who loves to have fun but often makes mistakes. (Side note: The name Ernest fits so well, but it wasn’t originally chosen because of his personality. Ernest is named for Ernst Stromer; the paleontologist who discovered the first spinosaurus.)

Writing to Santa…is something I wish I still did. Sure, I did it as a kid, asking for presents and politely inquiring about Rudolph’s and Mrs. Claus’ well-being. But I think it would be really fun (and funny) if I had continued it through my life. What did 16-year-old me wish for? What did 22-year-old me do that might have put me on the naughty list? I think I’ll write Santa a letter this year and just tuck it away in a drawer. It’ll be fun in 10 years to see what 2013 me wanted.

The most unique Christmas tradition…is our Christmas Eve book gift. My husband and I only give our children one present each year (Santa does the rest). And it’s the same thing every year. A book! We pick the perfect hardcover book for each child and then we write the date and a special message inside. We hope they will always have these books and can share them with their own families some day. The books range from picture books to classics like Heidi to cook books.

The best thing about making picture transforming a fun idea into something that makes kids smile. My favorite sound is a child laughing, and that’s my goal when I’m creating picture books. Kids love to laugh but they’re still a tough audience. (I’ve read stories to a class where I don’t even get a chuckle. That’s heart crushing.) When I’m in the rewriting stage of manuscript I really focus on having a laugh per page. This can be in the text or left to the illustrator. Obviously, it works best when the words and art tell the jokes together.

I would also like to tell you about…some of the little-known fun facts about the book.
1. I met the editor who acquired the book on my birthday.
2. It took 3 years from when the editor bought the book to when it hit bookstores.
3. Ernest’s name changed three times. He was John, then Ernest, then Finn, then Ernest again.
4. Ernest’s kid sister, Amber, had a name change too.

5. Six of the dates on Ernest’s letters to Santasaurus coincide with family birthdays.

Stacy is celebrating by sharing a different cookie recipe each day of the Dear Santasaurus blog tour.

Visit her blog at for the recipe and more information about other stops on the Dear Santasaurus Blog Tour.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cybils Superlative: Minnesot-iest

I love that I live in an area where there is an amazing community of book lovers and book creators,

So today, I give you the most Minnesotan (or the Minnesot-iest) of the Cybils Fiction Picture Book nominees.

Cookie the Walker
by Chris Monroe

Cookie the dog gets extra special attention after deciding to life life walking on two legs.

Minnesota author, illustrator and syndicated cartoonist, Chris Monroe, is also the mastermind behind the Monkey with a Tool Belt picture book series.

Click the image and scroll down to watch the video.

Alan and his Perfectly Pointy Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky
by Justice Page and his daughter Kamie Page
illustrated David Geister

This book should have a home in every Minnesota elementary school library.

A Day at the Lake
by Stephanie Wallingford & Dawn Rynders 
Illustrated by Erica Pelton Villnave

This book totally captures the feeling of summer lake life in Minnesota.
Right about now with cold weather advisories and icy roads it's good to be reminded of warmer times.

Check out this interview with authors Stephanie Wallingford & Dawn Rynders on Colby Sharp's Blog.

One Frozen Lake
by Deborah Jo Larson
illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

This book is seasonally appropriate for Minnesota right now. The lakes are freezing and are soon to experience a population boom for ice fishing. For those who live in an area where it would seem completely impossible to drive across the top of a lake in a pick up truck, One Frozen Lake is a window into another world.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cybils Superlative: Snowiest

In honor of yesterday afternoon's gigantic flakes (here in Minnesota), I give you the snowiest books of the Cybils Fiction Picture Book nominees.

Big Snow
by Jonathan Bean

The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever!
Written by Rebecca Rule
Illustrated by Jennifer Thermes

Once Upon a Northern Night
Written by Jean E. Pendziwol
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Monday, December 2, 2013

It is Monday… December 2

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to find out more about It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? and link to other participating blogs.

I have been reading a ton of picture books lately for Cybils fiction picture books round 1. It's probably more like a few hundred pounds, but what's a little clich├ęd hyperbole among friends?
I will be sharing about a few of those titles on other posts.

My other reading lately has mostly been with the 5sters.

The Bud and I just finished the audio of Sister's Grimm Book #1 while driving back and forth to school.
I'm sure this won't be the last listen of ours with this series.

We are about to finish Floors as a read-together book. The Bud got this one for his birthday, and we have been loving the creative fun of all the different themed rooms of the Whippet hotel.

After reading this during the summer, I knew this would be one to share with the Bud. We just started the audio version yesterday in the car while running some errands. So far I'm impressed... especially with how it deals with the opening comic sequence.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cybils Superlatives: Widest

In my reading of piles of fiction picture books as a first round judge for the Cybils, I have enjoyed many fabulous and unique books. 

As a way to share a few of these titles, I give you the first of my "Cybils Superlatives": the widest book I have encountered among the nominees.

This gentle story about a sheep who doesn't feel like he fits in trying to find his way to a place that feels like home is visually striking at over 18 inches wide and only 7 inches tall.

The size alone intrigued my children, and as soon as I opened it to start reading, they were instantly by my side asking what it was about.

Digby the sheep has distinctive red and white stripes, and my 4 year old loved looking for the other things in each illustration that matched Digby.

The format forces the reader to slow down and get fully involved with the book. You have to move your arms and turn your head much more just to read and turn the pages.

A trim size that stands apart definitely fits with a character that stands apart.

Stay tuned for more Cybils Superlatives as my reading continues.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It is Monday - November 25th

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to find out more about It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? and link to other participating blogs.

Recently I traveled out to Hartford, CT for AASl 2013
Graphic novels and audio books are my favorites while traveling. 
(I have a tendency toward motion sickness when reading pages of standard text while flying)

During this trip I enjoyed some amazing titles:

I enjoyed this as an audio book. The narrator is fabulous - it is his voice in the book trailer below.

so there are teetering piles of picture books all around my house.
More on this soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bell Awards Blog Tour: Read

I am so excited to be part of a blog tour for the new Bell Awards sponsored by Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy.

Melissa Depper, one of the founders of the award, explains, "The new Bell Awards are designed to support parents, caregivers, librarians, and early childhood professionals by celebrating great picture books that model and inspire the early literacy practices of reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing with young children. You can join in and share your expertise with your colleagues by nominating titles and adding to the conversation on the CLEL blog."

Each stop on the Bell Awards blog tour focuses on one of the five practices that will help a child develop the foundation upon which a reader is built: READ, TALK, SING, WRITE & PLAY.

Today's topic is READ.

Gratuitous photo of my own 5sters reading with my dad

Reading with children helps them get ready to read themselves.

We are not born understanding the logistics of how to operate this thing with a cover and floppy paper inside. It is reading with children that teaches them that turning the pages of a book is a pleasurable experience.

"We know that the more time children spend listening to stories, telling stories, looking at books, talking about books, and being read to, the more successful they become as readers. It’s simple and powerful evidence that it doesn’t take a lot of time, expertise, or money to make a measurable difference in a child’s life."
- from the CLEL Bell Awards Site

Here are 5 books I love to share with the early readers in my life.

1. Open This Little Book
written by Jesse Klausmeier
illustrated by Suzy Lee

The colorful execution of this book inside a book inside a book is so engaging, it will keep young hands wanting to turn the pages over and over again.

2. Moo!
written by David LaRochelle
illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Moo! tells the story of an adventurous cow using only one word, "Moo". Young ones will love saying the same word in many different ways to communicate the cow's emotions.

3. Z is for Moose
written by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Part of learning to read involves letter recognition. Z is for Moose focuses on the letters of the alphabet, and also includes a hilarious narrative about an annoying moose ruining a Zebra's plans for a straight forward alphabet book by continuing to insert himself on the page.

4. Hank Finds an Egg
by Rebecca Dudley

Wordless books are fabulous for "picture reading". All of the elements of reading are there, just without any text. Hank Finds an Egg is a very sweet story of a bear who finds an egg and tries everything he can think of to return the egg to its nest.

5. Squish Rabbit
by Katherine Bettersby

There will always be a book (or multiple books) that a child connects with in a special way. A book that they will want to read over and over and over. Young ones need and enjoy repetition of activities to develop, and that includes reading. Repeating familiar favorites can be powerful for a growing pre-reader.

Squish Rabbit was one of those favorite re-read books for my daughter. You can see her at age two and a half in the bottom video picture reading and re-telling the events that happen to the young bunny on each page.

What she is saying:
"thought he was playing...he kicked his little legs"
"big tantrum - argghhhh!"
"they broke all the rules!"
"passed him by!"
Squishing sound for when Squish gets stepped on

Those are some of my favorite books to encourage reading with the pre-reading set. If you have favorites that have been published in 2013, nominate them for the 2014 CLEL Bell Awards.  The deadline for nominations is November 15th and the winners will be announced February 15, 2014.
Click the links below for more information:
Don't miss the other stops on the Bell Awards Blog Tour:

WRITE with Amy at The Show Me Librarian
TALK with Mary Ann at Great Kid Books
SING with Dana and Lindsey at JBrary

and tomorrow: 
PLAY with Anna at Future Librarian Superhero