Groundhogs Day

For Americans, and Canadians, it seems, there is no better predictor for spring than a groundhog and his shadow. Yeah, it’s a bit sketchy, but it’s s fun tradition that would be difficult to find offense in, so we get to have fun with it at school. The kids predicted whether or not Phil would see his shadow, and I found a lot of fun books to share with them. Truth be told, there aren’t a ton of great lower-grade groundhog stories available, but here is what I found:

I have kindergarten twice each week so I started the week with simple nonfiction about groundhogs and shadows.

Then for their second class, they got to watch a Peep and the Big Wide World episode where Peep, Chirp and Quack teach a young groundhog about shadows. You can watch it here.

First grade got to come twice this last week too, so first we read The Black Rabbit about a rabbit who is scared of his own shadow.

There was time to spare so I also read Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch to them.

They loved Moonbear, so I think I’ll find other ways to work his stories in. I didn’t read to them as kindergarteners so they aren’t familiar with him.

For their Friday class, we read a really fun book about a little girl groundhog who doesn’t act like the rest of the groundhogs in her family.

Phyllis wants to be a Punxsutawney Phil, like her uncle, but she is told that Phil is always a fellow.

Phyllis doesn’t deny her instincts though, and one cold day in February, she realizes an early spring is coming, even though Uncle Phil misses the signs.

I really liked this book. I am excited because she has a second book about another hard-to-find holiday: April Fools Day.

We had a couple of minutes after we read about Phyllis so we decided to learn some facts about groundhogs from Gail Gibbons. If you aren’t familiar with her picture-book nonfiction titles, you should go find them!

We learned that groundhogs are also called woodchucks, they live about 3-5 years and there are other groundhog weather predictors besides Phil.

  • Chuck Wood lives in Los Angelos
  • Unadilla Bill lives in Unadilla, Nebraska
  • Sir Walter Wally lives in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • General Lee lives in Atlanta, Georgia

There are many more, as I found in this article from Time magazine.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it may seem that I’m late writing about it, but I spent the whole week reading great stories about the Civil Rights Movement to my students.

The third grade students really enjoyed the story of MLK’s childhood, written by his sister Christine.

Martin, or M.L., Christine and their younger brother A.D. were good kids, but they played some great pranks.

Christine King Farris tells a funny story about how she and her brothers used to dangle a fur stole in front of unsuspecting passersby, and a few others. My students loved learning that M.L. Was a kid just like them. The book takes a sadder turn when Christine explains how the boys lost two very good friends, simply because they were white. M.L. turned to his mother for an explanation:

Because they just don’t understand that everyone is the same, but someday it will be better.

Mother Dear, one day I am going to turn this world upside down.

Christine tells the only firsthand account of Martin’s childhood and how it led him to his ultimate path, changing the world. My students loved this book, and were quite interested to hear that Christine King Farris is still alive and is in her 90s.

The Civil Rights movement was more than just MLK and his speeches and marches. The first grade read a book about a little boy who sees firsthand the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.

The boy and his mother are already at the back of the bus on this fateful day. He tells how Mrs. Parks is at the front and how she quietly refused to move. The boy describes the feeling of everyone on the bus being angry, maybe just at Mrs. Parks, or maybe at all the colored riders. (I use that term because the boy uses it. I did explain to kids that different words were used at different times, but they have fallen out of style, especially if they develop a negative connotation.) By the end of the book, the boy who started out thinking he needed to hide, now feels a new inner resolve to never let anyone make him feel that way again.

I had not originally planned to read a Civil Rights book to second grade, but at the last minute, I decided on I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. from Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series.

This book has a fun side, with Martin always wearing his suit and mustache, even as a child. It spans his life, telling how he followed the teachings of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi. The kids were excited to learn that I have biographies of Gandhi and Rosa Parks from the same series. As I’ve written about before, this series has a fun comic style that really draws kids in.

I did not read the next two books to classes, but I would consider adding them next year:

My students were shocked to learn that children were not exempt from mistreatment. Ruby Bridges has rocks thrown at her (and worse), the children trying to attend high school had fire hoses turned on them as well as attack dogs, and children like Audrey Faye Hendricks were arrested and jailed just for wanting equal rights.

The Civil Rights Movement wasn’t just for African Americans. At the time, women in America had to fight for their rights and disabled citizens were treated as lesser beings. This great movement had amazing leaders like MLK, who gave their lives to bring necessary changes to our country.

We are still a nation in the process of changing. Today we hear, on a regular basis, debates about the rights of the homosexual – LGBT – and transgender citizens. We also hear about immigrants and how they are not always welcomed in this great land, built on the idea of coming to America to live the “American dream.”

I hope I have helped inspire my students to do their part to turn this world upside down.

Thrifting Gold!

This weekend I was invited by a new friend to go to the next town over to shop. She’s a certified book nerd, and maybe a hoarder, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

We went into a pawn shop that had what was essentially a thrift store in the basement. After looking at two rooms of Knick-knacks and kitchen items we found a room full of books!! There were some really old ones that we had to peak at:

And then a few that are probably from my childhood:

I know my family owned this book. I should have bought it. If it is there the next time I visit, I’m grabbing it!

I bought a few books for my school,

Look! A new Eric A. Kimmel!!

I also bought a book that I had as a kid, it’s in rough shape but it’s worth it:

I was so excited about finding this! I remember doing every one of these tricks.

Chief Lelooska

When I went to the thrift store the other day, I actually found a second treasure (not just the Little Golden Book treasury.) The second treasure was a book of Native American stories from the Pacific Northwest.

Chief Lelooska was an accomplished storyteller and artist, and his books are gorgeously illustrated in his tribe’s style.

The book caught my eye because I had just read Raven by Gerald McDermott to my second grade classes.

McDermott’s story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the traditions of the Pacific Northwest. Chief Lelooska’s stories are not long, or complicated. They are perfect for children.

I do not yet have Lelooska’s other book but I think I can pick it up online.

Men and women like Lelooska are cultural treasures that are fading from our modern lives. I would love to find a storyteller from this area, Dakota or Lakota, to come and share this style of storytelling that is ancient and yet so different to the majority of Americans.

You can learn more about Lelooska at this site.

Little Golden Books

Though I struggle sometimes to know if I am living out my purpose in life, I have never questioned one thing: I am an unapologetic book nerd. That is something that will never waver or change, so I just have to stay true to myself.

I may also be a book nerd with the power to see into the future. Why do I think such crazy thoughts? Because today I was building my wishlist for school and decided I should own the collection of classic Little Golden Books. They aren’t expensive and some actually come in library binding. I have never before thought that I should add these to the collection, it just struck me as important today.

Well, I just got done at the thrift store and you are never going to believe what I found!

Not bad for $2.00!! It has a ton of great stories in it, including:

It also has a lot of stories from the 80s, like Sesame Street stuff and Looney Toons. I wish it had The Shy Little Kitten, Scuffy and Tootles, but I’ll take this collection as meant to be for me.

What is a librarian?

I have thought for a long time now that I was truly meant to be a librarian. But what is a librarian? It’s not even about the stereotypes of the stodgy old librarian versus the sexy young librarian. I’m wondering if I’m deluding myself about the direction I’m going. Classroom management isn’t my strongpoint and knowing where books are in the stacks and which ones are perfect for each child might not be enough to make up for it. Knowing each of 400-500 children’s names doesn’t make up for not being a real teacher. I do not rule my Library with an iron fist. I try hard to work with my coworkers instead of against them, but again, does that make me what I need to be to truly provide for my students?

This is a time of year when many people reevaluate their lives. Maybe it’s time to admit that I wandered off the path that God laid out for me.

365 Days!

I can’t believe I did it, but I managed a post every day for the last year! I didn’t want this post to go up without a book, so I started searching on the Internet Archive. I don’t know how the search “New Years Day” brought up Rocky I but I don’t regret reading this great story!

Rocky is a Christmas miracle alpaca. He was born premature, his mother didn’t have enough milk for him, and she wasn’t interested in him at all. Rocky gained his name by fighting through all of the odds stacked against him though, and thanks in part to his owners and in part to a foster mom, he made it.

The story ended after Rocky was able to start nursing from a foster mom who was also rejected by the herd. The book hints that there will be a second book, but I could not find it online. In fact, I could not find much about AlpacaKing farm online either. There are magazine articles and newspaper columns, but no website. I really wanted to learn more about Rocky’s life.

The authors note at the beginning of the book was very informative. I did not know that alpacas have been pushed to the brink of extinction twice by man. I learned a lot about these fuzzy guys and I can’t wait to learn more. I don’t have any alpaca books at school, so I’ll need to correct that.

I might not write every day of this year, but don’t worry, I’ll still share all the gems I come across.

Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!

Winter break is almost over. We go back to school on Tuesday, and it just never seems to be long enough of a break. But I do count myself lucky, I wasn’t assigned to read War & Peace over Christmas break like Charlie Brown.

I’m sort of confused. I always figured Charlie was a third or fourth grader. I’m pretty sure most adults would struggle with War & Peace, let alone a nine or ten year old.

Charlie’s life is further complicated by Peppermint Patty’s New Years Eve Party. She has decided boys will invite the girls and and us extremely obvious in her clues that he should ask her. (Why didn’t she make it a Sadie Hawkins dance and ask him?)

He wants to go to dance class, go to the party and read the book. I have to give him credit, he really tries. He takes the book to dance class but it doesn’t turn out well. Everyone else is gearing up for the party and he’s stuck with an unrealistic homework assignment.

Charlie decides to go ahead and invite a girl, but it’s the little red haired girl, not Peppermint Patty. She never responds to his invitation so he takes the book to the party.

The problem with taking a book with 1,100+ pages is that you’re going to get bored. So now it’s way past your bedtime and you’re bored out of your mind. Poor Charlie Brown; he’s asleep on the back porch and misses the biggest moment of his life:

The icing on the cake is that he only gets a D- on the report. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Years ago, I worked as a nurses aid in a rest home where we used walkie talkies. One of the guys gave everyone nicknames, because they were shorter than our real names. He was “Goose”, the guy he worked with was “Maverick”, a girl with the last name McClain became “Shirley” and I was called “Little Red-Haired Girl From Charlie Brown.”

Happy New Year!


We are enjoying a visit from friends who love to browse flea markets and thrift stores. This is the only time my husband and daughter will go to those types of stores with me. I always see a lot of things I want, but I have to pass them by. Here are some of today’s Ones That Got Away.

It seems Johnny Lion was a series by Edith Thacher Hurd.

I loved reading Dennis in the Sunday comics. I am sure I read more than a few of his comic collections too.

This was one I really wanted. The book was $8 and the dust jacket was badly torn…but I still hope to become a circus clown one day when I grow up.

My husband pointed out the Gumby book. He had to quote Eddie Murphy’s Gumby from Saturday Night Live,

I’m Gumby, dammit!

My friend and I saw a vintage Paddington Bear stuffed animal too.

I might be wrong, but I think I had this Little Golden Book.

You know I’m a sucker for Sesame Street.

I wanted every book in this booth!

I think if I had to pick, I’d get Here, Kitty. So cute!

But the star of the day want a book–I know, it’s shocking. I finally found a vintage ceramic Christmas tree!!!!!!!!!

Sid the Squid

A lot of us spend a long time finding a job that is the perfect one for us, and most of us have tried out more than a few. Today’s story is about a squid who is determined to find the perfect job too.

Sid is a squid with a mission. He wants to be useful and so he travels to the city to find himself the perfect job. David G. Derrick, Jr.’s story has many funny mishaps as Sid tries out careers.

But, even cooking isn’t quite perfect:

Sid is ready to give up, but then he sees a whale struggling in a net.

Sid realizes that he is meant to help with animals and gets a job at the aquarium.

It works out perfectly, and all because he never gave up.

This book would be fun to read to kids when they are learning about community helpers. I am trying to match curriculum with the teachers, so I’ll have to watch for it to come up.