Library Lion

I’m pretty proud of my library, I think it’s pretty awesome…but today’s story makes me think I’m missing something: a lion.

Michelle Knudsen’s book, Library Lion, is about a regular, everyday library that one day received a strange visitor.

The Lion came into the library and had a look around the stacks and card catalog (the kids have no idea what a card catalog is, of course) Before long, he decided to take a nap in the story area. When asked if it was allowed, the head librarian, Miss Merriweather, said, “as long as he isn’t breaking any rules, he can stay.”

He enjoys story hour quite a bit but isn’t happy when it’s over.

The Miss Merriweather tells him that roaring is not allowed and he will have to leave, but he may come back tomorrow if he follows the rules.

The Lion keeps coming back and becomes more and helpful to the librarians. One librarian, Mr. McBee does not like Lion and is always looking for him to break a rule, but the Miss Merriweather grows quite fond of him.

Then one day, Lion sees the Miss Merriweather fall and break her arm. He wants to get help for her but the only other person there is Mr. McBee. With no other way to communicate, Lion does what he must to get help for his friend.

Of course the mean librarian(we are a heartless bunch! 😉) tells him that he has broken a rule and must leave. Thankfully, he discovers the injured Miss Merriweather and gets her help.

But Lion doesn’t come back after that. The librarians are sad, the patrons are sad, and the library just doesn’t feel the same. Then one night, Mr. McBee decides to set things right. He goes out searching for Lion and welcomes him back, because sometimes there is a really good reason for roaring in the library.

Lion’s homecoming is so sweet, it makes me cry!

I think a lion would fit in perfectly in my school library, don’t you? He could help with dusting, and keeping the kids quiet…it would be so amazing!


Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon

I’ve read all my Deckawoo Drive books (until the newest arrives) and today I’m sharing another. Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon is actually the second in the Deckawoo Drive series, but I read them out of order.

Francine Poulet is a highly decorated animal control officer who has no fear, she even beat a bear in a staring contest once! But in this story, she may have met her match. The raccoon in question shimmers in the moonlight and screams like a banshee. He screams “ffffrrrraaaaannnnnyyyyy”. Understandably, this has Francine a bit shaken. She attempts to catch him only to fall off of the roof, break an arm, break a leg and mess up her neck.

While recovering in the hospital, Francine believes her father’s ghost visits her. He does not want her to give up.

Franny, you are the genuine article. You are solid. You are certain. You are like a refrigerator. You hum.

But, like many people, Francine lets her doubts defeat her. She gives up her career as the best animal control officer the county has ever seen. Francine begins to forget who she is.

Eventually, Francine runs into Frank and Stella, two children from Deckawoo Drive. Frank remembers meeting Francine when she came to capture Mercy, and he remembers the newspaper article about her. Frank insists that she is still a great animal control officer, even as Francine tries to dismiss him.

Frank somehow inspires Francine to face her fears and come for the ghost raccoon, who is now living on the roof of Eugenia and Baby Lincoln’s house. Francine faces her fears, realizes that the raccoon isn’t screaming her name and deftly catches him. The Deckawoo friends finish the night with hot, buttered toast at the Watson’s house, raccoon and all.

DiCamillo gives us a wonderful post-story coda, where we discover that Francine has gone back to her job as an animal control officer and she has an understudy, Frank.

You’re solid. You’re certain. You hum, kid. You hum.

I really liked how real Francine’s problem was. While we’re not out fighting ghost raccoons, we do face setbacks in our lives, both professional and personal. Often we let the resulting doubts defeat us, and make us doubt who we fundamentally are. Francine needs a bit of a push to get past it, but she faces her fears and wins. That’s a fantastic message for kids, and I’m so glad DiCamillo wrote this story.

By the way, Poulet means chicken in French. I kind of feel like Van Dusen gave her a very chicken-ish face.

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?

We are headed back to Deckawoo Drive today to visit the Lincoln sisters, Eugenia and Baby.

Baby Lincoln is a quiet and sweet old lady who has spent her life being told exactly what to do by her older sister, Eugenia, and frankly, she’s tired of it.

Baby announces that she is going on a necessary journey and packs a suitcase. She hasn’t any real plan, she just knows that she needs to go.

Baby runs into another Deckawoo neighbor, little Stella. Stella is like Baby, in that her brother Frank always seems to get to be in charge. Talking to Stella encourages Baby to go to the train station and buy a ticket for her necessary journey.

First, Baby meets a man who insists she read the comics from his newspaper. Eugenia would never allow that! But Baby ends up laughing through the whole page. (There is one about a super hero squirrel who can fly…Flora & Ulysses?)

Then she meets a girl who shares her jellybeans. Baby enjoys one and then another before the girl convinces her to take a whole handful — what would Eugenia say?!? And what’s more, we find out that Baby’s real name is Lucille; it was Eugenia who decided that she would be ‘Baby’.

The last new friend she makes in her necessary journey is George. He is traveling alone and needs a friend. Baby isn’t sure what to do, but she begins to tell him a story and he loves it! She even promises to write more of the story for him after the trip.

When she reaches her destination, she misses her sister terribly and has no idea where to go from there. Thankfully, Stella has come to meet her with Eugenia, Mr. Watson and Mercy. Baby is overwhelmed with love for her family and new friends.

The very end of the story gives us a view on Baby’s life after the trip. She read the comics each day and she wrote down her story for George.

The necessary journey was indeed necessary. Baby, or Lucille, finds that she is her own person, capable of making decisions without Eugenia. Lucille also learns that she truly loved Eugenia and that the feeling is mutual. Not bad for a short little trip with no definite itinerary, just the feeling that it was necessary.

Friday the 13th!

I, unlike many Americans, do not see Friday the 13th as unlucky. Maybe it’s because my twin brother and I were born on a 13th. My 13th birthday actually fell on a Friday, and I got my basketball jersey that day…I was #13! Needless to say, it isn’t a day that I dread, oh no, it’s a day I look forward to.

In order to write about Friday the 13th, I needed a book or two about it, that’s kind of how this blog works. I searched and searched. There was not a lot to choose from.

I am not sure if I own Friday the 13th From the Black Lagoon, but it would get read. My second graders love this series!

I own the Dragon Slayers Academy series by Kate McMullan at school, but I haven’t read them (yet).

These two look old! The artwork makes me think they are from the mid to late 80s. I do not have them in my collection.

The best book I could find to honor this day doesn’t exist. It’s a parody:

I am a little twisted, and I love these awful movies. I love bad horror movies and bad sci-fi. There are quite a few of these parody Little Golden Books online. They make me laugh out loud.

Instead of spending the day looking over your shoulder for imaginary bad luck, spend it with a good book, and maybe a black cat. Just don’t go skinny dipping at Camp Crystal Lake, ‘kay?

Book: my autobiography

I’m taking a short side trip off of Deckawoo Drive to tell you about a brand new book I just got in at school. Book my biography was transcribed by John Agard and illustrated by Neil Packer.

My name is Book and I’ll tell you the story of my life.

This story begins with the earliest form of storytelling, the spoken recitations of our ancestors around campfires. Book tells us,

Before Book, there was Breath.

Book goes on to explain all of his ancestors, such as cave paintings and cuneiform on clay tablets. He explores the birth of letters from hieroglyphics and how they have been changed and reworked to fit the sounds they represent.

Book explains how he moved from clay tablets to papyrus to parchment and vellum and eventually to paper. He explores the words we use to describe books, here is one of my favorite passages:

He explains the transition from scroll to codex, and from codex to hardback. He talks about the handwritten illuminated copies of books made by monks and scribes, and on to the introduction of movable type and steam powered printers.

Book tells us of good times and bad. He doesn’t shy away from telling the reader about the terrible book burnings that have sadly repeated throughout history.

Wherever there is Book, there you will find the shadow of burning.

Book even talks about the newest evolution in the written word: eBooks. He gives them the credit they are due, but he makes sure to point out that you can’t smell an eBook, you can’t dog-ear a page, you can’t flip through the pages, not in the sense that you can with a piece of print.

From blank spaces, in soulless places, I will blossom into Book, scattering my seeds across the shelves of the imagination.

I really enjoyed this book! I use the masculine pronouns to describe it, but only because it was transcribed by a man. Neil Packer’s illustrations have the quality and texture of old woodcuts, and fit so perfectly. I like that Book (and Agard) credit cultures from all over the world with the inventions that added to the modern printed Book. Sometimes we teach a west-centric history that gives all the credit to Gutenberg when truly he shares it with Korean and Chinese inventors. There are other examples within the book as well.

I am a certified bibliophile, possibly a bibliomaniac, and I soaked up every bit of knowledge that this book could offer to me about someone I consider a lifelong friend. The material is very middle grade friendly but interesting to adults too. Get ready to learn more about the life of a book than you ever realized there could be!

Book leaves us with a final dedication:


Bibliophiles for collecting me

Bookbinders for binding me

Booksellers for selling me

Designers for designing me

Editors for editing me

Illustrators for illustrating me

Librarians for lending me

Printers for printing me

Readers for reading me

Reviewers for reviewing me

(favorably or not)

Translators for translating me

Writers for writing me

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Today I’m going to share more fun from Deckawoo Drive, where Mercy Watson lives. In her third book, Mercy foils a thief trying to steal her family’s toaster. That thief is Leroy Ninker. He isn’t a very good thief, for at heart, he wants to be a cowboy. In Mercy’s sixth book we see Leroy again, at his new job selling popcorn at the drive in movie theater. Leroy has reformed, but he still longs to be a real cowboy.

Kate DiCamillo followed the Mercy Watson series with books that are a grade level higher, the Tales From Deckawoo Drive series. Leroy stars in the first installment.

Leroy’s coworker, Miss Beatrice Leapaleoni, points out to him that he has the boots, the hat and the lasso, but he’s missing the horse. Beatrice shows him an ad for a horse that just might be perfect for him, but she reminds him to check the teeth and hooves.

When Leroy meets the horse, he sees that she has four hooves, so that’s good, and about four teeth, which seems okay to a guy who has no real horse knowledge. It turns out the horse, Maybelline, is free to someone who will love and car for her. She eats a lot, doesn’t like to be alone and loves compliments.

Leroy quickly learns that he must whisper sweet nothings in Maybelline’s ear to get her to giddy-up, but he doesn’t mind a bit. He doesn’t have hay or oats to feed her so he makes her a large pot of spaghetti. They are a match made in Heaven.

The climax of the story comes as a thunderstorm scares Maybelline into running off. Leroy is utterly lost without her but finally the clouds clear and he tracks her down. The story finishes up on Deckawoo Drive, where Leroy, Maybelline and some old friends enjoy a breakfast of toast with a good deal of butter on it.

What you have to do here is take fate in your hands and wrestle it to the ground.

Mercy Watson

Mercy Watson, is in short, a porcine wonder. A darling. A dear. She is the pet pig of Mr. and Mrs. Watson, of 54 Deckawoo Drive, but they treat her more like their child. Mercy has her own bedroom, gets to on drives in Mr. Watson’s convertible and enjoys all the toast (with a great deal of butter on it) that she can eat.

Mercy is the creation of Kate DiCamillo, author of fabulous books like Because of Winn Dixie, Flora & Ulysses, The Tale of Desperaux and The MiraculousJourney of Edward Tulane.

Mercy’s six books fall a little lower in AR—Mercy is just about perfect for most second grade students, and she is funny!

Mercy’s owners are those happy-but-oblivious types that you just can’t upset. Her neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln is a curmudgeon, but she’s still likable. Whenever something crazy happens on Deckawoo Drive, this group of neighbors diffuse the situation with hot buttered toast, even sharing with the policeman who caught Mercy driving. And the firemen, and LeRoy when he tried to rob the Watsons.

This sweet little neighborhood seems to be plucked from an idyllic mid-century community. It’s perfect for kids because the conflicts are resolved quickly with kind, neighborly gestures that we should all be making more of.

Chris Van Dusen outdid himself with the colorful and fun illustrations. I love the little hint of purple on Mercy’s ears and eyebrows. I love Mrs. Watson’s hair, I love Eugenia Lincoln’s stodgy old-lady face, and her sister, Baby’s sweet old-lady smile. And I adore that pink convertible!

There are more tales from this neighborhood, but you’ll have to wait to hear about them tomorrow. Visit Mercy’s website here…by the way, I am seriously craving toast with a good deal of butter on it.

Native American Day/Columbus Day

Depending on where you live, today’s national holiday may be called Columbus Day or Native American Day. We call it Native American Day where I live but it was Columbus Day where I grew up.

The “discovery” of the new world by Columbus is a hot topic for debate. Many other cultures claim to have landed in the Americas long before 1492 (Norsemen, Chinese explorers, sailors from India and possibly African explorers.)

The other controversy is of course the way in which the Spanish came looking for gold. They left disease behind and they took Native People as slaves. I have heard, though, that syphilis may have originated in the Americas, so that’s a pretty fitting exchange for all the diseases and devastation the conquistadors and colonists brought with them.

My book choice today is Encounter by Jane Yolen, with David Shannon as the illustrator.

There are no recorded accounts of the first meeting from the Taino people, but Yolen thought it would be interesting to tell their side of the story. The story is told by a boy who dreams of terrible birds who appear in the ocean.

When he sees the great canoes arrive, he knows these visitors should not be welcomed. The Chief does not listen to him though, for he is not yet a man. The Taino people did what they always did, and greeted their strange visitors with a feast and gifts.

The boy’s perception of the men (whom he says are not quite human, with their pale skin, light eyes and parrot-colored clothing) is not necessarily a pleasant one.

The boy is momentarily drawn in by the gifts of beads and bells, but he can see the greed in their ‘snake-like’ smiles. The boy is one of the natives taken back to the ships, eventually to become slaves, but the boy jumps ship and sets out to warn his people, but few listen and he cannot change what is destined to be.

So it was we lost our lands to the strangers from the sky. We gave our souls to their gods. We took their speech into our mouths, forgetting our own. Our sons and daughters became their sons and daughters, no longer true humans, no longer ours.

In 1492, the Taino people were the most populous people in the Caribbean. Within 50 years they were almost completely wiped out by disease and the actions of the Spanish.

I am not saying that Columbus was a bad man. Obviously, nothing could have prevented the spread of Man across the globe, we are after all, an invasive species. I don’t agree with greed being the motivation for exploration of new frontiers, but not everyone is going to see things my way.

Columbus’s account of the first contact was recorded, and you can click the link to read it on the Library of Congress website.

Just a final quote from the book:

May it be a warning to all the children and all the people in every land.

As we begin to explore the frontier of outer space, I hope we, the human race, have learned our lesson. I think it’s eventual that we will find other life in the Universe and we have to consciously decide how we will treat them. The flip side is to consider how we would want to be treated by a new race who “discovers” our planet and our resources it the future.

Jesse Bear

Yesterday’s books were by Carol Carrick, today’s books were right beside them, they are by Nancy White Carlstrom. The stories are all about Jesse Bear, Who has been around since the 80s but he’s new to me.

I have these four Jesse Bear books at school. The illustrations for the series are all done by Bruce Degen (I like when the same character is drawn by the same artist for each book.)

Jesse Bear book are written in rhyme, a great early literacy teaching tool. I think my favorite book was the first, What Will You Wear, Jesse Bear? It goes through his day as Jesse dresses and the plays and eats and get dirty. I think my kindergarten students would like this one. I also like How Do You Say It Today, Jesse Bear?. Jesse goes through the months of the year with a message for each. The overall theme is Jesse saying “I love you,” but you are left guessing until the end. There is a clue in each picture for an observant reader though.

Carlstrom and Degen made even more Jesse Bear books:

I probably won’t invest in any more of these book, unless I come across some at a thrift store, but if you love them, keep an eye out!

Patrick’s Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs have always been a favorite of mine. In 2nd grade I wrote a report on the ankylosaurus, and my best friend got the brachiosaurus. I considered becoming a genetic engineer in the early 90s (I was in middle school) and reading Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was a huge inspiration to me. I still remember seeing the movie for the first time…the music swelled as the brachiosaurus stood on its hind legs to reach the leaves of a tree….life changing to say the least.

Today’s book is about a little boy who is also going to learn something life changing, it’s a classic from 1983 by Carol Carrick.

Patrick and his brother are at the zoo when Hank begins comparing zoo animals to dinosaurs. Patrick’s imagination brings the dinosaurs to life in the zoo and streets around him.

The story is wonderful and it’s easy to forgive the out-dated sluggish look the dinosaurs have in the illustrations. In 1983 we just didn’t know any better.

Patrick and Hank return in a second book,

where Patrick let’s us in on what life was like for the dinosaurs. He asserts the coexisted with humans but they did everything for the humans, and eventually they got sick of it and left. Patrick says they went into space but still check on us from time to time.

My favorite detail of this book was the cars the dinosaurs provided to humans. They are wind-up since there wouldn’t have been fossil fuels way back then.

There is a third book about Patrick and his dinosaurs, but I do t have it at school.

I’d like to get it and replace the first two. You can tell they have been well loved.

I own one other Carol Carrick book, Big Old Bones.

Professor Potts discovers some big old bones while on vacation but when he assembles then they just don’t seem right. He ends up creating a hodgepodge if a triceratops, brontosaurus and a t-Rex. This is actually something that happened fairly often in the early days of paleontology. I think kids would get a kick out of it.

I see online that Carol Carrick has a lot of great looking titles, but alas, I don’t have access to them. Do you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it.