The Book of Mistakes

Mistakes happen. To all of us. You can either let them ruin your project or you can let your mistakes help you grow.

Corinna Luyken is an amazing artist who makes mistakes. Her debut book came from a mistake and I cannot begin to explain her art with words, so you’re going to have to go get this book and read it. I will give you a taste:

It started

with one mistake.

Making the other eye even bigger was another mistake.

But the glasses–they were a good idea.

You just have to read this book. There is so much more to the mistakes that become more in Luyken’s art.

I really love the idea of building on our mistakes. Mistakes make us better, and I always point out when I make one around kids. They need to know it’s okay. Thanks Luyken for helping illustrate that point.

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Bittle

Life is pretty good for Julia the dog and Nigel the cat.

Until their owners start acting strange. They paint a room a green that Nigel disdains and they bring home tiny hats and socks…and then a baby!

Julia and Nigel do not think the family needs a baby. And they are certainly not going to be the ones to raise it!

But the little bit of a thing-Bittle-works their way into their hearts. She plays with them, she shares food with them, and when she cries, they comfort her.

The climax of the story comes with Bittle’s first words. Will it be dada or mama? It ends up being “woof” and “meow”, and then something all three can do together:

I really like reading this story. MacLachlan’s humor about the animals slowly coming to love Bittle is wonderful. Kids love this book too, find a little one to share it with and you’ll see what I mean.

Baabwaa & Wooliam

I really like books about sheep. They have those great words that work in the “baa” sound and I love to make that sound. And the title of this one is fa-baa-lous!

Baabwaa likes to knit, a very practical sheep hobby, and Wooliam likes to read. One day they decide to have an adventure similar to the ones the read about in books. After a few laps around the field they meet a suspicious sheep who has not been taught to brush his teeth.

Wooliam realizes that this is the wolf in sheep’s clothing that he’s read about and a chase ensues. Eventually, the wolf stops running to ask what Wooliam meant about reading about him. As it turns out, the wolf can’t read. It is agreed that Wooliam will teach him to read and Baabwaa will knit him a sweater (his wool one looks awful!)

There are still some chases from time to time but in the end, the three become friends.

I loved this book! I had no idea how the story would turn out, but I sure like how it ended up.

Old-timey strongmen

I got in some new books today and was very excited to see new biographies. The one that caught my eye was Strong as Sandow by Don Tate.

Eugen Sandow was once a weakling who became the world’s strongest man through exercise and eating right.

I have not yet done more reading online about Sandow, but some of the information about him is sketchy, as author Don Tate points out. As an interesting side note, Tate is a former natural body building champion himself.

Sandow’s story is similar to another famous strongman, Charles Atlas.

Atlas is considered the epitome of the male form, but he also started out as a weakling. I just rescued a very beat up copy of a biography of Atlas as well.

Atlas came years after Sandow but had a similar career. He was a model for statues and paintings like Sandow and he created fitness routines and books to help others get healthy and fit.

I have a third strongman biography at school as well. Siegmund Breitbart was known as Zishe the Strongman (his biography has that title.) His story differs though. He was naturally strong as a child and I did not find any information about him writing about his strength or promoting his exercise routine.

So if you’re in the mood to learn about something outside of your normal selections, give these three old-timely strongmen a try.

Tom’s Tweet

It’s a scientific fact that cats are predators and they love to eat birds. The cat in today’s story is banking on that.

Tom is prowling through the yard after a storm when he spies a tweet on the ground. He sneaks up to catch it and then realizes it’s nothing but feathers and bone.

Somehow, some way, this little tweet blink-blink-blinks and Tom feels responsible for helping it. But how do you get a baby back into its nest when it’s mama is psycho?!?

Tom decides to give mama some cool down time. That darn tweet needs something, but what? Not twigs in a slightly nest-ish pile, ugh! It wants worms, but won’t eat them whole! Tom chews up the worms for the little tweet and that finally does the trick. Tweet is so happy, he curls up in Tom’s armpit for a nap.

Tom finally manages to get the tweet back into its nest and is rid of it once and for all. So why is he dreaming of the little tweet? Cats aren’t supposed to care about birds!!!

The next day, Tom sees something fall out of the tree…could it be his tweet? Of course. Mama bird realizes that Tom is trying to help the baby back to the nest and gives him a new job. Tweety sitting.

I loved this book! It has so much going for it. Dan Santat drew the great pictures and Jill Esbaum wrote a funny sweet story. Despite what the laws of nature are, it’s not unheard of for these odd relationships to form. Tom reminds me of our big (very big) Jack. Jack is a lovable curmudgeon, as Tom is at the start of the story. It just made my day to read this great story.

Amelia Bedelia

Did you read Amelia Bedelia as a kid? I know I did. She’s considered a classic character and for good reason!

Peggy Parish’s classic was written in 1963, and Parish continued to write about The mixed-up maid until she passed away in 1988. The premise of Amelia Bedelia’s stories are that she doesn’t understand figures of speech. When told to dress the chicken for dinner, we get this:

When told to dust the furniture, she uses fancy perfumed dusting powder to sprinkle over everything. When told to draw the drapes, she tests out her artistic skills, and to change the towels, she cuts them up and resews them into something completely different.

Now I love Amelia, and I love the idea of her books, but kids today don’t necessarily get all the jokes. I read the original story to first graders last year. They knew about dusting and about changing the towels, but none of them had ever heard curtains called drapes or heard of dressing a chicken or turkey, and I don’t know anyone who still uses fancy perfumed dusting powder. The problem isn’t with the writing, it’s with our language and how it grows and changes over time. Our vernacular evolves and changes every day. So does that mean we scrap amazing books like Amelia Bedelia?

No, of course not! I think we just have to find a way to make it work–expand the kids’ horizons. We (the readers) were given a big help in 1994 when Herman Parish, the nephew of Peggy Parish, started his own Amelia Bedelia book series.

You’ll notice right away that Amelia is a little girl, and that’s great. Herman can give her her own storylines without cutting in on the ones his aunt created. The picture books were so popular that he decided to start a chapter book series as well.

I haven’t had a chance to read the series yet, but I’ve started the third book, Road Trip. Amelia is excited when her father announces they have a week to go roam…which Amelia thinks means they are heading to Rome in Italy. This is the same kind of joke that Peggy Parish used in the original books, but it’s more culturally meaningful to today’s readers. After her dad figures out her confusion, he explains that they will be exploring the great sites in their own backyard…which sounds to Amelia like they won’t even be leaving home! Kids often get the real meaning long before Amelia which makes it even funnier to them.

I know you and your little readers will enjoy this wonderful classic character, even if it’s in her new incarnation. I often start kids with the newer stuff, and they find the older stuff better because they have an idea of what’s happening before they jump into a book full of figures of speech they don’t hear on a daily basis.

But don’t jump on books, it’s hard on the spines and you could slip and fall. (See what I did there??)

First Day Jitters

Today was my school’s second day of the school year, so I wanted to post about one of the many, many books about going back to school.

Sarah Jane Hartwell does not want to start at her new school. She refuses to get out of bed and just knows she’ll hate it.

Mr. Hartwell tries to reason with her, but this girl is stubborn! I love that the dog sides with Mr. Hartwell and the cat with Sarah Jane.

Finally, Sarah Jane has to get up and get ready for the dreaded first day. Mr. Hartwell reminds her of all the new friends she’ll make and how much she’ll like it once she settles in.

Mr. Hartwell drives Sarah Jane to school and horror of horrors! The principal sees her and insists on guiding her inside. The worst part of all? She also insists on introducing Sarah Jane to the class!

What a fun story! Kids can see that teachers are people too, and we have first day jitters just like them. Julie Danneberg wrote a series of books to cover the whole school year.

Just a note: Julie Danneberg is an author and a teacher.