Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires! 🐻 🔥 🌲

My family is currently on a much anticipated vacation to Yellowstone National Park. We were driving through the mountains in Wyoming today when I saw a sign similar to this.

I noticed the sign because of Smokey, an iconic piece of pop culture that almost every person living in America is familiar with. I recently watched an episode of Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum (season 11) about the real bear cub who survived a forest fire and went on to become the living embodiment of the well known ambassador.

I figured there had to be more than a few books about Smokey and I was right!

I haven’t read any of these books, but I’d love to get my hands on a narrative nonfiction picture book of his life. A search on Google turned up a song as well as animated videos and comics about Smokey.

I wonder what other pop culture characters have books?

Who did I miss? Maybe the Tootsie Pop Owl,

or that weird hunk-a-cheese guy

but I doubt either has a book.

If you’re interested to learn more about Smokey, both the real cub and the ad figure, check out the Wikipedia page to start.


Frog and Toad Are Friends

I was mowing the lawn today and I made some new friends. Frog and Toad live by the wall that separates our yard from our neighbors. Truthfully, they are both toads, but don’t tell Frog…he’d be heartbroken if he knew.

Yeah, the heat has driven me a bit crazy. But seeing the two little guys — who I carefully nudged to safety — made me think of one of the best friendship stories I’ve ever read. I’m willing to bet you’ve read them too.

Frog and Toad Are Friends was one of the first books I read aloud to my oldest daughter. My mother-in-law had given me the set of Frog and Toad books that belonged to my husband when he was a little boy. My daughters read them again in 2nd grade as they honed their reading skills. And I will read some of them to my first graders from time to time, as an idea of the great chapter books that await them.

The kids always get a kick out of Toad wanting to sleep in for just one more month. Frog is wonderfully clever and changes the calendar. The two are foolish and sweet and naive, exactly what little kids should be reading about.

Arnold Lobel was a great writer. He wrote other great stories like Owl At Home, Mouse Tails, and Mouse Soup. I have picture books, chapter books and collections of poetry and fables by Lobel in my library. You can even watch Frog and Toad on YouTube. The claymation stories were made in 1985. I’m pretty excited about these videos. I like to let the kids earn rewards, and I try to keep it book themed. They will really like this!

Now that I have frogs and toads on my mind, I’m reminded of other great stories:

  • The Wind In the Willows (Kenneth Graham)
  • The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (Beatrix Potter)
  • Grandfather Frog (Thornton Burgess)

A confession.

Have you noticed I haven’t posting a lot this summer? I haven’t been reading a lot this summer. Shocking, I know. The sad truth is that I’m struggling to read because of my eyes.

I’ve been preparing for the two classes on Children’s Lit that I’ll be teaching in August, but in order to bring the newest books to the presentation, I need to read digital advance copies. Ever heard of digital eye strain? I imagine that the human eye is going to have to evolve soon to compensate for the digital world we are living in.

For me, eye strain causes headaches and I’ve been a migraine sufferer for almost 25 years. I can’t spend a whole summer reading when it makes my head want to explode. Even switching to print can be difficult. It’s too much.

I don’t want to disappoint the people taking my classes so I’ve pushed myself to get in a lot of picture books and nonfiction. They are shorter and faster to get through than a novel.

I’d say “it’s ironic,” but I read somewhere once that that’s an often misused word, and I’d probably be the one to do just that. It does remind me of a fabulous old Twilight Zone episode starring Burgess Meredith. It’s called Time Enough At Last. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, the sole survivor of an apocalypse is a lover of books and is overjoyed to finally have time to read in peace. Until he breaks his glasses, that is.

The link above will take you to the Wikipedia entry on the episode. I am sure you can watch the full episode on YouTube as well.

Getting ready for school to start.

It seems way, waaay too early to be thinking of school starting back up, but the truth is, once the 4th of July passes, the rest of summer just flies by. Since I have a big to-do list outside of school in the next few weeks, I figured it was time to get my projects at school done.

My first, and quickest project of the summer was to update the electrical conduit post on my desk. Five years ago when I started at the school I decided to add something whimsical that was really fun.

I used foam core painted using the Elmer’s Glue crackle technique to look like old painted wood. I borrowed a friend’s Cricut to do the words and attached them to the post with magnets.

This year I realized that I was ready to do something new with the post. I’ve added a lot of bright primary colors to the library over the years and this was too blah for my color scheme. I took inspiration from my table decorations and decided to make a giant truffula tree.

The ones on the tables have been changed slightly, but they still look similar and I love how it came out. Those are plastic leis that I found at the dollar store, zip tied in bundles to the post. Then I cut each loop and they spiral apart all on their own.

Next up was a new bulletin board. I love doing bulletin boards, but I try to make them into art pieces because I want them to last more than a few months.

I decided on the fun theme of 20,000 Reads Under the Sea.

I wanted to show the progression of this board so I took pictures as I worked. To create the background, I bought an ocean waves plastic tablecloth. The edges are a self adhesive border that I cut into “scales”. I stapled them even though they are supposed to stick on their own. The humidity makes everything peel off my walls so no reason to think dollar store border would be any different.

I like the depth that cardboard canopies give to boards but I’m too cheap to buy one. Instead, I took three of the big flat boxes that laminate flooring come in and glued them together to create a large canopy. Attaching the canopy to the wall wasn’t easy. At all. I ended up using a line of hot glue on the wall behind it. Then as extra support, the net hangs from command hooks (reinforced with hot glue), and it holds up multiple points on the outer edge of the canopy.

The seaweed was an easy and cheap part of the project. I bought two green plastic tablecloths, and cut them into long strips — leaving about 6 inches uncut on one end. Each strip then gets irregular diagonal cuts up and down its length. They don’t need to be perfect at all.

I used the overhead projector to trace out a mermaid I found online. I used regular white drawing paper so I could use markers and watercolors on it.

Her tail is colored with permanent markers, then I added a shadow below each one with a dark gold sharpie and highlighted each one with a silver gel pen. Her skin is watercolor and her hair is both marker and watercolor.

The coral reef was created with pool noodles, bulletin board paper, tissue paper and pipe cleaners. I even cut egg cartons to look like barnacles! The finishing touches are the cool fish I got on Amazon and sea shells from the thrift store glued into the upper layer of the reef.

I’m proud of this. It looks very organic and that’s what I wanted. I really love creating art and this will blow the kids away. If you would like to find the pins that helped me create this project, here is the Pinterest board I created for this theme.

Thrift Store Scores

It’s been awhile since I found any great books for myself at the thrift store. Lately I’ve found lots of great books for the school library, but not so much for my personal library. Today I found not one but 4 great treasures!

I love Because of Winn Dixie more than I can say. I recommend it to both boys and girls in 3rd and 4th grade all the time. I haven’t ever owned my own copy so I was excited to grab this beautiful hard bound copy with a pristine dust jacket for 75¢!

Synopsis: One summer’s day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.

The Kitchen Boy is a fabulous Young Adult title by Robert Alexander. I found a perfect paperback copy at Goodwill and I hope someday my daughter will want to read it. says this is soon going to be made into a movie!!

Synopsis: Drawing from decades of work, travel, and research in Russia, Robert Alexander re-creates the tragic, perennially fascinating story of the final days of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov as seen through the eyes of their young kitchen boy, Leonka. Now an ancient Russian immigrant, Leonka claims to be the last living witness to the Romanovs’ brutal murders and sets down the dark secrets of his past with the imperial family. Does he hold the key to the many questions surrounding the family’s murder? Historically vivid and compelling, The Kitchen Boy is also a touching portrait of a loving family that was in many ways similar, yet so different, from any other.

I am nothing if not a zombie fan. I don’t watch The Walking Dead anymore (too much humans killing humans) but I do enjoy Kirkman’s writing. I read his book Rise of the Governor but never got around to this one. Again, it is a hard bound copy with a perfect dust jacket!

Synopsis: The first book explained how the Governor was created; this thrilling sequel to The New York Times bestseller further reveals his ruthless, inhuman conquest of Woodbury.

Plucker written and illustrated by Brom is creepy-cool. I haven’t read it yet but I couldn’t put it down after I flipped through it.

Synopsis: This story takes place in the shadowy land of make-believe, where Jack and his box are stuck beneath the bed with the other castaway toys. When Plucker, a malevolent spirit, is set loose upon the world of make-believe, Jack is thrust into the unlikely role of defending Thomas, the very child who abandoned him.