The Book No One Ever Read

I love picture books — no surprise there — and it makes me sad when any book is forgotten on the shelf. So when I saw the title or this book

I had to read it. The huge bonus was the author, Cornelia Funke. Funke (pronounced foon•ka) is from Germany and her books have a different flavor to them, since they draw on European traditions that you don't always find in American writings.

Funke has created a tribute to the great books she loved as a kid.

How wonderful to encourage kids to live a book and to become part of it! The characters in this book are books. Morry is sad that no one ever reads them but the other books are fine with no one soiling their pages. Funke's illustrations turn beloved authors into books.
You will recognize many as you follow Morry's story. In the end I knew exactly who Morry was and you will too. Enjoy this tribute to much loved authors and their books.

Jack the Ripper

My family loves a good mystery. My husband isn't a reader, though, so the mysteries we share tend to be on tv. Right now we are watching s History Channel series about H.H. Holmes, a serial killer from Chicago in the 1890s.

Holmes is actually an alias, one of many, as this man was a con artist and committed fraud many times for money as well.

The series is based on the theory that H.H. Holmes could have also been Jack the Ripper. This theory has been put forward by his great-great-grandson. The grandson and a former CIA investigator are looking for clues to either prove or disprove this theory. It is a compelling argument and I think it has a strong basis in fact. We are only two episodes into the eight part series, so I can't tell you anything definitively.

What I can tell you is I have read books of differing theories on who the Ripper was.

Cornwell is the author of a bestselling mystery series. She believes in research and backs up her theories. She postulates that Jack the Ripper was a troubled impressionist artist who was known for painting odd subject matter. Walter Sickert followed the Impressionist art style and so would have painted things he actually saw.

This painting is called The Camden Town Murder, and the Ripper's last known victim was killed in her bed.

A second book I have read is
The theory here is that the man who was Jack the Ripper stopped killing because he was institutionalized after slitting his own wife's throat.

If I was going to pick one suspect based on these two books, I'd go with Sickert, but now I think H.H. Holmes could be him.

One of the things about this mystery is that I don't think we will ever conclusively prove who he was. Crime scene investigation was in its infancy at that time and the scenes were often contaminated by unwary gawkers and police officers. DNA could yield clues but I don't know that much of the evidence remains. There is a shawl from Mary Eddows being tested for the show but I doubt the blood is anyone but hers.

I wish I had more time to read other theories for comparison, but I just don't right now. I'll have to rely on the History Channel series to sate my curiosity for now.

Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower

Yesterday I had planned to post about a beautifully illustrated book that I came across at work.  Of course, things changed, as is natural, and instead I posted about my beloved Bloo.  I do still want to share the book about the Eiffel Tower with you though.


First off, I do not know if this story is true.  I did some poking around on the Internet and most of the known story about the Eiffel Tower being designed for the 1889 World’s Fair seems to be very straightforward.  Gustave Eiffel (and other engineers) designed the tower to stand 1,063 feet tall, the same as an 81-story building.

The picture book, with it’s fabulous vintage-feeling illustrations, seems to suggest that Eiffel designed the tower to help his wife overcome depression.  The story is not really clear if it cured her or if she died.  It’s poetic, but the ending is confusing.  I’m not sure kids would understand this.


The author,  Alice Brière-Haquet, and illustrator, Csil, made a beautiful book, but it’s probably not one that I’d use in class.  I love the style and the idea of the story is beautiful, but I just couldn’t find definitive proof that this is a true story, or even a fictionalized version of real events.  I think it’s a great book for looking at a different illustration style, but it’s not a great book for gathering facts.

All cats go to Heaven.

I can't write a lot today. I just can't. Bloo, my 9 year old cat, passed away today. He hadn't been sick and he was himself right up until the end.

Bloo was a lap cat through and through, and he never met anyone he didn't like. I found this poem online and I think it's perfect.

If you have ever had to see kids through the loss of a pet, there are many titles to help them understand and grieve.

I know that not everyone believes our pets go to Heaven, but I do. I look forward to cuddling him again some day.

Author Spotlight: Peter Brown

Peter Brown isn't just an author, he's an author/illustrator.

He is one of my favorite picture book authors; kids just love his funny stories.

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not!) is a story about a boy stuck with a loud and growling teacher who is always yelling st him in class. But one day he sees her at the park and is amazed at how un-monsterlike she is. It would be fun for Brown to write the story from the teacher's point of view. My Student Is a Gremlin or something like that. The first time I ever read this to a class, I was wearing a wide bracelet that oxidized on my skin. The 2nd graders' eyes about popped out when they saw my green skin!

Lucy is a bear who happens across a little child in the woods one day. She promises to take good care of Squeaker, and at first he seems like a great pet. Sadly, Squeaker's manners aren't the best and he's impossible to house train. Lucy has to make the hard choice to set him free so he can be happy in the wild with his own kind. My students are always incredulous that Lucy sees Squeaker as an animal and the scene with the litter pan gets them giggling every time.

Lucy is back for another adventure! She is determined to make a new friend but quickly realizes that friendship can't be forced. She also learns that she doesn't have to change who she is to make friends either. Just being her quirky self, she ends up finding the perfect friend in the end.

Brown won the Caldecott Award for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. Mr. Tiger is from a very prim and proper town where everyone acts appropriately. But one day, he just decides he's had enough and breaks free from the expectations of his neighbors. Ultimately, Mr. Tiger has to find a happy medium, not too proper and not too wild. He ends up helping the whole community learn to relax and be themselves.

Brown has more books, but I want to read them before I talk about them. So, to be continued…

The tricky thing about hats.

I know, you’re thinking that hats are pretty basic, but they’re not if you’re an animal from the world of author/illustrator Jon Klassen.

​For example, this big bear has lost his hat and can’t seem to find it. He asks everyone he can find and no one seems to know anything about the hat. Until…

Bear isn’t overly bright, he believes that rabbit hasn’t seen the hat and walks away before realizing the error he’s made. Rabbit doesn’t seem to feel to bad about it either.

Sometimes you happen upon a treasure like this smart little bowler hat, and even though it’s not yours….well, why not try to get away with it?

Unfortunately for the little fish, the animals aren’t afraid to point out who took the hat. I’d give it back to the big guy too.

And what happens when two friends find one hat?

Hopefully, they figure out how to share. Or at least take turns.

Klassen has a very unassuming humor that kids love. I also enjoy books that he has illustrated for other authors:

You’ll need to really look at these pictures. Somehow he hides little details in his simple drawings that kids will love.

The Candymakers

The summer before I started at the school library I listened to a book on audio called The Candymakers. It’s by Wendy Mass.

I will admit to being fuzzy on the exact details, but I remember the premise.

Logan is the Candymaker’s son. That means his dad won a competition at age twelve to create a new kind of candy–the best of the year. I’m fact, his grandfather won as well, so there’s no pressure or anything for Logan to win.

He is competing against three strange kids, you can see their descriptions in the picture above. Each kid has a crazy weird story that brought them to this point but the weirdest part is how the stories all intertwine. Who will create the best candy of the year?

This book is thick but it was a hit with 5th and 6th grade students, so I was excited to see Wendy Mass had written a sequel:

I have just started this book, and I’m not reading it, I’m listening to it. Normally, I only use audio books when I’m driving with my girls to Nebraska (a trip that got cancelled this summer.) I started crocheting this summer, I learned with the tween girls in crochet club. I’m ‘hooked’ on it, but I’m feeling guilt over not reading my books for the What’s New In Children’s Literature class I’m teaching in two weeks. 

Today, it struck me that I could listen to books while I crochet (big duh there). It’s a new 2017 book too, so I can use it for my presentation. I’m killing two–maybe three–birds with one stone, awesome!
This new story involves a 50 year old mystery that goes back to Logan’s grandfather, the first of the Candymakers. I’m on chapter 6 and Miles and Philip are at the factory for the unveiling of the candy that won the competition in the first book. Daisy hasn’t entered the storyline yet, but I don’t think the boys will be able to solve the mystery without her.

P.S. This book makes me hungry for candy!!

The Missing Piece

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday, and in honor of that, I want to share her two most favorite childhood books.

When she was 3 we borrowed Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece from the library. Something about Silverstein’s simplistically drawn pictures and the words of the story hooked her. We read it every night and she memorized it. Her favorite part to say was this:

After discovering her love for this book, we decided to try The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.

She didn’t latch on to it quite as much as the first, but I bought copies of both for our private collection anyway. I plan to save those copies and give them to her kids when she grows up (I don’t want to think of it!….)

It’s obvious to most adult readers that Silverstein’s message was about relationships and what we expect from our partners in life. I doubt kids see that, or at least understand it the way adults do.

I am so happy to share something that brought her so much joy on her special day. I hope you have a young one to share it with too.

Author Spotlight: David Wellington

Warning: today’s post is about a horror author! 

David Wellington is one of my favorite authors of horror fiction. The first book of his that I read was Monster Island.

Honestly, they weren’t bad, just different from most zombie books I’d been reading at that time. The premise of the first book is a group from Africa must get into New York City to get medications for treating an HIV+ warlord in Africa. 

After I finished that series, I decided to try his vampire series. I loved vampires as a teenager and got away from them when Twilight came along. No, I did not read that crap! I just felt like vampires had became too much of a fad. So it was with trepidation that I tried 13 Bullets. 

This series is based around a Pennsylvania State Trooper named Laura Caxton. She is recruited into a secret force with the purpose of eliminating vampires from the world. Wellington’s vampires do not sparkle. They are hairless, with teeth like sharks and they will rip your head right off. Fabulous! Caxton is a badass and I always wanted more books about her. 

One of my favorite things about Wellington’s writing is his crossover characters. A family from the Monster series plays a big part in the Laura Caxton books. I did notice that the storylines for that family don’t quite match up in the two series, almost like they are alternate timelines.

Since I loved the Laura Caxton series so much, it was a no-brainer to read his werewolf series.

Frostbite and Overwinter are about a young woman who is accidentally scratched by a werewolf who has haunted her nightmares for years and he is obliged to take her in. She is not happy about the situation and the two must find an uneasy peace in the far northern woods of Canada.

I liked these books a lot and I was bummed out that the series is only two books long.

Wellington got his start with a book called Plague Zone that he published a chapter at a time as an online serial.

I read it online, and it was good! The main character is away on business when the zombie plague starts in his hometown. He sees video on the national news of the outbreak and the video shows his wife being attacked by a former neighbor. He decides that he has to find and destroy that single zombie, but to do it he must walk back into the plague zone.

So, as you can guess, I can hardly get enough of Wellington. I’m still trying to get all those new children’s books done for that class I’m teaching, but I needed a break and do I checked the library catalog and found Posi+tive.

Posi+tive takes place twenty years after the zombie plague hit, but it’s not over yet. The remaining population live in protected enclaves like Manhattan, where Finn lives. Unfortunately, the virus that caused the zombies can take up to twenty years to incubate in the host’s brain. Finn’s world is turned upside down when his mother turns into a zombie one night at supper. Finn is branded a positive, he could have caught it from her as a baby.

It’s not supposed to be a death sentence to be branded a positive, but Finn finds out the hard way that life outside his little city is very different than he expected. Being a positive doesn’t keep him safe from zombies. Or road pirates. Or death cults. Finn is going to have to find a way to forge a brand new world.

I’m not finished with it yet, but something wonderful happened in this book! Laura Caxton showed up!! I think this is a third alternate timeline, but it doesn’t matter, she’s still Laura. Thank you, David Wellington, for throwing me a bone!

Towers Falling

Earlier this summer I posted about a book called nine, ten: a September 11th story. Tonight I’d like to tell you about a second book that deals with the September 11th tragedy.

Towers Falling by Jewel Parker Rhodes takes place in 2016, 15 years after the tragedy (you may remember that nine, ten takes place in the days leading up to the tragedy.)  

The story’s main character is Dèja, a girl who has recently had to move with her family to a homeless shelter. The move means she will have to start at a new school. She doesn’t want anyone to know about her living situation and is willing to push people away to keep the secret.

Dèja’s life isn’t easy. She has a younger brother and sister she must help care for, her mother works a lot, and something is wrong with her dad. He is sad and angry for no reason, he has trouble breathing and he can’t hold a job. Deja doesn’t understand because he won’t tell her anything.

Dèja makes friends at school, despite her best efforts. Ben is a new kid too, he’s just moved to New York because of his parents’ divorce, and Sabeen, a wonderfully sweet girl from a Muslim family. The new school seems to be working out for Dèja until Miss Garcia explains they must learn about the history Of their city, one tragic event in particular.

Dèja has no idea what Miss Garcia is alluding to. She asks questions and the responses make her feel like she did something wrong. She has no idea what happened to the World Trade Center fifteen years before.

-I still don’t understand. How can ‘history be alive’? The people in those towers are dead. It happened long ago.

-Not so long. Fifteen years.

-I wasn’t even born. Why should I care?

-A good question, Dèja. Why should anybody care?

Dèja isn’t too blame for her ignorance of history or its importance. She has been purposely kept in the dark. I quickly guessed that her father had post traumatic stress, and my guess was that he was a first responder. 

I don’t want to give too much of the book away. I can tell you that the tragedy has touched each of the children’s lives. Dèja’s family is struggling because of her father’s PTSD, Ben’s father is a veteran from Afghanistan, and Sabeen’s family is distrusted for being Muslim. 

The children decide to find out the truth and because of their bravery, they are able to help their families come to grips with the past and move into the future.