My Library: fun stuff!

After a crazy-busy summer and start to the school year, I finally had a chance to get some fun new decorations put up in the school library.

I redid the truffula trees that I mark the table colors with. Those are sink plungers that I spray painted green, then striped with acrylic paint (yay, painters tape!) The tops are dollar store plastic leis. You get all six colors in a bundle for a dollar and I bought 15 bundles. Last year I clipped the loops but the kids picked at them constantly. These aren’t cut so they should last a lot longer.

I thought my clock was pretty blah, so I bought teal-striped paper straws and red Pom-poms. After gluing them on, I just taped them to the wall. Easy-least but with a big impact. I love that it looks both mid-century modern and Seuss-ish.

Last year I decided to pull some beautiful vintage books out of circulation. Today, I added my personal collection of old book covers. It makes an eclectic mix that I love.

The project I’m most excited about is finally getting to add the Emerald City to my Oz collection. I used green glass vases, bottles and miscellaneous containers to make the display. The ones that weren’t originally green were dyed using Elmer’s glue and food coloring.

So those are my fun additions for now. I have a few other ideas but I’m not quite done working them out yet. I’ll share them when I do!


Fuzzy Mud

One of my job perks this summer is getting to help with clubs – Lego Club, Cooking Club, Crochet Club, Coding Club and the Tween Book Club. One of the girls who comes to multiple clubs was adamant that I read this month’s book, Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar.

I’ve discussed other Sachar books before, Wayside School. I also love his book Holes, but Fuzzy Mud very different from them. It has a menacing feel to it, so this book is geared more towards 5-7 grade students.

The story is set in a private school in Pennsylvania. Tamaya is a 5th grader, Marshall is a 7th grader and Chad is his bully. Marshall leads Tamaya through the woods one day so that he can avoid a fight with Chad. Chad finds them, and to help Marshall, Tamaya grabs a handful of a strange tar-like mud that has a fuzz of moss on top, and shoves it into Chad’s face.

The story progresses quickly from there. Tamaya developes a strange rash on her hand that keeps spreading and Chad goes missing. There are transcripts from a environmental hearing where the safety of a new alternative fuel is being debated spread between the chapters. The fuel uses a genetically modified slime-mold for energy. Is it safe? What if it wasn’t contained? What if there was a leak into the surrounding countryside? 

Sachar has also put in clues as to how quickly the problem is progressing. The chapter headings show an illustration that might just be a Petri dish. For Chapter 1 there is a single dot in the dish. As the story progresses, it begins to look more and more like this:

The ergonym in the biofuel doubles every thirty-two minutes. As the story builds towards its climax, we also see simple math equations:

2 x 1 = 2

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 4 = 8

It doesn’t take long for the equations to create very high numbers.

2 x 67,108,864 = 134,217,728

2 x 134,217,728 = 268,435,456

Tamaya, Marshall and Chad are in grave danger and no one knows it. The kids have to overcome all of their fears to make it through.

The True Story of Ten Dogs

Stay: the true story of ten dogs is a book about the power of love between humans and dogs.

Luciano Anastasini is from a very, very long line of circus performers. He was an amazing performer until he fell 50 feet breaking so many bones that it took four operations to put him back together. It looked like his performing days were over.

Amazingly, he refused to give up on his life in the circus and instead decided to try something new. He reasoned that the new act would be his second chance so he wanted animals who also needed a second chance.

Luciano adopted his first 5 dogs that no one else had wanted. A dog who couldn’t stop running into things, a thief, a biter, a digger and a stray. Because he loved them, and saw each dog as worthwhile, he came to see their hidden talents and helped them overcome their problems.

Luciano was able to create an act where the dogs were silly and happy because of their wonderful lives with him offstage. He even started taking in more dogs that seemed unlovable.

We are grumpy, scruffy, restless, broken. We have done things we wish we hadn’t. But inside each of us, there waits an infinity of dazzle, color, humor, hope, sadness, joy…an endless parade of clowns.

We just need someone to open the door, to see us. And to believe.

Kate DiCamillo wrote that quote in her introduction to the book. I don’t think she was just talking about dogs.

I’m a big believer of rescuing animals, dogs and cats. And I can’t wait to share this story with my students. I think more than a few might decide rescuing is the way to go as well.

As a side note, I want to say that I love the circus! 

As a little girl, I would happily tell you that I wanted to be a circus clown when I grew up. I still do–although I have realized that in my job I get to perform for happy children every day, making them laugh with my silly antics, and there seem to be more than a few circus monkeys wandering the school’s halls. So maybe I achieved my goal after all.

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover 

Or maybe you should. I am often in awe of the amazing artwork that is used for books. If it didn’t matter, wouldn’t the title just be printed in block letters?

But sometimes, covers just end up weird. For example, today I was sorting the unused dust jackets for future use–I often use them as topical decoration in the school library. I have years worth and I sometimes inherit them from other teachers. As such, sometimes I have a jacket but no longer have the book. Today I found one like that.

There is nothing wrong with this book, and I’m sure it has a place in most libraries…but I am disturbed by both the title and the illustration. I’m just not feeling it. 

Now for the weirdest cover I’ve seen in my library:

It’s probably a great book. The Berenstains write fabulous stories that teach morals and family friendly lessons. But I just can’t get past that creepy guy on the cover.

What can I say? I’ve got a warped sense of humor and little things amuse me. For more weird books you should visit

Author Spotlight: Deborah Hopkinson

Time to talk about another favorite of mine, Deborah Hopkinson

I first realized what a great writer Hopkinson was when I read Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. It tells of a harrowing incident where a young Abe Lincoln almost drowned in Knob Creek, Kentucky. I love reading this story aloud, I get to use my quasi-southern accent (my husband and I lived in Kentucky for 4 years.) Abe is saved by his good friend but that friend does not figure into Abe’s later life. This  quote from that story sums it up perfectly:

I own quite a few of Hopkinson’s books at school. Here are just a few:

I really like to read Apples to Oregon aloud too. I’ve mentioned  one of her chapter books, The Great Trouble, a mystery of London, the blue death and a boy called Eel in one of my previous posts.

Hopkinson is quite a prolific writer and I’m excited to buy some new titles next school year. Here are a few on my wish list:

I think if you give these books a try, you’ll find a great story mixed with history is an unbeatable combination.

Heart of a Champion

I’m not really much for sports fiction. I don’t really follow want sports as a habit and I just am not drawn to the titles. But I have athletic daughters and so I could tell you how TaeKwonDo works and the basics of softball. Thank goodness for my softball knowledge because it lends itself to baseball on a basic level.

My daughter read Heart of a Champion by Carl Deuker in 7th grade reading and loved it. She told me at least 10 times that I should read it too. Normally if a student recommends a book I will try to read it and I always thank them for the recommendation. I want them to know I respect their opinions. So when it’s my own daughter recommending the book, I know I have to read it.

She was right, it’s a great book. Some of the baseball specific terminology went over my head but that didn’t stop me from seeing the real message of the book. I appreciated the kids’ reading teacher choosing a book that shows how badly underage alcohol use can turn out. 

I have been told that the book Runner by the same author is another one I should read. Now I just have to add it to my miles-long “to read” list.

More than books

I’ve had the idea bouncing around in my head to post about the many ways I find to read beyond physical books.

  •  Listverse is probably my favorite website. The site has many writers writing about the world around us, so it’s not fiction. I can read about history, science, mysteries bizarre events or just pull up random lists. I feel like it’s a reasonably trustworthy site and I trust the information.
  • Pinterest, specifically I like to read pins from the history board but the science boards interest me too.
  • eBooks – I like iBooks, Amazon eBooks, Nook Books, and WattPad. Free=awesome in my book, so I’m often found reading self published books that can be awful or diamonds in the rough.
  • Library eBooks & Audio Books – our library uses Overdrive Media and One Click Digital. I love these sites! If my girls and I go traveling without my husband, we always download a few books to listen to in the car.

I’m not much for reading magazines or newspapers but sometimes I need a break from the kids books I read. I like unsolved mysteries, historical oddities, and new scientific finds. When I want fiction I often go looking for a good post-apocalyptic or zombie book, and I like said, I like them free.

It’s hard to remember what life was like before the Internet made it so easy to read about new things. I read a lot of books but finding the really obscure titles wasn’t easy in a small midwestern town.

Are there any great sites I’m missing out on? Tell me, I’d love to know so I can try them myself! 

Binge reading (Part 2)

It really was a binge! So many books that I had to break it into two posts. Hope you enjoy!

by Kelly DiPucchio • what a sweet story about what it means to be a family! One of my girlfriends adores this book so I grabbed it and she was right, I loved it! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Players In Pigtails by Shana Corey • this book starts off with the full lyrics to Take Me Out To the Ball Game. Did you know they are about a girl?!? Corey tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was created during World War II. I knew about the league because I’ve seen the movie A League of Their Own, but I’m glad there is a book available for kids. It was lost in the picture books but I’m going to move it to the nonfiction baseball section. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Never Spit On Your Shoes and Are There Any Questions? by Denys Cazet • these books about Arnie the 1st grader look fun, but I don’t think it would work for a read aloud. The chaos of 1st grade is shown in Arnie’s storytelling, I particularly enjoyed the little rabbit in the second book who is looking for the Spanish boy whom she apparently plans to marry. There is at least one more Arnie story, Never Poke a Squid but I don’t know if I have it at school or not.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Adventure Annie Goes To Work by Toni Buzzeo • Buzzeo is one of my favorite writers. Her library stories are great resources and fun read alouds.  I also read Adventure Annie Goes To Kindergarten while they are fun stories, they just aren’t what I was hoping for from this author. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer • I think is is the best story I read today. It’s about a story book that is well loved when new and then as time goes by it finds fewer and fewer readers until the book is checked out by Alice. Alice loves the story even though it is old, the pages are torn and the last page is missing. But a mix up at the library prevents Alice from ever checking it out again. I don’t want to give away the whole story but Alice is reunited with the book and I almost cried. This story reminded me very much of The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley, a chapter book for older kids. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Binge Reading!

I’ve been working on a complete inventory of the books at school. There is nothing worse than seeing a book listed as “on the shelf” on your computer, but then it not being there when you go to get it. Frankly, it’s embarrassing when a teacher or student asks and I have to disappoint them. So I’m slowly working through the collection in an effort to make the catalog accurate.

It’s a lot of work, not just the physical scanning of every book, but also re-alphabetizing as necessary, pulling damaged books for repairs or discarding and staying on track. Do you realize how hard it is for a Book Nerd like me to not read the back of every single book?!? To appease my inner Book Nerd, I pulled a huge stack of picture books to read over the weekend. I was not disappointed.

Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner • I’ve had this one at school for a few months but had yet to read it. A student asked me if he (Cornelius) was the man who dug through a mountain, meaning the folk legend John Henry. It got me wonder what the story was about. Cornelius was a real garbage collector in New Orleans, and he really did take great pride in his city. The author says in the afterward that the story was modeled after the old folk legends like John Henry. I think my student is pretty darn insightful! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Never Let a Ghost Borrow Your Library Book by Karen Casale • I am so glad I got this book! I, like most school librarians, try to start each year with a book explaining how we take care of the books that the whole school shares. The very young students in Kindergarten and 1st Grade respond well to Mr. Wiggle’s Book by Paula M. Craig, but 2nd through 4th need some a little more mature. This book is perfect, and it’s funny! I appreciate that it tells you to not only keep the book safe from being nibbled on by pets, but parents as well. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo by Helen Lester • I only found out about this book a few weeks ago and am so glad it arrived quickly! I love, love, love that the hunters make an appearance. I love doing their voices and the kids giggle like mad when I play act them. I can’t wait for next fall when I can read this to the kids! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Step Right Up by Donna Janell Bowman • Wow! This was a great true story. Doc Key was a former slave who became a successful businessman and a self taught veterinarian. He took a sickly colt named him Jim and raised with kindness. Jim responded by showing clear intelligence and Doc was able to teach him to read, write, do math and more! They weren’t just showmen either. Their work showcasing the power of kindness towards animals helped to create the ASPCA as we know it. I liked that the author did not shy away from telling us that Doc’s father may have been a white man in the notes. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sky Boys by Deborah Hopkinson • Hopkinson is one of my favorites and I wanted to read this book to decide if it belonged in the picture books or in nonfiction. I think it will go with the nonfiction books about New York State. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting • Eve Bunting is an author that a lot of the older teachers use but I’m not that familiar with. I was curious about the kind of story this could be, and I was excited when I saw that the art was done by David Wiesner. I also read A Dark Dark Tale by Bunting. Both were good stories but I doubt they will become part of my regular reading list. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ruffen the sea serpent who couldn’t swim by Thor Age Bringsvaerd • I found this hardcover in beautiful shape at Goodwill last summer. I was intrigued by the artwork and the story is sweet. As I read it, I kept thinking the illustrator was very good at the 70s style but knew there was no way the book could physically be that old. It turns out it was originally published in 1972 and then translated to English and republished in 2008. Goodreads reveals there are more stories about Ruffen, I’m interested in buying them. One great little thing in the story: when Ruffen arrives in America he is greeted by a pelican in a 10 gallon hat! I love foreign perceptions about America. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I will continue this post tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

The best books I never read (as a kid).

As a kid, I loved to read but I’m from a small town and it was hard for me to find enough kids books to keep myself busy. When I was in 5th grade I went through a time where I suffered stomach problems and insomnia so my dad started me on the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I never went back to kids books after that. I discovered Stephen King in junior high and Horror became my go-to style.

When I was preparing for the birth of my first daughter I decided to start reading aloud to her while she was still in the womb, and then continued while she nursed. I saw no reason to read picture books to a baby so we started with The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The books had belonged to my husband as a boy.


I read the whole series with her and honestly didn’t go into it looking for the religious allegory. I just loved the beauty of the stories. We also read A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books and Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel that were my husband’s.

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series…I am so angry at myself for not finding these books as a girl. Anne is exactly the kind of girl I wanted to be, intelligent, opinionated and forward thinking. I loved following her whole life and seeing it unfold. I cried when her first baby died and I cried when her son died in World War I.

The Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is a sad story. I knew what it was about, but I didn’t understand the boy’s struggle between his love for the deer and his duty to his family.

I am surprised that I didn’t find Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls sooner. I’ve always loved Where the Red Fern Grows and usually I seek out other titles by authors I enjoy. Thankfully a coworker recommended it to me. It’s funny and very different feeling than Where the Red Fern Grows.

I don’t remember going through a horse crazy phase like many girls do, but this is one I recommend to girls now. Misty takes place in a much simpler time and the story is sweetly innocent in a way that is lacking in a lot of current books.

The BFG by Rald Dahl, in fact all of his books besides Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and The Twits were lost on me until I started working at the school.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt  is a story about something many of us have thought of: eternal life. This charming story shows us that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Hatchet (and the 4 books that follow it) by Gary Paulson are amazing adventure stories written by a real outdoorsman. Here they are a mandatory 5th grade read, but I missed them as a kid.

Sorry I don’t have Goodreads links in place. Technical issues with one of my devices.