Friday, October 31, 2008

Book Review: The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: How to Never Grow Up - The Complete Guide, by the editors of Klutz

In addition to today's date being Halloween, it is also National Knock-Knock Jokes Day. So to celebrate, let's start with an appropriate quote from today's review topic: The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: How to Never Grow Up - The Complete Guide. It's on page 16:

There are 1,264,112 knock-knock jokes in the world. Only one of them is funny. Here it is.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting Cow.

Klutz books are known for their crazy fun factor, and The Encyclopedia of Immaturity is no exception. This title does not come with the "tools of the trade" that most Klutz books do, because there are just so many activities jammed inside. However, most items needed for the various activities are common things that can be found at home.

The reader can find a wealth of information right at their fingertips about how to do all kinds of stuff: from pranks to experiments to magic tricks to brain teasers. Some are fun, some are gross, some are wildly funny, but all are safe and designed so that no one gets hurt. There are illustrated instructions for how to ride a unicycle. There are verses to gross but funny songs. You can find instructions for making a soda gusher. And, just in time for Halloween, you can read all about how to "Carve a Barfkin!"

The illustrations and photographs are bright, colorful, and as informative as the text. Definitely aimed at kids, but also at the kid hiding inside adults out there. Both will have a blast not only reading this book, but trying out the tons of activities packed inside.

For Teachers and Librarians:
OK, I know what you're thinking. And yes, a lot of things in The Encyclopedia of Immaturity are just plain silly, and even rather gross. But, it also has science experiments (like the soda gusher), and physics puzzlers (like a scaled-down version of the ol' tablecloth snatch), brain teasers (like the "puzzla"), interesting facts about things in our world, phys. ed. (like how to throw a frisbee, and how to ride a unicycle), and math (like an article on how to predict your adult height). It may take some picking and choosing on your part, but the perusal will be well worth it for those times when you need a fun little something to get them out of their "blah's" and back into learning.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Totally fun for your kiddos, The Encyclopedia of Immaturity will have them giggling, learning, and most of all having fun. It's broken into super short articles that are easily read, and any instructions are simple to follow, making the activities, pranks, experiments and informative articles that much more enjoyable. The best part is, you can join in the fun. Admittedly, sometimes you will be an unwitting participant and the joke will be on you, but nothing mean-spirited or dangerous. Just a riot of a good time full of silliness, and even learning (but if you don't tell them that last part, they won't even realize it).

For the Kids:
So, you saw the word "Klutz" on the cover. And you know that means "fun." And when you read The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, you will see that fun is exactly what you get. You can find out how to make an air-puff annoyer to bug someone clear across the room from you. You can make a "Vege-proof tongue cover" for those days when your mom tries to feed you brussels sprouts. Or, how about learning how to kick a toilet plunger field goal? (Yeah, your mom will love that one.) You can even learn how to say "poop" in other languages. How many people can do that? Well, you could, if you read this book. I promise, it will be totally fun, and you will be so glad you did!

For Everyone Else:
If you've got the sense of humor of a kid, you will have a great time reading The Encyclopedia of Immaturity. If you know someone with the sense of humor of a kid, you have an instant gift idea. If you are neither of those, some of the articles in this book will bring back childhood memories. (Sing it with me: "Great green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts...") If you're a parent of a kid, you might cringe at some of the things they try out after they read it, but come on, even you will have to laugh at the things they do.

Wrapping Up:
The Encyclopedia of Immaturity is chock full of fun - a great book to pull out on a rainy day, a boring day, an I've-got-the-blah's day, or even a why-the-heck-not day. Go ahead, you know you want to...

Title: The Encyclopedia of Immaturity: How to Never Grow Up - The Complete Guide
Authors/Illustrators: The Editors of Klutz
Pages: 412
Reading Level: Ages 8+
Publisher and Date: Klutz, a subsidiary of Scholastic Inc.
Edition: School Market Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $19.95
ISBN-10: 1591745438
ISBN-13: 978-1591745433

Author Spotlight: The Editors of Klutz

Klutz was founded by three friends from Stanford University who started out selling sidewalk juggling lessons with three no-bounce beanbags. They earned $35 that first day, and soon decided to start a company to sell their own how-to book on the topic. 

So, they divvied up the responsibilities and got to work: John Cassidy was the creative force, Darrell Lorentzen wrote their first business plan, and B.C. Rimbeaux was tasked with securing their initial bank loan. The company was incorporated in 1977 in Palo Alto, California, and their first 3,000 books were delivered via bike and backpack. 

Of their entrepreneurial endeavor, Cassidy says:
"It really was a failed scam. Our dream was to do a book on juggling, sell a bazillion in a couple of days, buy an island and retire. It didn't work out. After a year of steady, unspectacular sales, we found ourselves staring down the barrel of a career."

Today, Klutz books are regulars on the US book and toy bestseller lists, and are available in 24 countries worldwide. Their first book, Juggling for the Complete Klutz, is their most popular title, having sold more than 2.5 million copies. Though their early books were aimed at the college crowd, the company morphed into publishing for children after John Cassidy's children came into the picture.

Packaged with the necessary "tools of the trade," Klutz books are designed "for doing, not just reading." Their products have expanded to include toys, kits, buckets, guides and even an educational product line.

Klutz was acquired by Scholastic in 2002. John Cassidy remains CEO and Klutz's creative force. And their mission statement?

Create wonderful things, be good, have fun.


**Photo Credit: Peter Fox, Klutz (Originally posted at article listed below in Sources)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Day for Frankenstein

So. There's this day set aside just for Frankenstein. Cool! But:
  • Is it National Frankenstein Day, celebrated on October 29 as I found it listed for my Little Known Holidays sidebar? 
  • Or, is it Frankenstein Friday, celebrated the last Friday in October (and created by Ron MacCloskey, of Westfield, New Jersey)? 
  • Or, is it already over, having been celebrated as Frankenstein Day back on August 30 (to celebrate author Mary Shelley's birthday)?

Eh. Six of one, half a dozen of the other... How 'bout if I just give you what I found out about ol' Frankenstein, and you can celebrate it on whichever day suits your fancy?

Alrighty. Here we go:

Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus was written by British author Mary Shelley. She began the tome at 18, and completed it at the ripe old age of 19. Interestingly, the first edition was published on January 1, 1818 - but issued anonymously. It wasn't until the second edition, published August 11, 1823, that Shelley's name appeared on the book. Then there was a third edition published October 31, 1831, heavily revised by Ms Shelley and also bearing her name as author.

Here's another interesting tidbit: in the novel, Victor Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who creates the creature. In fact, in Shelley's book, the creature itself is never named, and is instead referred to by such terms as, "monster," "demon," and "fiend." Yet, popular culture has transferred the name Frankenstein to the creature instead of the creator.

Now, how about this: in the film adaptations and cartoons that come to mind, and in our collective psyches, the monster Frankenstein speaks in grunts and primitive sentences. However, in Mary Shelley's book, the creature actually speaks quite eloquently and in detailed language, having learned to talk "by studying a poor peasant family through a chink in the wall" after running away from his appalled creator. 

And get this: the creature did not start out vengeful, but only became that way after being met with repeated horror-filled rejection by every human with which he came in contact.

Kinda makes ya feel sorry for the poor fellow. And with Halloween just around the corner, what a perfect time to go find Mary Shelley's book, and get reading...


Monday, October 27, 2008

A Subtle Hint...

Today was Cranky Co-Workers Day.

Since I work at home, I guess you could technically consider my kiddos and I co-workers. (They are part-timers during the week, what with school and all, but that's beside the point.)

Anyway, shortly after getting home from school this afternoon, Lovely Girl ensconced herself in her room. A short while later, she reemerged. I assumed she was up there working on homework.

As she passed me on the stairs, she flashed an impish grin and handed me this:

Well. It appears I have celebrated Cranky Co-Workers Day in high style this year...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Book Review: The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Once upon a bicycle,
  So they say,
A Jolly Postman came one day
  From over the hills
And far away...

If you've ever wondered what happened after "Happily ever after," then The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters is just what you've been looking for. The Jolly Postman spends his day delivering letters, postcards, and flyers to a variety of familiar fairy tale characters. Each letter is tucked inside an envelope cleverly addressed and illustrated, to be pulled out and read before the postman moves on to his next customer. Who do you suppose wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Bear, of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  What type of advertisement has the witch in the Gingerbread house so excited? What other characters has he visited, who has invited him in for tea, and how has his day gone? Find this much-loved book, pour some tea, and settle in for a very sweet and interactive story.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Definitely a book for the younger crowd - and it has many possibilities educationally speaking. You can seamlessly work The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters into a fairy tale unit, a letter-writing unit, a careers unit, and perhaps a unit on neighborliness and/or manners. Or, how about as part of a lesson on the post office and how letters get to people's homes, the types of mail delivered, and how this method of delivery compares/contrasts to the way your students receive their mail? Equally important, the kids will delight in reaching into each envelope and pulling out the mysteries hidden inside. Everyone loves receiving mail - but it's especially exciting for the short set, who may not get so much as we in the taller set. Fun to read aloud, this book is also one your charges will clamor over to be able to read on their own. With the fairly simple text and rhyming format, it is a delight to hear as well as a help for kiddos sounding out on their own. 

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Your little guys will absolutely love The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters. It is a fun twist on traditional fairy tales - based on stories they already know and love, but with this new and interesting addition of real letters tucked inside real envelopes that add curious new things to the tales. They will have a great time snuggling with you in a chair while you read it to them - just be sure to keep out of the way once it's time to extract each letter. It's doubtful they'll let you do that most fun part yourself!

For the Kids:
Don't you love getting mail? Letters are so fun to open up and read, and here is this book, The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters, full of letters to people like the Three Bears, and Goldilocks, and the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. Cool, huh? I wonder who is writing to them? What kind of letters to fairy tale characters get, anyway? Hmmm. The only way to find out is to ask your parents for a trip to the library or bookstore to find this book. Then find a squishy, comfy chair, and get reading (or, have someone read it to you).

Wrapping Up:
The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters is a sweet twist on classic fairy tales, taking the reader for a peek just beyond the stories she already knows. Little guys will adore this book and ask to read it again and again, teachers and librarians will have a wealth of teaching ideas to use it with, and parents and caregivers can rest easy knowing they've provided their little ones with a book that is both fun, interesting, and destined to be a beloved favorite.

Title: The Jolly Postman or Other People's Letters
Author: Allan Ahlberg
Illustrator: Janet Ahlberg
Pages: 29
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Little, Brown and Company, September 1986
Edition: 1st U.S. Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $17.99
ISBN-10: 0316020362
ISBN-13: 978-0316020367

Author Spotlight: Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Janet and Allan Ahlberg - husband and wife, and one of Britain's most successful author/illustrator teams - worked together for over 20 years, writing and illustrating well over 100 award-winning children's books together.

They met in the early 1960's in Sunderland, England - when both studied to be teachers. Allan worked in a range of employment situations (postman, grave digger, soldier, and plumber's mate among them) before becoming a primary teacher for 10 years. 

Janet studied teaching, then went on to study graphic design at Leicester Polytechnic and became an illustrator. She married Allan in 1969. Several years later, she asked Allan to write a children's book for her to illustrate. This began their writing and illustrating career for children in the form of stories, verse, picture books and novels.

Their first three books were The Old Joke Book, The Vanishment of Thomas Tull, and Burglar Bill. By the 1980's, their books were "big news" both in Britain and around the world, and translated into 21 different languages. But The Jolly Postman was their greatest success, sellling over 6 million copies. It took five years to make, and was finally published in 1986, winning numerous awards. 

Janet and Allan Ahlberg created together until, sadly, Janet died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 50. Allan moved to London in 1998, and has continued to write, even collaborating with illustrator daughter Jessica - born to the couple in 1980, and a great inspiration to his and his wife's work.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Comment...

Didja check out the Little-Known Holidays ditty in my sidebar this week?

Mmm hmm.


Now, didja scan down to the very last day on the list? Check it out:

October 26 is Mother-in-Law's Day.

It's also Mule Day.

Aaaaand National Mincemeat Day.

Well now.

That's...that's somethin,' that is.

And juuuuust a teensy bit funny...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Review: A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck

     "Who's doing all this talking?"
     "A real old, humped-over lady with buck teeth," Mary Alice said.
     "Cross-eyed? Grandma said. "That'd be Effie Wilcox. You think she's ugly now, you should have seen her as a girl. And she'd talk you to death. Her tongue's attached in the middle and flaps at both ends." Grandma was over by the screen door for a breath of air.
     "They said he'd notched his gun in six places," I said, pushing my luck. "They said the notches were either for banks he'd robbed or for sheriffs he'd shot."
     "Was that Effie again? Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world," said Grandma, who was no oil painting herself.

Joey Dowdel and his sister Mary Alice are first shipped off to visit their Grandma Dowdel in the summer of 1929. Being city kids from Chicago, they are none too pleased to be packed off to the boonies for a visit with a grandmother they hadn't seen since they were "tykes." 

But Grandma Dowdel is no ordinary Grandma, and these two kids learn to always expect the unexpected. This town they first saw as sleepy and dull transformed in their eyes all through helping Grandma carry out her plans. She squeezes off a couple of rounds from her shotgun - right in her own living room. She teaches a family of bullies a lesson they won't soon forget. She strong-arms a banker into returning something rightfully belonging to someone else - and demands a few bucks for the grandkids for good measure. 

Over the years, and beneath that steely exterior, Joey and Mary Alice start to see a whole new and surprising side to Grandma Dowdel. And they begin to look forward to each summer adventure, always wondering: what will she be up to next?

For Teachers and Librarians:
A Long Way from Chicago is a novel broken up into eight short stories - one for each summer Joey and his sister spent a week with Grandma Dowdel. Joey tells the stories as he remembers them many years later. It is full of out loud laughs, poignant moments, bittersweet memories, and complicated relationships. Here is a novel you will relish reading out loud as much as your students relish hearing it.

Kids who struggle through full-length novels will enjoy this book's format, being able to read it in small chunks that each are a story in and of themselves. It may even encourage them to try longer works, once they find how fun this book is to read.  

You will find much to work with here from a curriculum standpoint. The book is set from 1929 through 1942, and touches on life during the Great Depression, rural life in Illinois, Chicago gangsters, the World Wars, economics, human nature, relationships, community politics... Where will you choose to use this book? With so many ways to go, you really can't go wrong in using A Long Way from Chicago to supplement your lessons - or in wrapping your lessons around reading the book.  
For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Grandparents and Great-Grandparents may find themselves reliving memories of their own while reading this with their kiddos. Parents will like the life lessons Joey and Mary Alice learn from their eccentric but principled grandmother. It is a lot of fun to read, so don't be surprised when they snicker and laugh out loud while curled up on the couch with it. 

Written in short-story-collection format, this book may encourage your more reluctant readers to stick with it. Maybe it will even inspire them to pick up other books. If they like A Long Way from Chicago, they will be happy to know there is a sequel: A Year Down Yonder, that continues to tell of Grandma Dowdel and the hilarious situations she orchestrates.

For the Kids:
Laugh out loud funny! Totally. You will seriously wish you had a grandma like Grandma Dowdel. She bakes a mean gooseberry pie, but isn't afraid to squeeze off a few rounds of her shotgun when necessary. She gives the bullies what for, but they don't even know what (or who) hit them. She's rough around the edges, but she gets what she believes is right, and soon Joey and Mary Alice see how much she really does care about people. Even people they thought were her enemies. Pick up a copy of A Long Way from Chicago and see for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

For Everyone Else:
A Long Way from Chicago is a novel marketed to older kids and young adults, but the rest of us will get a kick out of it, too. Senior citizens will be able to relate to the time period (1929-1942) and may even want to spin a few yarns about their own lives back then. Middle age adults will get a better sense of all that stuff they heard about as kids and read about in school. 

Wrapping Up: 
Everyone will love Grandma Dowdel. She is truly one of a kind, and this is a book not to be missed.

Title: A Long Way from Chicago
Author: Richard Peck
Pages: 176
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Publisher and Date: Penguin Young Readers Group, October 2000
Edition: paperback
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $6.99
ISBN-10: 0141303522
ISBN-13: 978-0141303529

Author Spotlight: Richard Peck

Richard Peck has this advice to young people hoping to be writers: "get to know people who don't conform to the group" (from the Carol Hurst article referenced below) - a common theme in many of his own titles.

Mr. Peck writes middle grade through young adult novels, but he did not start out as a writer. He earned his bachelor's degree in English from DePauw University, spending his junior year abroad at the University of Exeter. Drafted into the US Army after college, he spent two years in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Upon completion of his master's degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959, he taught junior high and high school English. However, he didn't like dealing with the behavior issues and other problems, so he left teaching in 1971 to write, using his experiences in teaching as material. His first novel, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt, was published by Holt in 1972.

He says of that time in his life:

"Ironically, it was my students who taught me to be a writer, though I was hired to teach them."

Richard Peck has written more than 32 books from middle grade through young adult. He writes in a wide variety of genres, among them: horror, mystery, occult, social commentary, historical, and realism. He types all his books exclusively on an electric typewriter, explaining in a 2003 interview with Publisher's Weekly that, "it has to be a book from the first day."

He has received numerous honors and awards, including a Newbery Honor and a National Book Award nomination in 1999 for A Long Way From Chicago, and a Newbery Medal in 2001 for its sequel: A Year Down Yonder.

Richard Peck was born April 5, 1934 in Decatur, Illinois, where he also grew up. He currently lives in New York, splitting his time between writing and traveling.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Return to Sender

I watched two of the three Presidential debates. I watched the Vice Presidential debate. I see the frequent campaign ads on TV. I read the campaign ads in print media. I read articles on the Presidential race in both digital and print forms.

In each case, I have been bombarded by negative campaigning. 

It's getting a little old.


Today, I sent Handsome Boy out to get the mail for me. He came tromping back from the mailbox with a fistful of bills, advertising flyers, a community magazine...

...and a Presidential campaign flyer, sent from a candidate's National Committee, and approved by that candidate. It was negative, and attacked the candidate's opponent and his policies. 

Serendipity: said flyer had a mailing address on it. 

Charging into my office, I scribbled out a frustrated missive. Then I took a deep breath, crumpled that missive, recycled it, and fired up the computer. Here is what I typed (with actual candidate names removed):

To Whom It May Concern:

I received this mailing today, and here is why I am sending it back to you: I am quite tired of candidates telling me how bad their opponent is.

If (Candidate A) wants my vote, then he needs to show me why he is the better choice to be President of the United States, not tell me why he believes (Candidate B) isn't. (Candidate A) needs to show me how he will improve this country, and not tell me how he believes (Candidate B) will make it worse.

I'm not interested in what (Candidate A) believes about (Candidate B). I'm interested in what (Candidate A) intends to do for his country, should he be elected.

Show. Don't tell.


Kimberly S. Wheedleton

I printed it. I signed it. I folded it. I stuffed it in an envelope. 

I stuffed the negative campaign ad in there, too. 

Then I sealed the envelope.

And I'm mailing the whole shebang right back to them bright and early Friday morning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Halloween Hoopla

Finally, here I am with that promised Halloween Book Review! Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, it was hard to narrow down the review to just one book. So, I picked five. Each title shares the common theme of Halloween, but each one comes at that theme in very different ways. You will find all the publishing particulars for each book in the post immediately below this one. Enjoy!

Whooo's There 
Written by Lily Jones, illustrated by Chris Demarest

This one is a delight for the littlest guys.  Two kids set out for a Halloween party, but on the way they meet up with some scary characters, shrouded in shadows. Since they can't see what's making all the noise, their imaginations run wild. What's really out there? When will they ever make it to the party? And, does that bush look suspiciously feline to you?

The rhyming text and colorful, cleverly drawn illustrations let your little guys be a little scared, but only enough to have fun - no really, really scary stuff here. They will love pushing the button when they get to the little ghost icon as they read each page - releasing a fun, eerie noise and activating blinking green lights. Along the journey, kids can guess along with the book characters as to what is lurking behind this spooky tree, and that waving bush, and this billowing sheet. For those faint of heart, not to worry! All is revealed and nicely wrapped up. A very fun read, and one your smallest Trick-or-Treaters will thoroughly enjoy.

The Hallow-Wiener
Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

"There once was a dog named Oscar who was half-a-dog tall and one-and-a-half dogs long." And he is teased unmercifully by the other dogs because of it. Usually it bothers him a lot, but not now, when it's almost time for Halloween. Oscar dashes home from obedience school, planning to work on his scary Halloween costume. But, his mom surprises him with a costume she already made for him. And then is when things get...punny!

Dav Pilkey, of Captain Underpants, and the Dumb Bunnies fame, is in full form with this book. It will get your slightly older kiddos into the swing of Halloween fun with puns and jokes better understood by them than the teeniest kids. Behind the silliness, though, there's the issue of bullying and teasing - which Pilkey deals with in true light comedic style. Your kiddos will giggle at the things Oscar endures as he tries not to hurt his mom's feelings. They will feel for him as things start to go a bit sour on the Trick-or-Treat trail. And they will howl and laugh out loud when Oscar finally catches a break and the other dogs get a little taste of their own medicine! 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything
Written by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Put together a little old lady, a cottage in the woods, and a solitary walk through the forest, and what do you get? A delightful add-on yarn with a fairy-tale feel that kids from little to not-so-little will enjoy. The little old woman, out to gather herbs and such from the forest, comes upon some rather unusual characters in her walk. Each time one confronts her, she tells it, "I'm not afraid of you!" But, she starts walking a little faster each time until she is running back home, followed by the things she meets in the forest. At first, she is a bit afraid, but then she realizes how to fix the situation quite nicely for all of them.

This is a fun story to read aloud - it has just enough scary stuff to keep kids on the edge of their seat, but only enough to be fun-scared - and not truly scared. Teachers might find this book leads into a nice activity on problem-solving, or perhaps a "making lemonade from lemons" type of discussion, or create an art activity or flip book to illustrate each item that begins to follow the little old lady, then show how she gets them all together to solve their dilemma.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Ivan Bates

A mouse family lives in the corner of the cellar, and the little ones are curious to know what lurks in "the dark at the top of the stairs" where they are sure a monster lives. The wise old mouse who lives with them tries to convince them to do something else, but the little ones are determined, so he agrees to take them in the morning. The closer they get to the top, the more their little minds work...and then... they see it!

This book is a lighthearted, well-paced, suspenseful tale, perfect for those little ones who want a "scary story," but not too scary. It also works well for kids who are a little older, as they can have fun trying to figure out just what those little mice might find at the top of the stairs.

The Spider and the Fly
Based on the Cautionary Tale by Mary Howitt
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

This tragic poem was originally written in 1829, and Tony DiTerlizzi's all black-and-white illustrations immerse readers in that time period. It has the feel of a silent movie as the reader follows the tenuous dance between the suave but creepy spider, and the wholesome, dainty fly. Mary Howitt's text tells the main story as DiTerlizzi's pictures throw desperate ghostly hints toward the hapless fly. Will she notice? Will she heed their warnings? Or, will she become dinner?

Older readers looking for a bit more (but not too much) darkness to their Halloween will enjoy this tale. It even includes a letter from the Spider himself at the close of the tale, and a history of both author and illustrator, as well. Teachers and librarians can pair this story with a unit on the time period in which it was written - behavior, clothing, culture, etc. It also lends itself well to a discussion of the old silent movie formats. Or how about a literary lesson on how the illustrator used foreshadowing, as the ghosts try to warn the Fly of her impending doom. One could always discuss this as a story with a moral or lesson, as "a cautionary tale" implies. Or, a unit on all things Gothic might be interesting too... 

Well, that was fun! Be sure to check out the post below for all the publishing particulars for each book listed here.

Halloween Hoopla Publishing Particulars

Publisher information on each of the books mentioned in the Halloween Hoopla post just above this one:

Title: Whooo's There
Author: Lily Jones
Illustrator: Chris Demarest
Pages: 12
Reading Level: Ages 3-6
Publisher and Date: Readers Digest, August 1992
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $9.95 (at time of publication - currently out of print)
ISBN-10: 0895774399
ISBN-13: 978-0895774392

Title: The Hallow-Wiener
Author and Illustrator: Dav Pilkey
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: The Blue Sky Press (an imprint of Scholastic Inc.), 1995
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $12.95 (at time of publication)
ISBN-10: 0590417037
ISBN-13: 978-0590417037

Title: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything
Author: Linda Williams
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Pages: 32
Reading Level: ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1986
Edition: Paperback
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $5.99 (at time of publication)
ISBN: 0690045840
ISBN: 0690045867 (lib. binding)
ISBN: 0064431835 (paperback)

Title: The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator: Ivan Bates
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Candlewick, March 1996
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $15.99 (at time of publication)
ISBN-10: 156402640X
ISBN-13: 978-1564026408

Title: The Spider and the Fly
Based on the Poem By: Mary Howitt
Illustrator: Tony DiTerlizzi
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, October 2002
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.95 (at time of publication)
ISBN-10: 0439579287
ISBN-13: 978-0689852893

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's a Day to Celebrate...Umm, Moldy Cheese??

I was compiling my list of Little Known Holidays here in the United States, when I came across this one: Moldy Cheese Day - October 9.

Hold on...moldy cheese? There's a celebration for that? Well, jeez, if I had known, I wouldn't have kept on throwing out the darn stuff when the fuzz showed up. (I'm referring to cheese and mold, of course, not "stuff" and, ahem, law enforcement...)

Here's the real deal: Moldy Cheese Day is set aside to celebrate those cheeses that are supposed to be moldy. Bleu. Camembert. Gorgonzola. Maytag Blue (the cheese - yes, it's really a cheese - not the washing machine). Roquefort (the cheese - not the little mouse from The Aristocats). Brie (the cheese - not the Desperate Housewife). Stilton (the cheese - not the children's chapter book character). 

So, on October 9th, take a gander in your fridge. If you find some regular cheese in there that's a bit furry, throw it out! But, if you have some of the "on purpose" moldy cheese, then by all means, set it out with some crackers, and join the celebration.

Places to read about cheese (moldy or otherwise):

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hooray! It's Fall!

I have been waiting for this season ever since those first days of summer made their sunny debut. Why? Well, I love that those infernal heat waves have finally stopped. I love that the scenery changes to lovely shades of orange, red, brown, and gold. And let's not forget that most awesome of holidays that comes 'round every Fall: Halloween!

But, as high on the list as those things are, none of them are my Number One reason for joyfully welcoming these increasingly cooler days.

The most important reason for my annual celebration of All Things Autumn-ish is...

...I can finally come out of my summer hibernation! Yes, I have to hibernate all summer, closing all the blinds in the house against that much-touted, air-conditioner-pummeling, real-estate gold that is:

Now, don't get me wrong, Southern Exposure is a veritable cash cow of savings in the winter - I barely have to turn on the furnace during daylight hours, there's so much sun and heat beating in through my windows. But over the warmer months, Southern Exposure forces me to close all the blinds during the day. If I don't, my home becomes a sauna and the a/c bill forces me to go out and find a second job (since wrangling the kids, managing the household finances, keeping house and clothes clean, running all schedules, and performing basic home and car maintenance pays, well, nothing).

So, my mood improves considerably as the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to fall. My office is no longer a dim cave to be avoided. My morning room is the lovely, sun-drenched, and comfortably warm haven I envisioned it would be when we first laid eyes on it. And my wallet gets to stay full of its pennies just a little bit longer.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes

One Monday morning Lilly came to school especially happy.
She had gone shopping with her Grammy over the weekend.
Lilly had a new pair of movie star sunglasses, complete with glittery diamonds and a chain like Mr. Slinger's.
She had three shiny quarters.
And, best of all, she had a brand new purple plastic purse that played a jaunty tune when it was opened.

Lilly is, in a word, exuberant. She loves school and everything in it - including her teacher Mr. Slinger. "Wow," said Lilly. That was just about all she could say. "Wow." She loves Mr. Slinger so much, she pretends to be him at home, making her baby brother Julius be the student. She loves him so much, she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. 

One day, Lilly comes to school "especially happy," eager to show off her new purple plastic purse, her movie star sunglasses, and her jingly quarters. But she chooses the wrong times to try to share, and Mr. Slinger has to take action. So Lilly goes to the Lightbulb Lab and she thinks. First, she gets sad. Then, Lilly gets angry. Then, Lilly gets furious. And then, she makes something that shows exactly how she feels about Mr. Slinger. And that's when things begin to get very...interesting.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Lilly is a sweet girl, an outlandish girl, a "zest for life" kind of girl. But when something doesn't go her way, her full-force exuberance morphs into full-force fury, and she acts before she thinks - a situation even the most well-behaved of students finds herself in at one time or another. But when Lilly realizes how badly she acts, she gets a little help from her parents and herself to make ammends. She also comes to realize her teacher is both understanding and forgiving. And she is so relieved that Mr. Slinger is still that wonderful teacher that she looks at him and just says, "Wow." 

This story shows Lilly run through a wide range of emotions: love, admiration, sadness, anger, fury, remorse - and how she deals with each. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is an excellent way for kids to see not only how their own emotions affect them, but also how their emotions can affect others, and vice versa. It is a sweet story with a subtle message that is not in the least overbearing. Your students will enjoy the story, and maybe see a little bit of themselves. They will see that a little slip-up now and then isn't such a bad thing - and that forgiveness can be right around the corner if you just look for it.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
You are often bearing the brunt of your little people's emotions. When they're sweet, they're very sweet. And when they're not - well, you help them through it and you love them anyway. That's what Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is all about: emotions, and how we deal with them. It's also about forgiveness: when we do something that isn't right, we can show how sorry we are. If that remorse is genuine, the forgiveness comes. It is a huge relief for the little guys - I might screw up, and it might be really big, but I can show that I am sorry, and I will still be loved.

For the Kids:
Lilly is so excited about showing her classmates her shiny quarters, her movie star glasses, and her fabulous purple plastic purse. But every time she tries to show them off, her teacher Mr. Slinger tells her it is the wrong time. Then finally, Mr. Slinger does something that makes Lilly furious! So, she chooses to do something about it. She makes something very mean for Mr. Slinger. But on the way home from school that day, she finds something in her purple plastic purse from Mr. Slinger, and then she feels very, very bad about what she did. What did she find in her purse? What did she do that was so mean? Will her teacher forgive her? You'd better go read Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse so you can find out.

Wrapping Up:
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is a sweet story that the little guys will be asking to hear or read over and over again. Lilly is one of those characters that gets into your soul and stays there for a long time to come. And you will find yourself so happy that she's there.

Title: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Author and Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: Greenwillow, August 1996
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.99
ISBN-10: 068128971
ISBN-13: 978-0688128975