Thursday, March 24, 2011

That's Not Very Ladylike

Mother Nature has blessed us with some very mild weather lately. Mild enough that I figured the last of the winter gusts were probably behind us. Mild enough that I finally consented - to Handsome Boy's ultimate joy - to his wearing shorts to school last Friday. And mild enough that I decided it was finally time to get out the patio furniture.

So, three days ago, Handsome Boy helped me haul a bistro table and 4 tall chairs from their storage spot under the back deck, all the way around to their Spring-and-Summer spot: the small gravel patio at the front of the house. It was sunny, and fairly warm, and only a tiny bit breezy. And we sat in those chairs on what was the second official day of Spring and enjoyed the loveliness of the day for a bit.

Two days ago, it got a bit nippy, but still fairly nice. Par for the course for Spring, right? But it was such a busy day, there wasn't any time to hang out on the patio and enjoy it. 

Yesterday, we had sleet. And thunderstorms. With hail. I was beginning to rethink the wisdom of setting out that furniture, which the storms had rendered unenjoyable even though we had plenty of time to use it. 

But Handsome Boy and I were determined to have some springtime fun. So, we built a fort on the living room floor. We stuffed it with cushions and covered it with blankets and hauled in stuffed animals and a cheery lamp and climbed inside and played Go Fish and ate cookies and had a fabulous time, smug in our cleverness at outsmarting Mother Nature...

Today, we woke up to big, fat, white snowflakes falling steadily - and mockingly - from the sky. Plus? My Christmas cactus - which should not be blooming in springtime - is blooming.

Now, it could be that the meteorological roller coaster of the last several days is just the usual fickleness of Spring. Or it could be that Mother Nature takes way too much joy in messing with us.

Either way, I say: Bring it on. 

We have a blanket fort. 

And cookies.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: Stink: Solar System Superhero, by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

     "You know that thing you taught me? Well, guess what? My very excellent mother DID NOT Serve Nine Pizzas."
     "What did she serve?"
     "Nothing. Zero. Zip. T.I.N.P. There. Is. No. Pizza." 

Stink Moody is incensed. He just found out that Pluto, his second-favorite planet (after Saturn), is not only NOT a planet anymore, it didn't even get to keep its name - it just has a six-digit number, instead. And Stink isn't the only one who's cheesed off about this. So is the new kid, Skunk. 

But "Rotten Riley Rottenberger," AKA "Miss Know-It-All," is rather pleased at this new development, and she takes every opportunity to rub it in their faces. The rivalry intensifies, until finally Mrs. Dempster proposes that the class create their own panel of scientists, hold a debate, and let the class vote to decide Pluto's fate. Stink and Skunk, and Riley, and their supporters, dive right in: making signs, t-shirts, chants - anything to help win votes. All to decide once and for all: Is Pluto a planet? Or not? 

For Teachers and Librarians:
Stink: Solar System Superhero is a great book to introduce to your students in March, since it connects nicely to the real-world holiday which showcases the same controversy raging in Stink's classroom: Pluto is a Planet Day, celebrated every March 13th. Besides being fun to read, this is a book you can use to supplement your curriculum in a variety of ways:
  • Science: Introduce the solar system with the book's "Mnemonic Comics" pages, which briefly showcase each planet. Then have your students research the planets further, and make their own solar system comic book with the new information they find. Pluto's status depends on the definition of planet, and dwarf planet; have your students research to find out what those definitions are, and who decided those criteria. Explore with them: what else orbits our sun besides planets (asteroids, space junk, etc.)? Then let them present the information they find via scientific panel format. Make it feel more real by having them wear white lab coats, if you can round some up!
  • Social Studies/Political Science: This book is a great springboard for a basic unit on democracy, focusing on the campaigning and voting aspects. Riley crossed out references to Pluto in textbooks; Stink put a bumper sticker on a car without the owner's permission. Discuss campaign strategies (buttons, signs, stickers, rallies, speeches, ads, etc.) and how to use them appropriately, then have kids act out ways Riley and Stink could have garnered support more responsibly. Present a lesson on how a debate works. Then let them hold their own class debate on Pluto's status, vote, and discuss the outcome.
  • Social: Stink, Skunk, and Riley formed groups of kids who felt as they did. Brainstorm ways that clubs or groups bond (songs, chants, shirts, official greetings, meetings, parties, outings, etc.). Create planet fan clubs, let your students join their favorite, and charge each club with creating three different ways to bond together, from the brainstorm list. Then let each group present their club to the class. A mini-lesson on friendship works well with this book, too: what can you do when you and a friend disagree, yet still want to remain friends?
  • Language Arts: Stink's team makes up a play about Pluto. Present a unit on plays and what goes into creating and performing one: the script and its parts, actors, crew, costumes, make-up, props, advertising, ticket sales, etc. Then create a class play about Pluto's plight, integrating what they've learned and presenting both sides of the argument. Let them present it to their peers, or to parents, or both.
For Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers:
Stink: Solar System Superhero is a book your kids will have a blast reading. It's funny, but it's also full of interesting facts about not just Pluto, but all of the planets. It may help them figure out how to handle situations where they and their friends don't see eye to eye. It gives them a glimpse into how a lot of things work in the real world, as Stink and his classmates have a debate, present a play, and campaign for their beliefs. Mixed into the story are comic illustrations that will hold the attention of your more reluctant readers, and add to the fun for your more voracious ones. It's a perfect package of equal parts fun and education, with each part so well-blended, your kiddos will remember this book - and what they learned from it - for quite some time.

For the Kids:
Stink: Solar System Superhero finds Stink Moody very upset. When he got his planets test back from Mrs. Dempster, he found out Pluto - his second-favorite planet - isn't a planet anymore! New kid Skunk isn't happy about this either. But Riley Rottenberger thinks it's just fine, and agrees that Pluto is not a planet. She even wears a t-shirt with big fat letters saying, "PLUTO IS DEAD." When the boys and Riley and their friends get into a big argument about who's right, their teacher suggests they have a class debate to settle the matter. But who wins? Is Pluto still "Pluto?" Or just "Number 134340?"

Wrapping Up:
Stink: Solar System Superhero is a book full of fun, and planets, and lots and lots to think about. What's more perfect than a book that makes you laugh, and helps you learn something, too? 

Note: To find out more about author Megan McDonald, click here: Author Spotlight: Megan McDonald. 

To read my review of another Megan McDonald title, click here: Book Review: Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express, by Megan McDonald.

Title: Stink: Solar System Superhero
Author: Megan McDonald
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Pages: 128
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Scholastic Inc, by arrangement with Candlewick Press, February 2011
Edition: Paperback, First Scholastic printing
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $4.99
ISBN: 978-0-545-29862-9

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10th is International Day of Awesomeness

Hey, there! Guess who? If you guessed I'm Kim...well, you're wrong! It is I, Eclipse Firebright - daughter of Kimberly, Leader of the Warriors - back again and guest posting here on Bugs and Bunnies.

It is fitting that I'm writing this post today, for two reasons. First, because it is International Day of Awesomeness. Second, because I am, of course, awesome. 

International Day of Awesomeness is celebrated on March 10th, in part, because March 10th is the birthday of the awesome king of roundhouse kicks,


And to celebrate, I've compiled a list of some of Chez Wheedleton's favorite Chuck Norris facts:
  • When Chuck Norris does push-ups, he doesn't push himself up, he pushes the earth down.
  • When the Boogeyman goes to bed at night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
  • Brett Favre can throw a football over 60 yards. Chuck Norris can throw Brett Favre twice that far.
  • Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
  • Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding.
  • Google won't search for Chuck Norris, because it knows that you don't find Chuck Norris. He finds you.
  • There once was a street called Chuck Norris. The name was changed, because no one crosses Chuck Norris.
  • Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy. It's a Chucktatorship.

And finally, on this International Day of Awesomeness, I'll leave you with this:

  • Chuck Norris' calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd. Nobody fools Chuck Norris.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So...I Guess I Just Get to Pick the One I Like Best?

Today is Wednesday, in the first full week of March. Which makes it part of Celebrate Your Name Week. And the Wednesday of Celebrate Your Name Week is designated as Learn What Your Name Means Day.


I did a web search: What does the name Kimberly mean? Because that's my full first name. (Usually, though, people just call me Kim. Except for my grandmas, and my aunts and uncles, and my brother and his family, and my husband. They all call me Kimmy. Probably more than you wanted to know, but there it is.)

So, anyway. Kimberly. I looked up the meaning, and this is what I found:
  • From the wood of the royal forest
  • From the royal fortress meadow
  • Meadow of the royal fort
  • Ruler
  • Cyneburg's field
  • Leader of the warriors
That's quite a variety of meanings, isn't it? Since there are so many, I guess I'll just pick the one I like the best.

So, from now on - or at least for today - you may refer to me as:

Kimberly...Leader of the Warriors

It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

What does your name mean?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review: Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements

     "It's after the shower. That's when it happens. It's when I turn on the bathroom light and wipe the fog off the mirror to comb my hair. It's what I see in the mirror. It's what I don't see.
     I look a second time, and then rub at the mirror again.
     I'm not there.
     That's what I'm saying.
     I'm. Not. There."

Bobby Phillips is a normal 15 year-old-boy, with a normal life. Until one morning. He takes his shower in the dark, like normal. He turns on the bathroom light when he's done, like normal. He wipes the steam from the mirror and looks in, like normal. But no one is looking back. Which is definitely not like normal. He's invisible. And he has no idea how it happened, or how to get back to normal. When he tells his parents, they all realize this can't get out until they can find a way to fix it. He can't tell his friends. He can't go to school. And unless they can figure this out, he can't have a life. But then one day, he meets Alicia at the library. And even though she's blind, and he's invisible, he begins to think that Alicia is the only one who can really see him. 

For Teachers and Librarians:
Invisibility, and its opposite, comes in many forms. Your teen students may identify with Bobby, and with Alicia, in a variety of ways. And teachers, librarians, and guidance counselors will find many ways to incorporate Things Not Seen into the curriculum:
  • Emotional: Bobby feels invisible to his parents, even before he actually is invisible. He feels like they put work before him, and don't notice who he is or what he wants. Alicia feels all-too-visible to her parents, whom she feels are smothering her because of her blindness, and not giving her room to be who she wants to be. How do they each find ways to make their presence and wishes felt? What are the consequences or positives of those actions? Bobby unexpectedly has to fend for himself for a few days, without his parents. Discuss: how did he feel during this time? What mistakes did he make? What did he learn? What did he do well? Has something similar happened to your students? How did they work through it?
  • Social: Bobby and Alicia form a friendship at first based on only partial honesty. How does Alicia react when she learns the truth about Bobby? How does Bobby feel about not letting her know at first about his invisibility? How does he feel after she knows? What stresses do Bobby and Alicia's friendship go through when one of them finds a solution to their individual dilemma, but the other does not?
  • Career Study: Bobby loves the library, and finds solace there. He has a great love of classic literature, thanks to his mom's influence: she's a literature professor at the University of Chicago. Mr. Phillips is a physicist. Mr. VanDorn is a scientist. Mrs. VanDorn was former public relations worker, then became a writer and consultant. What careers are your students considering, and why? Do their parents' jobs influence their lives? How?
  • Literature and reading: Have your students list the titles Bobby mentions liking or reading, and then find them in the library. Discuss: what makes a book a classic? How do these old classics compare to modern classics, and to popular literature? What books do your students consider classics? What books have had a profound effect on them, and in what ways?
  • Disability: Both Alicia and Bobby have had sudden physical changes that drastically altered the life they used to know. How has Alicia's blindness affected her life? Her career ambitions? The way she perceives other people? What event from the book makes her feel that maybe her life is not as limited as she believed her blindness made it to be? Bobby is facing the possibility of a lifetime of invisibility. How does this affect his hopes for his future? The way he perceives other people? The way he thinks and feels about himself?
  • Writing/Critical thinking: Discuss the pro's and con's of actual invisibility, both as Bobby sees it, and as your students would see it. How does Bobby think invisibility will affect his future? How would your students feel in his place? Compare/contrast the pro's and con's of whether or not Bobby should reveal his invisibility. Perhaps a creative writing assignment: what would they do if they could be invisible for a day? A week? A month? A year?
  • Here is a great link to Language Arts and Social Studies lesson plans, with an invisibility theme: Things Not Seen Lesson Plan (from
For Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers:
Things Not Seen is a book for you to read, as well as your teen. It is very much about the relationship Bobby and Alicia have with their parents, as well as how they each navigate the twists and turns of their respective lives, often thinking they are going it alone. This book gives adults a very realistic peek at what goes on inside a teen's head, and how important it is to them that their parents see them, and get them. But it also gives teens a view into how very much their parents love them and want to be there for them - even if they don't always know how to do that. The important theme here is, we all have to talk to each other, and listen to each other, so we can really see each other and help each other. And besides all that? It's a great story, with some interesting twists you don't see coming. It is by turns funny, and touching, and wrenching, and, just gotta read it.

For the Teens:
So. Things Not Seen. It's a pretty cool story. I mean, invisibility? Seriously? Sounds like it would be a blast, right? Well, when it happens suddenly and without explanation to Bobby Phillips, the only thing he feels is scared. And then worried. Sure, he felt like his parents didn't even see him half the time, but now they really can't see him. And neither can anybody else. When he goes downstairs and tells his parents, they're scared and worried, too. As Bobby and his parents work through how to figure this all out, they realize they can't let this get out. Bobby can't go to school. He can't let anyone see him - or see that they can't see him. And as far as he can figure, he has no future. Then one day, he bundles up in head-to-toe clothes and heads to the library, where he literally bumps into Alicia. He finds out she's blind. As their friendship builds, for the first time in quite some time, he's starting to believe he's finally found someone who sees him. Could she be the one who can finally help him figure this out? And fix it? 

For Everyone Else:
Things Not Seen is a book that teens through adults will enjoy reading, and really get into. You find yourself feeling like it is completely plausible that a kid could turn invisible, and that there is a logical explanation for all of this. But is it fixable, or is Bobby looking at a lifetime of not being seen? There's only one way to find out. 

Wrapping Up:
Things Not Seen. It has invisibility. It has suspense. It has a wee bit of danger. It has a lot to think about. And it has some very funny moments - like when Bobby flits through the library naked and invisible. At worst, it will make you think twice before you sit down on those chairs at the library research tables. But at best, it will make you go out and find this book, and get reading.

Title: Things Not Seen
Author: Andrew Clements
Pages: 176
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher and Date: Philomel, 2002
Edition: First (Library hardcover copy)
Language: English
Published in: United States
Price: $16.99
ISBN-10: 0-399-23626-0
ISBN-13: 978-0399236266

Author Spotlight: Andrew Clements

If you were to ask Andrew Clements why he became a writer, he may possibly respond the same way he did in an article for
"I didn't wake up one morning when I was in fourth or fifth grade and say, 'I know! I know! I'm going to be a writer!' That never happened to me. I think the reason I'm a writer is because first, I was a reader. I loved to read."

That love of reading isn't the only reason he became a writer, but it seems to be one of the most important ones.

Mr. Clements was a literature major at Northwestern University, where he also did a bit of songwriting and poetry writing on his own time. A professor at a nearby college saw his writing, and she asked him to teach creative writing at a series of summer high school workshops which she'd organized. It was during this experience that he found he liked teaching, and so he completed a Master of Arts degree in teaching from National Louis University.

Beginning in 1972, Andrew Clements taught in public schools north of Chicago, Illinois: two years of fourth grade, three years of eighth grade English, and two years of high school English. After that, he and his wife and 2 1/2 year old son moved to New York City, so he could pursue a singer-songwriter career, which lasted about a year and a half.

From there, he found a job working for a small publisher who specialized in how-to books. Then, he took a position helping a college friend launch a new company which imported children's books from Europe - translating and adapting them for the North American market. This new venture was first called Alphabet Press, and later became Picture Book Studio. Mr. Clements worked there as a sales manager, and an editorial director, and also wrote picture book texts.

Andrew Clements' first published work was A Country Christmas Treasury, about which he says,

"I'd built a number of the projects featured in the book, and I was listed as one of the 'craftspeople' on the acknowledgements page, in tiny, tiny type."

His first picture book was Big Al, published in 1987.

Then, in 1990, when he was doing an author visit at a school, he got the idea for a story about a kid who makes up a new word. That story became his first novel, Frindle, published in 1996. Frindle became Andrew Clements' most popular book, and he credits this title as being the one that ultimately led to his career as a full-time writer. Since then, he has written many novels and books for various age levels, from grades K-12.

Born in Camden, New Jersey, on May 7, 1949, Andrew Clements now lives in Westborough, Massachusetts, with his wife Rebecca. They have four grown children.

Andrew Clements Official Site: Bio
Andrew Clements -
Andrew Clements biography -
Gale Biographies of Children's Authors: Andrew Clements -

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Mean I Get to Read, and Celebrate Silliness, and Have Cake...All on the Same Day?

Today is the perfect day to grab a book, find a comfy spot to sit, and get reading. Why? Because March 2nd is Read Across America Day. And though the day falls (purposely) on the birth of that master of rhymes and silliness, Theodor S. Geisel - better known as Dr. Seuss - the celebration is not limited to the kiddos among us. Everyone is invited, whether you're tall, or small, or somewhere in-between.

 Just finding out about this now? No worries. Celebration of Read Across America Day offers the ultimate in flexibility:

For the Minimalist - Those who don't like a lot of fuss when they celebrate will love observing Read Across America Day. All you have to do is read. Anywhere. Anytime. And whatever book or magazine or poetry or other reading material you'd like. And if you have a kiddo to read to, or read with - all the better. 

For the Middle-of-the-Roader - Those who like a just a little pizazz in their celebratory behavior will find Read Across America Day fits them as well. Wear one of those tall, red-and-white Cat in the Hat hats while you're reading, and while you're out and about today. Or, if your taste in headgear is slightly more subdued, you could go with something like my chapeau of choice:

For the Ultimate Partier - Those who like a whole lotta stuff goin' on when they celebrate - you know who you are: game and activity lovers, glitter fiends, streamer folks, balloon aficionados, crayon-and-marker wielders, poster painters, etc. - visit any of the following sites for some great ideas for celebrating Read Across America Day (especially if the partiers you're planning for are kids, or if you're a teacher):   
  • Seussville's Read Across America Page. Here you'll find printable pages for the kids filled with activities and guides for cool stuff to do, links to other activity ideas, and a link to a list of places having Read Across America Day events. 
  • NEA's Read Across America page. This is the National Education Association's web page dedicated to Read Across America Day. The NEA sponsors this celebration, now in its 14th year. Here you will find a link to Seussville, as well as links to a parenting magazine and other places with celebration ideas. 
  • This website is tailored to teachers, with lesson plans and activities to try in the classroom, but parents and others who work with the little guys will find some interesting ideas here that could be easily adapted to work at home.

So, Happy Read Across America Day! And Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! Now go out there, whether you're 5 or 105, grab a book, and get reading. And if you manage to score some birthday cake in the process, please send some to me?

(Hat optional...but highly recommended.)