Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer's End: School and Friends (FAMILY magazine reviews)

As families think about school supplies and schedules, children think about last chances without homework to play late, and sleep in.  Everyone thinks about spending time with family and friends at the beach or grilling outdoors.  Here are a few ideas for books to read and things to do together as summer draws to a close.

Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh 

Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Kindergarten   
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Naranja, West Dade Regional. 
Also may be purchased from Books & Books online:

            In less than a hundred easy-to-read words the author-illustrator shares an almost simple story about friendship and more.  Walsh uses her trademark bright cut-paper colors and designs on white paper to make the illustrations snap.
Mice friends build an easy teeter-totter with a stick on a stone. A friendly salamander wants to play too.
Readers see math and science at work when the balance changes. With the addition of another friend -- balance again.
             The action repeats with a pair of frogs.  Then, a large bird joins the group. Animals explode across the page! 
The smaller animals discover they can balance the bird. But it doesn’t last.  All find something else to do – except the original mice who find a new way to balance!

The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez 
Peachtree, $16.95 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

            A mother and daughter buy an old run-down house in a crumbling neighborhood – gloomily the girl calls it “Dirty-third Street.”  Despite their efforts, the work still needed to make a cozy home, as the mother dreamily describes, is crushing. They feel discouraged
            Since they miss their former neighbors and church friends, they decide to go to church a few blocks away. When the Sunday school teacher asks if anyone has a prayer request, the girl asks, “Please pray that (we) can see the house with eyes of faith.” 
            Beginning with pastels and colored pencils in grays and browns, artist Gonzalez skillfully airbrushes in color tints.  The darkness of despair changes to blushes of brighter hope.  Text flashes with energy.  Illustrations gleam with promise.  Words and pictures link as broken-down moves toward perfect.

Dream Friends by You Byun 
Penguin, $16.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

            Melody wishes the friend she plays with in her dreams at night would play with her in her daily real world.  She’s new in the neighborhood and when she feels lonely on the playground she starts to do what she and her dream friend had fun doing the night before.  Someone wants to join, and Melody teaches her the dance.  Soon everyone on the playground is dancing.  “There was no magic like in her dreams, but it was . . . magical.” 
            This delightful picture book, from first time author/artist Byun, features a comforting mix of fantasy and realism. The paint and ink artwork in warm colors is manipulated digitally giving the entire book a dream-like quality. 

I Repeat, Don’t Cheat! by Margery Cuyler
illustrated by Arthur Howard 
Simon & Schuster, $15.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Grades 1-3 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

            Like Jessica, in this thoughtful school story, many kids worry; about falling off a bike, and sometimes about friendships and grades. When her best friend, Lizzie, copies words during the spelling test, Jessica doesn’t know what to do.  Lizzie keeps taking advantage of Jessica – being dishonest in a game of tag, asking Jessica to write a poem that Lizzie reads as her own.  But when Lizzie blames Jessica during math time, Jessica speaks up.
            Howard’s cheerful cartoon-like watercolors with pen and ink illustrations match the upbeat text.  Bodies and faces join the language of the story to express the variety of feelings that test the friendship.  Mr. Martin, the teacher, is there to help, but in the end, the girls themselves work to solve their issue.

Tips for Booking

·       Make a list of some of your favorite books growing up and check them out of the library to read with your child (or have her/him read to you)!  Wonder out loud what books are her/his favorites?

·       Choose books to read -- for example Jumanji (by Chris Van Allsburg) -- and then watch the movie together.  Talk about how the book and movie are different.

·       Plan a book-related party – like foods from The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle). Or, after reading a chapter book, for example, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (by Roald Dahl), combine watching the movie and an ice cream sundae party with friends. Yum!

·       Read biographies of someone famous your child is already interested in – someone who is a great role model (singer, athlete, leader, etc.). 
Together you could write them a letter – you don’t have to send it -- and if they are no longer living – pretend!

·       Help your child keep a journal or a diary in a notebook, or online.  (Maybe include photos?)  Talk together about what happened during the day or week. Your child (or you) can write what they want to remember (or simply write captions for the photos). Not only is this a special keepsake of memories, but it also provides children with a sense of the importance of writing.

Visit your library and try any of these terrific titles.  And don’t forget the party!!

Here are a few more great choices:

All Kinds of Friends by Norma Simon
illustrated by Cherie Zamazing 
Albert Whitman, $16.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo
illustrated by David Small
Dial, $17.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Branch, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional.   
Also may be purchased from Books & Books online:

Roasted Peanuts by Tim Egan
Houghton Mifflin, $16 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Branch, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional.   
Also may be purchased from Books & Books online:

Saving Strawberry Farm by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Greenwillow, $17.99 (hardcover) 
Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 
(This book is available to purchase from Books & Books online:


Monday, August 26, 2013


by Joyce Sidman

To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.

To you who make the forest sing,
who dip and dodge on silent wing,
who flutter, hover, clasp, and cling:
Welcome to the night.

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell you way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

The night's a sea of dappled dark,
the night's a feast of sound and spark,
the night's a wild, enchanted park,
Welcome to the night!

from Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen, 2010, Houghton Mifflin

Monday, August 19, 2013

SUMMER GOES (Monday Poem)

by Russell Hoban

Summer goes, summer goes
Like the sand between my toes
When the waves go out.
That's how summer pulls away,
Leaves me standing here today,
Waiting for the school bus.

Summer brought, summer brought
All the frogs that I have caught,
Frogging at the pond,
Hot dogs, flowers, shells and rocks,
Postcards in my postcard box--
Places far away.

Summer took, summer took
All the lessons in my book,
Blew them far away.
I forgot the things I knew--
Arithmetic and spelling too,
Never thought about them.

Summer's gone, summer's gone--
Fall and winter coming on,
Frosty in the morning.
Here's the school bus right on time.
I'm not really sad that I'm
Going back to school.

from The Family Read-Aloud Holiday Treasury, selected by Alice Low, illustrated by Marc Brown, 1991, Little, Brown and Company

Monday, August 12, 2013


by Charlotte Zolotow

A moment in summer
belongs to me
and one particular
honey bee.
A moment in summer
shimmering clear
making the sky
seem very near,
a moment in summer
belongs to me.

from The Sky is Full of Song, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer, 1983, Harper& Row

Monday, August 5, 2013

ALLEY CAT (Monday Poem)

by Esther Valck Georges

A bit of jungle in the street
He goes on velvet toes,
And slinking through the shadows, stalks
Imaginary foes.

from The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So, 1997, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.