Sunday, February 18, 2018

ReFoReMo 2018

ReFoReMo 2018 - Reading for Research Month 2018

Watch this space.

I will be participating in ReFoReMo this year, like I did last year. Last year, I posted reviews of many of the picture books that I read that were used as references for the daily postings of ReFoReMo. I will be doing the same again this year, only this year, I hope to do a daily posting as I go along, with short reviews of the books that are referenced each day of the challenge. Last year, I did things a bit differently by waiting until the end of the challenge, and then breaking each story down into category - fiction, non-fiction, rhyming, etc.

Watch this space.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FIRE AND FURY: Inside the Trump White House

I finished reading this much-hyped book. I must say I thought it was very well-written (I've heard other people say they didn't think so - - I disagree), and I also must say it was not as salacious as I thought it would be considering all the media hype when it came out. I guess that was to be expected. That's not to say I was disappointed in the book. On the contrary, I think author Michael Wolff hit the nail right on the head in his overall characterization of the Trump White House as being chaotic, undisciplined, uninformed and unprepared for the real world of politics.

Author Michael Wolff's insights into behind-the-scenes at the White House were equally enlightening and frightening. Although it has been said, by many news organizations and critics, that this book is not necessarily completely based on the truth, what I read echoes, in easy-to-understand terms and scenarios, what we have witnessed during the past year. To think that Trump didn't think he was going to win the election, to think that Trump didn't even really WANT to win the election, to think that Trump was in utter shock when he did win the election, explains so much of what happened during the campaign, during the transaction period between Obama and Trump, and during the past year plus that this buffoon has been in office.

The only thing that I am disappointed in in terms of this book is the quality of the print. By that I mean there were many pages that were difficult to read because the ink was very light. It appeared as those these pages came out of a printer that was low on ink. Also, I found numerous typos in the text. It would also appear that the unexpected interest in the book, which required the immediate printing of many more copies, may have contributed to the lack of quality in the finished product.

Overall, though, I think this book is well worth the read. As Wolff has said in numerous interviews, he has put the information forth in such a way as it offers the reader a chance to review the "evidence" and make up their own mind about the truth and veracity of the statements. But, based on what I've seen, heard and read about Trump and his administration thus far, this book seems to pretty much sum up the true nature of those in the White House - - most of them don't have a clue as to what they're doing and most of them are only in it to further their own careers and line their own pockets. There are a few exceptions to this, but not many.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Avalon, IL is a small Midwestern town with the usual assortment of colorful characters. In this particular town, a group of ladies, called the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society, meets monthly to socialize and learn scrapbooking techniques. The Society was founded by, and is still led by, Bettie Shelton, an energetic and eccentric gal with loads of experience and tons of opinions. Her forceful personality has dominated the club for decades.

Bettie is always trying to get new people involved in her scrapbooking club. She talks the following women into joining the group: Isabel Kidd, who has been Bettie's neighbor for years but who has not, until recently, been interested in the club; Yvonne Tate, a newcomer to town who is a real looker but who practices the unlikely profession of a plumber (and she's a good one); Ava Catalina who lives by herself with her little son, Max; and Frances Latham, the mother of three boisterous boys who is trying to adopt a little girl from China. These four females not only become entwined in the club, they become caught up in Bettie's life. When Bettie's health is threatened, all of them, along with many members of the community, band together to help her out.

This is a delightful story of small town America, showing the true spirit of life in small towns such as this one. It is also chock full of information about scrapbooking - ideas, techniques, new products, etc. - as well as with information about the delights of Amish Friendship Bread. At the end of the book, author Darien Gee includes recipes for eight dishes that are mentioned in the text, as well as a link to Friendship Bread Kitchen (, where you can find tons of recipes for the basic Friendship Bread starter. She also offers hints and tips about basic scrapbooking, as well as ideas for starting your own scrapbooking group. And, if that weren't enough, she throws in information about Alzheimers (one of the characters in the story is diagnosed with this awful disease), and a link to Half the Sky (, a website where you can learn more about adopting Chinese children.

This book is like a fiction and non-fiction story combined together in a delightful and skillful manner. Enjoy and bon appetit!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


This is the last post for my reviews of books I read during ReFoReMo 2017. The last topic is Things
Kids Like/Do. I hope you have enjoyed my posts. Thanks for reading!

A little black girl, who is living during the time of segregation, dreams of what it would be like to be a ballerina. Her mom works for a dance studio as a seamstress. Sometimes the girl tries on the dance costumes and sometimes she watches the dancers from behind the curtains.

The little girl imitates what she sees the dancers doing and dreams of one day being one stage herself. She is mesmerized when she gets a chance to watch Janet Collins, the first African American ballerina who performed with the Metropolitan Opera.

HUG MACHINE by Scott Campbell

A little boy calls himself Hug Machine. He hugs everybody and everything, including mailboxes and trees.

But, will he hug prickly things?

This is a great book that kids will relate to, especially the "huggers".

An alligator might seem like a good thing to bring to school to share for a nature show-and-tell, but if you do it, you will probably wish you hadn't. Alligators are just way more trouble than they are worth.

A few facts about alligators are included in the text of this book, as the alligator is presented for show-and-tell. I think the author and publisher both missed a golden opportunity to make this book more curriculum-friendly by including additional information about alligators. Kids could then use the book just for fun (and it is a fun book!), or they could use the book as reference material about alligators.

Just a thought...

From the same author who wrote IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON'T! comes this delightful book. This time, the young girl wants to take her piano to the beach. Her mother allows her to do so, but she warns her to not lose it.

How can you lose a piano? you might ask. Well, it's like this: First you get it to the beach (which is no easy feat), then you have it sitting in the open where the bird make a mess on it, then you push it into the water to wash it off. Then, you guessed it: It floats away.

Does the little girl get the piano back?

I enjoyed this book, but the ending is just a bit off. I can't tell you the ending as that would give the story away, but let's just say that the mother's reaction just doesn't ring true.

Perhaps you won't agree....


This is just a delightful book about a day in the life of a toddler. Mom and her baby go through a full day of eating and playing and helping and shopping and all the things moms and kids do together. The colorful, kid-friendly illustrations, coupled with the rhyming text, makes this a sure-to-be favorite for the younger set.


A young boy takes the reader along as he embarks on a trip with his mom, dad and little sister. The boy and his family go to a big airport where there are lots of things to do and see. The boy tells the reader about what he is seeing and doing all along the way, from his house to the airport, onto the plane, into the destination airport and then on his way to his grandparents' house.

If you're a kid about to embark on an airplane for the first time, this is the book for you.  The author goes into detail about what to expect when you're a little kid going to a big airport to take a long flight on a big airplane. They've got that aspect well covered. But, I just wanted to point out that the story would be quite different if one were traveling in a small airplane in a small airport.

There were a couple of things about the book that I didn't really like. First of all, the parents tell each other to not forget "Monkey". No one is paying attention when the little girl packs Monkey into her big suitcase. All through the story, the little girl keeps crying for her monkey. She doesn't realize that she can't take the monkey with her on the plane when it is packed in her suitcase. No one really pays any attention to her. I thought that was a little sad. Yes, she is reunited with Monkey at the end of the trip, but I don't like the way that was handled.

Also, there was one place where the text seemed like it was missing a word. Here's the sentence: "You wait until your group is called then walk down the jetway." I think that sentence would be much stronger if it read: "You wait until your group is called and then you walk down the jetway." Just a thought...

But, I did like the way the book comes full circle with the beginning and the ending.

THE MONSTORE by Tara Lazar

When Zack's sister, Gracie, becomes a pest, Zack goes to the Monstore to buy a scary monster, one that will keep her out of his room. That doesn't work, so he buys another one and another one. What can he do to scare his sister away?

A bit of rhyme, a bit of repetition, a bit of alliteration, and great illustrations all add up to a whole lot of fun.


Even if you're a vampire,  you can be a ballerina. But you have to follow some simple rules: You have to practice, practice, practice and not give up, no matter what.

And because you're a vampire, you have to do things a bit differently: You need to take night classes, you should keep your mouth shut, and you must resist the temptation to show off by turning yourself into a bat.

Vampire or not, any little girl who dreams of being a ballerina can identify with Vampirina Ballerina.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


This post of book reviews for ReFoReMo 2017 is  about Rhyming Picture Books. Enjoy!

CIRCUS TRAIN by Jennifer Cole Judd 

This is a delightful little book about the circus. The easy-to-read sentences are very short. The concepts are simple. The text comes full circle as it starts with the line, "Circus trail spills over the hills" and ends with that same line.

The story is told in rhyme. It's very difficult to write in rhyme and do it well, but author Jennifer Cole Judd handles the task well. The bright illustrations by Melanie Matthews are an asset to this great little book.


Stanley, the dog, is apparently a very noisy dog and a whiz at fixing things. Late at night, he wakes everyone up by howling at the moon. Then, he wakes everyone up again when he fixes the oil tank. Later still, he wakes everyone up again when he drains the tub, and other things.

This is a very cute story told in rhyme. It's very difficult to write in rhyme and do it well, but author Jon Agee does it brilliantly. Agee also does the delightful illustrations which perfectly set off the text of this wonderful picture book.

JAMBERRY by Bruce Degen  

This is a delightful book, filled with rhymes and word play about berries - blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. It was inspired by the author's memories of picking berries when he was a child.

The rhymes are wonderful. The illustrations are delightful. And the word play is magical. My favorite word is "razzametazzberry".


This is just a delightful book about a day in the life of a toddler. Mom and her baby go through a full day of eating and playing and helping and shopping and all the things moms and kids do together. The colorful, kid-friendly illustrations, coupled with the rhyming text, makes this a sure-to-be favorite for the younger set.


"Today is the day Nanette won't soon forget." Nanette is sent to the bakery by herself for the very first time to get the day's baguette. But what happens when Nanette has the warm, wonderfully smelling baguette all to herself?

How many words can you come up with that rhyme with "baguette"? Mo Willems has a whole host of them that he skillfully uses in his rhyming text.


The Dust Bunnies, Ed, Ned, Ted and Bob, rhyme, all the time. Well, mostly.

When Ed asks, "What rhymes with car?", Ed, Ned and Ted say, "Far, jar and tar." Bob says, "Look!"

Of course the word "look" doesn't rhyme with the word "car". They try again. This time Ed asks, "What rhymes with bug? Bob's answer is, "Look out!"

What's going on? Why can't Bob rhyme?

This is not your typical "rhyming" book, but it sure is fun, with a great ending!

Monday, April 24, 2017


Today's topic for book reviews for ReFoReMo 2017 is Nonfiction.   

GIANT SQUID by Candice Fleming

Lyrical prose and amazing illustrations teach children about giant squids, one of the big mysteries of the ocean. Much is known about them, but so much is left to be learned.

The last four pages of the book are packed with information about giant squids, including a diagram with labeled parts. Also, two of the pages in the book unfold to reveal a giant squid illustration which is very striking.


Do you like spiders? I don't. I really, really, don't like spiders. I try to like spiders, but it's really hard to do.

This is a great book for anyone who doesn't like spiders (like myself). It's filled with wonderful illustrations and interesting facts and trivia about spiders.

The text is written with humor as the person who is "trying to love spiders" keeps smashing them and then apologizing for doing so. But, in the process, the person becomes a bit less squeamish and more appreciative of these 8-legged critters.

It can be difficult to love spiders, but when you think about how helpful they can be maybe you can come to love them, or at least, not be afraid of them.

The front and back matter of the book has drawings of a variety of different spiders. The illustrations throughout the book are colorful and expressive. Kids are sure to love them (the illustrations, if not the spiders)!

INFINITY AND ME by Kate Hosford

Have you ever stopped to think about what infinity is? Uma has. One night when she sits under the stars, she wonders how many stars there are. Are there an infinite number of stars?

She asks some people how they think of infinity. One person says it's just a number that keeps growing and growing. Another person thinks of it in terms of the symbol which she says looks like the number 8 turned over on its side to take a nap so it looks like a racetrack that you can drive around forever and ever. It seems like everybody has a different idea of what infinity is.

That's the beauty of the word and the concept. It can be thought of in many different ways. Author Kate Hosford does a great job of describing and defining the term without being boring, preachy or know-it-all. The illustrations by  Gabi Swiatkowska go perfectly with the text. The author also includes an Authors Note in the back of the book with some more thoughts and information about infinity.

This would be a great book to use in the classroom when discussing the concept of infinity.

MERKAT MAIL by Emily Gravett

When Sunny's house gets a bit crowded and things get a bit cozy, Sunny decides to go looking for a different place to live. He spends time with different relatives. Even though he is welcomed everywhere he goes, he can't find a place where he feels like he fits in. There's only one place where that happens. I'm sure you can guess where that is.

While we read about Sunny, we learn a bit about the different habitats of merkats. The text is enhanced with lift-the-flap postcards that Sunny writes to his family from the places he visits.

Isatou lives in Gambia. Her family and people in her village are very poor. When Isatou finds a plastic bag on the ground, she is grateful to have it because her basket is broken and can no longer be used. But, when the bag gets a hole in it, what is she to do with it? When her basket broke, she just threw it on the ground where it would rot back into the earth in a short time. But when she throws the used plastic bag on the ground, it stays there, for a very long time.

Over time, many more plastic bags end up on the ground. They they soon become a problem. The ground is covered with them. Goats who eat them die. They are just a mess. But, what can Isatou do about it?

This is a story about how people in a village figured out how to overcome a problem and turn it into something good. It's a great lesson for everyone.

The story is well-written and has some great repetition, and the story is based on real events. Author Miranda Paul uses some foreign words in the text. She provides a glossary of the words at the end of the book. She also provides an author's not about Gambria, West Africa.


As dad and child glide over the snow on their skis, where they see birds and animals going about their business, numerous other animals are living their lives deep beneath the snow where they can't be seen.

This is a lyrical look at the world under the ground, where life goes on unseen. An Author's Note at the end of the book provides additional information about animals who live above and below the ground.

RAINDROPS ROLL by April Pulley Sayre

Author April Pulley Sayre takes the reader on a lyrical and pictorial tour of raindrops. She incorporates the elements of lyrical prose, some rhyming text, and beautiful photographs to talk about raindrops. She has taken an otherwise ordinary event and turned it into something magical.

She includes an Authors Note at the back of the book that explains some of the science behind rain and raindrops.

A behind-the-scenes look at how the members of a philharmonic orchestra prepare for a concert. The author takes us from bath time, to actually getting dressed, to traveling to the auditorium, to getting ready for playing and then to the start of the concert.

The text and illustrations work well together to make what could otherwise being a rather boring ritual seem like fun for kids. I know kids will love all the talk about taking baths or showers and getting dried off and getting undergarments on. But, for me, I think the story/narration would have been just a good with a little less detail and description about that part. But, like I said, I'm sure kids will love it.

I love the last line of the book: "They are the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra, and their work is to play. Beautifully."

WATER IS WATER by Miranda Paul

This book takes a look at water and where it comes from. Author Miranda Paul uses delightful, lyrical verse to explain what water is and the many types of water that exist - ice, steam, rain, etc.

The book begins: "Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Water is water heats up" (then you get steam). Steam then changes into clouds. Each type of water is illustrated with lyrical, rhyming verse and also illustrated with detailed, life-like pictures (by Jason Chin).

There are four pages in the back of the book called "More About Water." These pages include great reference material about different types of water, a chart showing that almost everything contains water, a map of the world showing water on the earth's surface, a paragraph about why water is important, a list of books for "Further Reading" and a "Select Bibliography."

This book would make a great addition to teaching and reference materials for students learning about the water cycle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD? by Nancy Raines Day

The book starts out: "What in the world comes one by one? A nose. A mouth. The moon. The sun?"

This format, with the words "What in the world" starts each stanza, with one stanza used for each of the numbers 1 through 10. Each stanza also rhymes.

This is a delightful, lyrical, rhyming look at nature by the numbers.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Language is the category for today's list of book reviews from ReFoReMo 2017.

A CHILD OF BOOKS by Oliver Jeffers

A little girl, who calls herself a child of books, sets sail across a sea of words. She goes to a little boy's house, and together they set off on an adventure into the wonderful world of storytelling.

This is one of the most unusual and delightful picture books I have ever read. The illustrations set this book apart from all others. The illustrations are comprised mostly of words, not just lines and squiggles comprising a thing, but a series of words, in blocks and swirls and ribbons, that illustrate the text. And, many of the words are from children's classics.

The lyrical text and the "wordy" illustrations work magically together to illustrate the power of words and of storytelling.

BARK, GEORGE by Jules Feiffer

George is having trouble barking. When his mom says, "Bark, George," he says, "Meow." When she tells him to bark again, he says, "Quack, quack" and then "oink" and then "moo."
In frustration, George's mom takes him to the vet. The reason for George's strange noises is certainly improbable, but kids will find it fun and delightful. The ending is just perfect, too!

BE A FRIEND by Salina Yoon

Dennis doesn't talk. He acts everything out, like a mime. Not surprising, he doesn't fit in with the other kids. Things change one day, though, when he kicks an imaginary ball and someone returns it!

This is a great book, with delightful illustrations, about being different and about friendship.


"Yelfred and Omak have been best frints since the were little blobbies." Thus begins this wonderful story about two alien creatures and their special friendship.

Author Antoenette Portis mixes real words and made-up ones to tell this delightful story - one any earth-child can relate to.

DU IZ TAK? by Carson Ellis

This is one of the most unique books I have ever seen. While the story is told mostly with pictures (the definition of a picture book), it is almost like the story has no words (there are some books that are nothing but pictures). But, this book does have words, sort of.

Are you confused? Author Carson Ellis took the concept of language and gave it a real twist. He invented his own words. Yes, you read that right. He made up words to tell the whole story. The effect is rather startling and daunting, as well as imaginative and freeing. If that sounds like a contradiction of terms, it's because it is a contradiction of terms.

The story is about a group of insects who come across a "green thing" in the ground. They ask, "Du iz tak (What is that?)? They watch it in wonder as it grows. When it gets big, they use a ladder and build a "tree fort" in the plant. But, since it is a plant in a garden, and they are insects, of course, there is a bird - a booby voobeck. But since it is a plant in a garden, its story also illustrates the circle of life, with the plant dying in the fall, the snow covering the ground in the winter, and new life popping up from the ground in the spring. New insects then come along and ask, "Du iz tak?"


There's a bit of wordplay going on here as a little girl searches for her trumpet. But, she is not looking for a musical instrument, she is looking for something else. See if you can figure it out.

Questions are asked throughout the book, the first one being: Have you seen my trumpet? Each question is answered with clues contained in the last word of the question.

For instance, for the question "Who is blowing a dandelion?" The answer is a "lion". Notice the word "lion" is highlighted within the word "dandelion".

The next question is "Who is being selfish?" Can you figure out who is selfish and can you figure out what the trumpet is?

I YAM A DONKEY by Cece Bell

A very funny look at the craziness of language and grammar. It also highlights the need for both.

Donkey says, "I yam a donkey."

Yam says, "What did you say? I yam a donkey? The proper way to say this is, I am a donkey."

Thus begins a crazy mixed-up conversation between a donkey and a yam, with the yam trying to explain to the donkey the proper way to say things. Needless to say, the yam has a difficult time trying to explain the ins and outs of our crazy language. 

Then, some more of Yam's friends get involved in the conversation, which leads to a funny and unexpected ending.

MOO! by David LaRochelle

Can you write a story using just one word over and over again to tell your tale? Author David LaRochelle accomplishes this seemingly impossible task quite brilliantly. He uses the word "moo" over and over again in various ways to tell a story about a cow's misadventures. The result, with the wonderful illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka, is a funny book that kids will want to read over and over again!

When the animals from the zoo are sent to a restaurant (and the restaurant's regular food is sent to the zoo), a young diner ends up with a giraffe in his soup - - as well as an alligator, an elephant and a whole parade of different animals.

This is a great book of word play with a wild cast of characters.


A duckling finds a book lying on the ground. He picks it up and opens it. But, there are no pictures in the book, just words. "This is not a picture book!" he yells.

At first, he is not happy that there are no pictures in it. Then, a bookbug asks him, "Can you read it?"

"I'm not sure," the duckling says. But, when he looks closer he sees words that he knows. And, that makes him very happy.

I love the creativity of this book. The back matter gives a running synopsis for the book. The back matter starts like this: "One day, a little duckling was taking a walk, when he saw something red lying on the ground. 'A book! he said excitedly."

The actual text for that reads: "A book!" The story is told with the pictures.

But, the front matter also has a synopsis for the story, sort of. The front matter's synopsis mirrors the back matter's, except the letters of most of the words in the front matter are all mixed up. The front matter starts like this: "One day, a itllet nuickdlg was anigtk a wkla, nhwe he wsa itegmohsn erd myigl on the gonrdu. 'A book!' he said etyclxied."

Isn't that cool? Isn't that fun? What a great little book to celebrate the power of language and the written word!


Beautiful, lyrical verse celebrates the colors of the seasons - spring, summer, fall, winter.

The book starts out with Spring. "In Spring, red sings from the treetops: cheer-cheer-cheer, each note dripping like a cherry into my ear."

What a wonderfully colorful (pun intended) way to describe how a redbird sings in the trees. The whole book is written like this. Enjoy!