A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Books to Tickle Your Funny Bone

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Tomorrow will be April Fool's Day.  I don't know about your house, but everyone in mine will spend the day trying to come up with funny tricks to play on each other.  To get ready for the silly day, I thought I'd share some of the books that make our family laugh:

CLICK, CLACK, MOO: Cows That Type, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, 2000...  When Farmer Brown's cows discover an old typewriter in the barn, they start sending him notes and making polite demands.

Cronin has written several books about Farmer Brown and his animals, but this first one remains my favorite.  I love the absurd notion of cows typing, and Lewin's illustrations crack me up every time I read this book!

The Monster at the End of this Book, written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Mike Smollin, 1971... Sesame Street's "lovable, furry old Grover" begs readers not to turn any more pages because the title mentions a monster at the end of the book.

I can still remember reading this book to my little sister back in the 70's.  We both thought it was hilarious!  I've read it to my own kids many times over the years, and each one has howled with laughter.  Recently I heard my son Ben reading it to some of his stuffed animals -- apparently they thought it was funny, as well! :)

Julius, The Baby of the World, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, 1990... Big sister Lilly thinks it will be fun to have a baby in the house, but when her little brother Julius actually arrives -- and stays -- Lilly is filled with jealousy.

I came across this book in a bookstore when I was pregnant with my second child, Nick.  I literally laughed out loud at the pictures and the story as I flipped through it.  I took it to my husband (in another area of the store) and insisted he read it.  He chuckled all the way through, and we both knew we HAD to buy that book for our daughter Emmalie!  Since that time, I've bought several more copies of the book to send to family and friends with a second child on the way. I love the humorous way that Henkes handles the very common issue of sibling rivalry and how Lilly eventually ends up accepting (and caring for) her baby brother.

Just Too Cute and Other Adorable Stories for Horrible Children, written by Mike Reiss and illustrated by Johnny Yanok, 2010... Filled with stories and poems about some adorable troublemakers, this book and its offbeat humor probably appeal more to adults or older kids than it does to young children.

I spotted this book at our library -- the title itself made me giggle, and I knew I'd be bringing it home with me!  My boys and I found the stories inside amusing, though some of the humor was a bit over 6-year-old Ben's head.

Kat Kong, written and "directed" by Dav Pilkey, 2003... A spoof on the story of King Kong, this book describes how Doctor Varmint and Rosie Rodent find the mighty Kat Kong, then capture him and bring him back to Mousopolis.

This story and another Pilkey creation, Dogzilla, are chock-full of puns and silliness!  They have long been favorites of Nick's -- even though he's a teenager now, he still comes to listen when I read them to his little brother.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Mark Fearing, 2011... You've heard this plot before, but maybe not quite this way.  Three little aliens head out into space to make new homes for themselves.  Soon the Big Bad Robot flies in to crack and smack and whack their houses down.

Kids and adults alike will get a kick out of this amusing take on The Three Little Pigs.  Ben and I loved the fun sound effects in the book and Fearing's comical illustrations.

Diary of a Worm, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss, 2004...  Who knew a worm's life could be so droll?  From making macaroni necklaces at school (with just one piece of the pasta) to telling jokes with his best friend Spider to attempting the Hokey Pokey, Worm has all kinds of things to write about in his diary.

When I saw that this book was written by the author of CLICK CLACK MOO: Cows That Type, I couldn't wait to read it!  I was not disappointed.  Once again, Cronin has created a story that kids (and parents) of all ages will find hysterical... and Bliss' illustrations, full of zany little details, complements the story perfectly.

Mouse Mess, written and illustrated by Linnea Riley, 1997... When a mouse ventures out into the kitchen for a midnight snack, he leaves the room in shambles.

I was looking for a book to buy for Emmalie when she was just a toddler and I came across this one.  I was drawn to it by the bright, colorful cover, and then when I flipped through the book, I fell in love with the rhyming text, the fun illustrations, and the story itself.  You can probably tell from the picture below that this one has been read over and over and over again in the many years since I brought it home for Emm!

Pig Pigger Piggest, written by Rick Walton and illustrated by Jimmy Holder, 1997...  In this goofy retelling of The Three Little Pigs, Pig, Pigger, and Piggest set out to build homes for themselves.  Witch, Witcher, and Witchest destroy those homes, turning them into giant mud puddles.

I am amused by the many ways that both Walton and Holder use superlatives to tell this story, and Holder's illustrations always bring a smile to my face.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, illustrated by Simms Taback, 1997... Chances are you've heard this funny folk song before, about the old lady who swallows a fly and then a spider (to catch the fly) and then several other creatures.

Taback's wacky artwork (with cut-out sections to show everything inside the lady's stomach) brings the song to life and makes it even more entertaining.

I'd planned to feature only picture books for this post, but I've been reading this next book to Ben this week, and decided to include it here.  It definitely fits the "tickle your funny bone" theme!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, written by Judy Blume, 1972...  Fourth grader Peter Hatcher has many problems, but the biggest is a three-year-old -- his little brother Fudge.  Fudge's many escapades throw the whole family for a loop, but especially Peter, who just wants to spend time with his friends and his pet turtle Dribble.

I remember my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Callison, reading this book to our class.  It was humorous then, and I still find it humorous now.  (And, I assume from his many giggle fits while listening to me read, that Ben feels the same way about it.)  Being the oldest sibling, I can certainly relate to Peter and his predicaments!

What are some of your favorite funny books?  I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, March 30, 2012


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My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkish yellowish white.
My eyes are greyish blueish green,
But I'm told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it's silver when it's wet.
And all the colors I am inside
Have not been invented yet.

~ Shel Silverstein,
Where the Sidewalk Ends

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Every character...

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"Every character
should want something,
even if it is only
a glass of water."

~ Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Resplendent Quetzal, a page from
 Bird: The Definitive Visual Guide
by Audubon

Have you ever played the game where participants choose a category (foods, animals, books, etc.), then take turns listing items in that category, one for each letter of the alphabet?  (When you get to Z, you start all over again, trying not to duplicate any of the answers given in previous rounds.)  

Our family plays that whenever we're waiting for something -- waiting for our food to arrive at a restaurant, waiting in line at amusement parks, etc.  Many times when we play the game, we choose the category of animals.  (That shouldn't be a surprise, with my son Nick around!)  There aren't too many animals (or other kinds of words, for that matter) that begin with the letter Q.  One of the few is quetzal.  It gets used often in our games!

A quetzal [ket-sahl] is a brilliantly colored bird that lives in Central and South America.  Quetzals have golden-green and scarlet plumage, and the males have very long tail feathers.  These magnificent creatures are the national bird of Guatemala.

Look at this picture of a quetzal -- 
isn't it beautiful?

Can you think of any other animal names that start with the letter Q?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Call the Periods Call the Commas

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Call the Periods
Call the Commas

Call the doctors Call the nurses Give me a breath of
air I’ve been reading all your stories but the periods
aren’t there Call the policemen Call the traffic guards
Give me a STOP sign quick Your sentences are running
when they need a walking stick Call the commas Call
the question marks Give me a single clue Tell me
where to breathe with a punctuation mark or two

~ Kalli Dakos

Monday, March 26, 2012

Magic and Royalty and Unusual Creatures, Oh My!

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Strange lands, brave princesses, enchanted spells, mermaids, trolls, dragons, djinn.... Can you tell that I've been reading a lot of middle grade and young adult fantasy lately?  I've enjoyed them all and wanted to share them with you:

Tuck Everlasting,
written by Natalie Babbitt, 1975...

Ten-year-old Winnie discovers a hidden spring in the forest, then learns that it is the "fountain of youth" -- whoever drinks from it (as the Tuck family did many, many years before) will live forever.  Unfortunately, she's not the only one to learn the secret of the spring; a mysterious stranger wants to make his fortune by marketing the magical water.  Winnie and the Tucks must work together and make sure this does not happen.

Even though this book was first published when I was a young girl, I'd never even heard of it until the movie came out in 2002.  I never did see the movie, and it wasn't until this past winter that I finally got around to looking for the book at our library.  Beautifully written -- and a quick read -- this book poses questions that really make the reader think.  What would it really be like to live forever?


The Phantom Tollbooth,
written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, 1961...

Milo is bored with life.  Then one day he comes home and finds a very unusual gift in his room -- a magical tollbooth.  He drives through it in his toy car and finds himself in a strange land, the Kingdom of Wisdom.  There he meets Tock the watchdog, who has a giant clock attached to his body.  Milo and Tock travel around the land, visiting places like Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and the Mountains of Ignorance on their quest to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason.  Along the way, they encounter the Whether Man, the Humbug, the Spelling Bee, and many other odd creatures.

This is another old classic that I'd never read till now.  I remember Emmalie reading it in elementary school and recommending it to me, but it wasn't until I spotted the book on the shelf at the library a few months back that I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I did -- I was so charmed by this clever book that I'm planning to buy myself a copy.  I can't wait to reread it!  I love the book's humor, especially all the fun puns sprinkled liberally throughout.


The Tail of Emily Windsnap,
written by Liz Kessler, 2003...

Emily Windsnap is a 7th grader who's never gone swimming before.  She's never even taken a bath (only showers).  She has never been fully immersed in water.  When she finally convinces her mother to let her take swimming lessons, Emily discovers that she can swim better than any of her classmates -- until her legs start feeling very strange and she quickly gets out of the water.  Later, Emily attempts swimming in the ocean near her home. That same strange sensation creeps back into her legs, but she stays in the water this time.  Imagine her surprise when Emily's legs turn into a tail and she realizes that she is a real life mermaid! Her legs reappear when she gets back on shore, leaving Emily filled with questions and a longing to return to the sea.  Why is this happening and what will it mean for her life?

When my own Emmalie first read this back in elementary school, it quickly became her favorite book.  I remember her talking about it ALL the time, and wishing that she could be a mermaid herself.  Even now, when I borrowed her copy for this blog, Emmalie gushed, "Oh, I love that book!" After reading it myself, I decided that if I'd read it when I was 8 or 9, I would've loved it, too.  As an adult, I thought it was a cute story, but didn't like it as much as I liked the other books in this post.

For fans of this story who want to hear more, Kessler has written other Emily Windsnap books.  The series  includes Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep (2004), Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist (2006), and Emily Windsnap and the Siren's Secret (2010).


Once Upon a Marigold,
written by Jean Ferris, 2002...

As a young boy, Christian runs away from home.  While hiding in the forest, he meets Edric the troll, who unwillingly takes him in (but soon grows to care for Christian as a son).  Many years later, the boy uses a telescope to watch Princess Marigold in the castle yard, and adores her from afar.  At last he decides to leave home and go out into the world, hoping to find work at the castle where he can be nearer to his love.  Meanwhile, the evil Queen Olympia is making plans to become the sole ruler of the kingdom by getting rid of her daughter Marigold and the dotty King Swithbert.  

I laughed all throughout this silly story!  I loved the quirky characters, Edric's constant misuse of common sayings, and all the references to p-mail (messages sent by carrier pigeon).   While I found much of the plot to be predictable, I really didn't mind -- I was having too much fun reading it! 

Ferris has also written a sequel to this book, Twice Upon a Marigold.  I have not read it yet, but hope to soon!


Princess Ben,
written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, 2008...

The idyllic life of Princess Benevolence (Ben, for short) changes in an instant when her uncle, King Ferdinand, and her mother are killed -- and her father goes missing.  Queen Sophia insists that Ben move from her home to the castle, where she can learn to be a "proper" princess, as the true heir to the throne of Montagne.  Miserable and stubborn, Ben refuses to act the way her aunt wishes.  The queen punishes her niece by locking her in the high tower, but Ben soon discovers magic hidden within the castle walls.  Can she use this magic to escape her prison and to keep Montagne's sworn enemy, the kingdom of Drachensbett, from invading her beloved land?

I was quickly drawn into this story, and read it all in one sitting.  I especially liked how Murdock took elements from familiar fairy tales and twisted them around to fit her strong heroine.  The book was written in a formal voice befitting a queen, which may put off some readers at first.  However, I found that after only a few pages, I didn't even notice it anymore -- I was too wrapped up in the story.


The Ring of Solomon,
(A Bartimaeus Novel)
written by Jonathan Stroud, 2010

This book is a prequel (actually, more like  a pre-pre-prequel) to The Bartimaeus Trilogy that I reviewed in an earlier post. The trilogy is set in the nineteenth century England while The Ring of Solomon is set in Jerusalem in 950 BC, during King Solomon's reign.  Like the trilogy, the trilogy features Bartimaeus, the cynical, sarcastic djinni with a heart.  

Solomon possesses an all-powerful ring, giving him vast influence over all the surrounding lands.  The Queen of Sheba, worried about what he will do to her land, sends her most trusted guard, the young girl Asmira, to kill Solomon and steal the ring.  Meanwhile, as punishment for his misbehavior, Bartimaeus is forced to work for Solomon's evil magician, Khaba.

I found this to be a fast-paced novel, filled with plot twists and laugh-out-loud humor.  Fans of the trilogy will love this prequel, and those who are not yet familiar with Bartimaeus are sure to enjoy it, too!


Have you read any of the books above?  If so, what did you think?  Do you have other fantasy favorites?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


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An excerpt:

     Also be prepared as you write to be surprised by your own writing, surprised by what you find out about yourself and about your world.  Be ready for the happy accident.  Open yourself to the numinous, to the shapes and shades of language, to that first powerful thrust of story, to the character that develops away from you (sort of like a wayward adolescent), to the surprise of the exact and perfect ending.

     You are -- after all -- the very first reader of what you write.  Please that reader.  You may not have any other.

~ from Take Joy: A Book for Writers,
written by Jane Yolen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A blessed companion...

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"A blessed companion is a book--
a book that, fitly chosen,
is a lifelong friend,
a book that, at a touch,
pours its heart into our own." 

~ Douglas Jerrold

Friday, March 23, 2012



A blue day,
a blue jay
and a good beginning.

One crow,
melting snow --
spring's winning!

~ Elizabeth Coatsworth

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Under your feet...

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"Look for the poetry
that grows under your feet."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


An oxymoron [ok-si-mohr-on] is a figure of speech that uses a phrase or expression that seems self-contradictory.  For example:

awfully good

pretty ugly

sweet sorrow

strangely familiar

 good grief

real phony


random order

are all oxymorons.  (If you are interested in seeing more, check out the Oxymoron List website.)

What are some of your favorite oxymorons?  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Good-by My Winter Suit

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In honor of the first day of spring:
Good-by My Winter Suit

Good-by my winter suit,
good-by my hat and boot,
good-by my ear-protecting muffs
and storms that hail and hoot.

Farewell to snow and sleet,
farewell to Cream of Wheat,
farewell to ice-removing salt
and slush around my feet.

Right on! to daffodils,
right on! to whippoorwills,
right on! to chirp-producing eggs
and baby birds and quills.

The day is on the wing,
the kite is on the string,
the sun is where the sun should be --
it's spring all right!  It's spring!

~ N.M. Bodecker

Monday, March 19, 2012

A very happy birthday to yeh...

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In honor of my daughter Emmalie's sixteenth birthday tomorrow, an excerpt from one of her favorite books:

     "Anyway -- Harry," said the giant, turning his back on the Dursleys, "a very happy birthday to yeh.  Got summat fer yeh here -- I mighta sat on it at some point, but it'll taste all right."

     From an inside pocket of his black overcoat he pulled a slightly squashed box.  Harry opened it with trembling fingers.  Inside was a large, sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Harry written on it in green icing.

~ from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
written by J. K. Rowling

Sunday, March 18, 2012


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"The biggest adventure
you can ever take
is to live the life of your dreams."

~ Oprah Winfrey

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wearing of the Green

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Wearing of the Green

It ought to come in April,
or better yet, in May
when everything is green as green --
I mean St. Patrick's Day.

With still a week of winter
this wearing of the green
seems rather out of season --
it's rushing things, I mean.

But maybe March is better
when all is done and said:
St. Patrick brings a promise,
a four-leaf-clover promise,
a green-all-over promise
of springtime just ahead!

~ Aileen Fisher

Wishing you all a happy St. Patrick's Day!  :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Top O' the Book List

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I only have a tiny bit of Irish heritage in my background, but I've always liked St. Patrick's Day.  I've liked it even more since moving to the Chicago area -- it's a pretty big holiday around here.  My kids and I look forward to it every year!  As with other holidays, we enjoy reading St. Patrick's Day themed books in the days leading up to it -- one of our family's many "green" traditions.

We have two favorite books that we own and reread every year, The Pot of Gold and The Leprechaun's Gold:

The Pot of Gold, written by Lisa Hopp and illustrated by Jerry Smath, 1997...  Lucky the leprechaun will win his very own pot of gold if he passes a test -- finding the ten four-leaf clovers hiding around Leprechaun Land.

When we first bought this book for Emmalie, back when she was two years old, it came with a package of jewel stickers.  She absolutely loved searching for the four-leaf clovers in the illustrations and then placing a sticker in the middle of each one!  Afterwards, even though they were already "marked", she still had fun pointing out the clovers every time we read it.  (My boys have loved doing that, as well.)  The thing I've always liked best about this book is the artwork ~ I love Smath's fanciful pictures!

The Leprechaun's Gold, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Henry Cole, 2006... Kindhearted Old Tom and Young Pat (who is not so nice) set off for a contest to determine the best harpist in Ireland. Young Tom secretly breaks one of the strings on Old Tom's harp to ensure his own victory in the contest.  Later, when they hear a voice calling for help, only the old man takes pity on what turns out to be a leprechaun.  Later, the leprechaun and his friends repay both men for their actions.

Our family finds this to be a satisfying story, and we appreciate the leprechauns' sense of justice.  In addition to hearing the story every year, my kids also always enjoy looking for the 16 four-leaf clovers hidden throughout the book.

In addition to rereading the books above, each year I search for new St. Patrick's Day stories that we haven't read yet, to share with my kiddos.  Earlier this month I visited the library and did just that.  I came home with a huge pile of them!  Here are the ones that Ben and I enjoyed the most:

A Fine St. Patrick's Day, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Tom Curry, 2008... Every year, the towns of Tralee and Tralah compete in a St. Patrick's Day decorating contest.  So far, Tralah has won the trophy every time.  This year, young Fiona Riley (resident of Tralee) has an idea that just might help her town win the honor.  Later, while the towns are busy decorating, an odd little man visits both places.  He asks for assistance each time, but only one of the towns is willing to stop what it's doing and extend a helping hand to the stranger.

I love the richly painted illustrations as well as the sense of community and service toward others conveyed in the story.

Fiona's Luck, written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 2009...  The king of the leprechauns is convinced that the "big folks" are using up all the luck in the land.  He orders the luck to be gathered up and hidden away in a treasure chest.  Soon Ireland is suffering from its worst luck ever, the potato famine.  A clever girl named Fiona decides to try outsmarting the greedy king so she can return luck to the land.

I found this to be a charming story, and especially enjoyed Murphy's magical artwork.

King Puck, written and illustrated by Michael Garland, 2009...  Seamus the farmer and his pet goat Finny live a good, if lonely, life on a mountain in Ireland.  Every evening Seamus reads stories from the only book he owns, and wishes he had someone to talk with.  Fairies take pity on him one night, and the next morning, Finny begins speaking!  When the two friends hear about the King Puck Festival, where a local goat is crowned king for the day, they head off to enter the contest.

While I found the wording in this book to be a bit confusing at times, almost as if some of it were missing, I liked the idea behind the story, and Garland's amusing pictures made Ben and I laugh out loud several times!

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett, 1983...  Little Jamie's father and older brothers plan to walk in the St. Patrick's Day parade again this year.  Jamie wants to join them, but they tell him he is still too small.  But what do they know? When he wakes up before the rest of the family, Jamie decides to have a parade of his own!

Kids of all ages will be able to identify with Jamie and his predicament of being "too small" -- they will cheer him on as he proves his family wrong.

That's What Leprechauns Do, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, 2009...  Another tale by Bunting, this one follows three leprechauns as they go about their business, burying gold at the end of the rainbow.  Along the way, they make a little mischief for the people and creatures they meet because "that's what leprechauns do".

Ben and I both got a kick out of the mischief-making and McCully's hilarious pictures.

Too Many Leprechauns (Or How That Pot o' Gold Got to the End of the Rainbow), written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Dan Andreasen, 2007...  After being gone for a year, Finn O'Finnegan returns to his hometown of Dingle, only to find that there are so many leprechauns keeping the townspeople awake at night (hammering to make shoes for the fairies) that the town is a mess.  Finn devises a scheme to trick the leprechauns into leaving town for good.  Will it work?

Filled with silly pictures, this is an entertaining book.

Traveling Tom and the Leprechaun, written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Melisande Potter, 2007...  The fair princess Kathleen has vowed she will only marry the man who can win a leprechaun's pot of gold, for she wants someone with "a daring soul, a keen wit, and a merry heart."  Traveling Tom, a minstrel, wishes to be that man.  When he encounters a leprechaun, Tom uses songs and tales to convince him that gold only weighs down the pocket and does nothing to lighten the heart.

I really liked Bateman's lilting prose and Tom's message about the things that are more important than gold.

Lucky Tucker, written and illustrated by Leslie McGuirk, 2008...  When Tucker the terrier meets a leprechaun, his day instantly gets better.  In fact, now he's the luckiest dog around!

This is a fun story with cute illustrations.  I have not read them yet but McGuirk has created several other Tucker books, as well.

St. Patrick's Day: Day of Irish Pride, written by June Preszler, 2006... Filled with colorful photographs, this nonfiction book tells all about the holiday -- its history, how it is celebrated in Ireland, and how it is celebrated here in the United States.  It talks about shamrocks, leprechaun legends, and St. Patrick's Day parades.  It even provides instructions for making a leprechaun trap! :)

Have you read any of these books before?  If so, what did you think about them?  Do you have favorite St. Patrick's Day books that are not listed here?  I'd love to hear about them!