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

BookWyrms 101

A female juvenile BookWyrm (15 years old),
spotted in the Allegheny Forest of PA,  July 1983*

The BookWyrm (Iloveus toreadus) is a subspecies of the mammal group known as Homo sapiens.  The main difference between Iloveus toreadus and the rest of the Homo sapiens species is an intense love of reading.


BookWyrms can be found all over the world, in all different climates and habitats; the only requirement is an environment rich with books (either paper or digital).


BookWyrms often return to a favorite reading spot over and over again (normally a comfortable bed, chair, or couch).  However, when they are unable to be in that particular spot, most will read just about anywhere -- in the car, on a bench, in a tree, on the ground, in a bathtub, standing in line... or even in an overturned wheelbarrow, like the young BookWyrm in the photo above. 


Though individual BookWyrms can be found in a wide variety of settings, flocks of them tend to gather in certain environments, especially libraries and bookstores, during business hours.  They migrate there whenever they are in need of a new book and -- in the case of a bookstore -- whenever they have money to spare.


When first born, BookWyrms are virtually impossible to distinguish from non-BookWyrms.  (While the offspring of adult BookWyrms are often BookWyrms themselves, particularly if both parents are part of the subspecies, this is not always the case.)  The young may begin exhibiting BookWyrmish traits around the age of one year.  (Some may show a taste for books before then, but at that young age it is difficult to determine whether their behavior shows a true affection for the written word, or merely delight at crinkling, ripping, and mouthing paper.)  By the age of five, most BookWyrms are easily identifiable by the casual observer, though some do not develop their love for books until later in life.

Typical characteristics of a BookWyrm:
  • Often spotted with a book or e-reader in hand
  • Circles under the eyes, from staying up too late reading
  • When reading, a BookWyrm tends to look happy and content, and will often ignore his/her surroundings  (Caution: Interrupting a reading BookWyrm may cause moderate to severe grumpiness!)
  • When not reading, the BookWyrm will often talk about books and/or express a desire to get back to reading
  • A BookWyrm's home tends to be filled with overflowing bookshelves and/or multiple stacks of books

Common calls of the BookWyrm:
  • "Read to me!" or "Tell me a story!" (generally spoken by juveniles)
  • "The book was better!" (often heard at movie theaters)
  • "Shhh... I'm trying to read!"
  • "Just one more chapter -- then I'll go to sleep!"

Nature vs. Nurture controversy:

While it's possible that BookWyrms are "born to read", a BookWyrm gene has yet to be identified.  Many scientists and lay people (including this author) believe that, regardless of genes, virtually all Homo sapiens could become BookWyrms if raised in a loving, book-rich environment.  If more adults modeled a love of reading, encouraged curiosity, nourished an eagerness for learning, and provided interesting, exciting, wonderful books for the children in their lives, more young Homo sapiens would develop their own love for a good book, and the number of BookWyrms around the world would grow.  In this author's opinion, a population explosion of BookWyrms would benefit our species significantly.

For more about the term "BookWyrm", please check out this post.

*Yep, that BookWyrm is me! :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Sidewalk Racer

Photo courtesy of

The Sidewalk Racer
On the Skateboard

an asphalt sea
I swerve, I curve, I
sway; I speed to whirring 
sound an inch above the
ground; I'm the sailor
and the sail, I'm the
driver and the wheel
I'm the one and only
single engine
human auto

~ Lillian Morrison 

I used to have a skateboard when I was younger, but I never learned how to use it.  I could maybe balance on it for a few seconds or so, but that's it.  I've always admired the people who have mastered the skateboarding skill, those who can swerve and curve and sway,  flying down the street on a skinny board with wheels.  This is a fun poem, formed into the shape of a skateboard.  I love all of the action words and images that Morrison used, as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cicadas buzzed...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

     Mo shifted in her chair, unsticking her thighs.  It was fiery hot in the little kitchen, hotter even than outside, where the Cleveland cicadas buzzed like rattlesnakes that had learned to climb trees.

~ from What Happened on Fox Street,
written by Tricia Springstubb

I had never thought about it before reading this, but Springstubb is right -- cicadas do sound like rattlesnakes up in the trees!  What a great image!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

All art...

Image courtesy of WPClipart.com

"All art is autobiographical. 
The pearl is the oyster's 

~ Federico Fellini 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Reading at the Beach

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Summer Reading at the Beach

Some lay novels on their navels,
Some hold comics in their fists,
Some build castles with book shovels
From The Times Best-seller Lists.

Some folks read beside the ocean,
Some folks read along the coast,
Some folks rub on suntan lotion,
Some folks who forgot are TOAST!

~ J. Patrick Lewis

I love reading on the beach!  (And on my bed and on the couch and in the car and pretty much anywhere... but there's just something about lying on a towel on the sand, enjoying the warm sunshine and the sound of the waves and my book, all at the same time.)  What a wonderful way to relax....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In a poem, you can keep things...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"I think, in a way, 
a poem is like a museum.  
It's a place where you can keep safe 
the things you love 
or that you find interesting.  
You can keep a beautiful snakeskin 
in a poem, and you can keep 
the look of the sun shining through it.  
You can keep the papery feel, 
and the rustle the skin makes 
when you pick it up.  
You can keep the excitement.

In a poem, you can keep things 
you could never put in a real museum -- 
things like a ride on a merry-go-round.  
You can keep feelings of sadness and joy.  
You can keep love, safe forever."

 ~ Patricia Hubbell,
 in The Place My Words are Looking For

This must be why I enjoy writing poetry so much! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The word chockablock [chok-uh-blok] is an adjective meaning "crowded or extremely full".  (It can also be used as an adverb meaning "in a crowded manner".)  I like saying chockablock over and over again -- the sound reminds me of someone playing a drum or other percussion instrument. Here are some examples of the word in a sentence:

The boys' bedroom floor is an obstacle course, 
chockablock with toys and treasures they've brought home.

All of our shelves are crammed chockablock with books.

Every time I close my eyes and try to rest, 
my brain -- chockablock with ideas -- won't let me.

What images come to your mind when you think about the word chockablock?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sound of Night

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

The Sound of Night

And now the dark comes on, all full of chitter noise.
Birds huggermugger crowd the trees,
the air thick with their vesper cries,
and bats, snub seven-pointed kites,
skitter across the lake, swing out,
squeak, chirp, dip, and skim on skates
of air, and the fat frogs wake and prink
wide-lipped, noisy as ducks, drunk
on the bloozy black, gloating chink-chunk.

And now on the narrow beach we defend ourselves from
The cooking done, we build our firework
bright and hot and less for outlook
than for magic, and lie in our blankets
while night nickers around us.  Crickets
chorus hallelujahs; paws, quiet
and quick as raindrops, play on the stones
expertly soft, run past and are gone;
fish pulse in the lake; the frogs hoarsen.

Now every voice of the hour -- the known,
   the supposed, the strange,
the mindless, the witted, the never seen --
sing, thrum, impinge, and rearrange
endlessly; and debarred from sleep we wait
for the birds, importantly silent,
for the crease of first eye-licking light,
for the sun, lost long ago and sweet.
By the lake, locked black away and tight,
we lie, day creatures, overhearing night.

~Maxine Kumin

Everything about this poem reminds me of camping in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. One of my favorite things about camping there is watching the sun set and then drifting off to sleep in our tent, listening to all the sounds of the forest around me. I love the images that Kumin creates with all of her adjectives and verbs, and I can picture it all in my head -- the bats skittering across the sky, the fat frogs gloating, the crickets chorusing, the eye-licking light.  What sounds do you hear at night?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Like a fruit seller...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

An excerpt:

     This is how to write.  First button on your writing jacket.  Then stuff your pockets with seaweed crackers.  Then sit very still and think.  Last but not least, choose words and line them up -- like a fruit seller who chooses her best mangoes and pomegranates and bananas and puts them on display.  And when you're done -- yay! -- a story.

~ from Polka Dot Penguin Pottery,
written by Lenore Look

I guess I need to get myself a writing jacket and some seaweed crackers! ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ice cream...

Photo courtesy of WPClipart.com

“I love revision. 
Where else can spilled milk 
be turned into ice cream?” 

~ Katherine Paterson

I love this quote!  (And revision, too, actually.)  It's always exciting to revise a weak first draft and watch it turn into something as wonderful as ice cream! :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Books Gone Buggy

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net
Have you ever gone buggy?  Do you find bugs, insects, and other creepy-crawlies interesting, amazing... and maybe even cute?  If so, this post is for you!  (And if you're one of those people who can't stand anything with more than four legs, I suggest that you stop reading now, and come back tomorrow for a new post, LOL!)  

While I admit there are some many-legged creatures that give me the willies, there are many more that I enjoy watching and learning about.  I've long been a fan of butterflies and fireflies and dragonflies and praying mantises, among other things.  I love listening to the cicadas in summertime.  For three of my summers in college, I even worked for the Iowa State entomology department.  (Entomology is the study of insects.)  Among other duties, I "babysat" beetles similar to ladybugs, raising them from tiny eggs, through the larval stage and pupa stage, until they were full-grown adults, laying more eggs.

When my daughter Emmalie was younger, she was fascinated by bugs!  She collected ladybug toys and books about insects, had a favorite hat with pictures of various bugs on it, and even had a border of ladybugs, dragonflies, and butterflies painted all around her bedroom walls.  When her brothers came along, they quickly became interested in insects as well... and now Nick and Ben are even more buggy for bugs than their big sister!

We've read bunches of bug books, fiction and non-fiction, this summer.  I thought I'd share some of our favorites, starting with fictional picture books:

Some of our family's favorite bug books were written and illustrated by Eric Carle, including...

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)

The Grouchy Ladybug (1977)

The Very Quiet Cricket (1990)

and The Very Lonely Firefly (1995)
I wrote about these and other Carle creations in another post, which you can see here.


Beetle Bop,
written and illustrated by Denise Fleming, 2007

A joy to look at and read aloud, this book is a colorful, rhyming celebration of beetles!


Bugtown Boogie,
written by Warren Hansen
and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, 2008

On his way home one evening, a young boy discovers a Bugtown dance floor at the base of a tree, each insect boogieing down in its own special way.  With amusing illustrations and a catchy story in rhyme, this fun book will make you want to get up and do your own little dance!


Tiny Little Fly,
written by Michael Rosen
and illustrated by Kevin Waldron, 2010

This is a playful story about a fly who lands on several large animals, teasing them.  They try to catch him, but he just keeps flying away.  I love the rhyming text of this book, its humor, and Waldron's spirited illustrations!


Old Black Fly,
written by Jim Aylesworth
and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, 1992

This pesky fly is busy driving a family crazy all day long, getting into mischief from A to Z.  The wild, spattery paintings and the lively rhyming text combine to make this a very entertaining book.  (Spoiler alert: Old Black Fly gets swatted at the very end.  I just wanted to mention that in case you -- or a young bug-lover in your house -- would be upset by that, the way my Nick would be!)


Butterfly Boy,
written by Virginia Kroll
and illustrated by Gerardo Suzan, 1997

Emilio's grandfather can no longer speak, but when Emilio wheels him outside to watch the butterflies, his eyes light up. Emilio and Abuelo enjoy the butterflies all summer long, then bid them goodbye in the fall.  All winter Emilio reads books about them to his grandfather, and the two wait for the butterflies to return.  When Emilio learns that the insects are attracted to the color white, he realizes that's why they always gathered on the family's white garage.  But one day in spring, he finds that his father has repainted the garage blue. How will they welcome back their favorite creatures?  This is a heart-warming story, filled with brilliantly-colored illustrations.


These Bees Count!,
written by Alison Formento
and illustrated by Sarah Snow, 2012

Mr. Tate's class takes a field trip to Busy Bee Farm, where they learn all about honeybees and why they matter.  This is a counting book combined with a story, with quite a bit of information about bees for young children in it, as well.


I found the following middle grade buggy novel on our bookshelf at home and decided to check it out:

Incognito Mosquito: Private Insective,
written by E.A. Hass
and illustrated by Don Madden, 1982

This book is filled with silliness, puns to make you groan, buggy characters, and mysteries to solve.  When I looked it up online, I discovered that Hass wrote several other books about this intrepid detective, including Incognito Mosquito Flies Again! (1985), Incognito Mosquito Takes to the Air (1987), and Incognito Mosquito Makes History (1987).


For those who want to learn about bugs and insects, here are some nonfiction books that I recommend:

The Bug Book,
written by Kathy Kranking
and illustrated by Kristin Kest, 1998

I'm pretty sure that this is the book that started Emmalie's obsession with bugs!  I remember her asking me to read it over and over (and over) again.  This is a great book for the youngest of bug enthusiasts, providing detailed drawings and some basic -- but interesting -- facts about a few common bugs, like grasshoppers, fleas, and flies.


Garden Friends,
written by DK Publishing,
with photographs by many, 2003

This book for beginning readers features close-up photographs and simple text about the various insects and other critters found in a garden. 


Not a Buzz to Be Found,
written by Linda Glaser
and illustrated by Jaime Zollars, 2012

I found this delightful book at the library earlier this month, and just loved it!  Have you ever wondered where insects go or what they do in the winter?  This is the first book I've seen that focuses on that subject.  Glaser tells about the winter habits of twelve different bugs, using simple, rhyming text.  (A section at the end of the book provides more information about the various insects.)  I also loved the rich, charming illustrations by Zollars.


Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies,
written by Mel Boring
and illustrated by Linda Garrow, 1996

Another of Emmalie's favorite books when she was younger, this one provides identification information for many caterpillars, butterflies, moths, and other bugs common to North America.  It also includes some educational activities and a few "scrapbook" pages at the back for kids to draw their own pictures of bugs they've found.


The Ultimate Bug Book,
written by Luise Woelflein
and illustrated by Wendy Smith-Griswold, 1993

Emmalie's grandparents gave her this entertaining, hands-on book when she was four or five years old.  The book only has 5 pages, but each one is chock-full of insect facts and some very cool pop-up models of various bugs.  There are flaps to open, paper wheels to turn -- even a scratch-and-sniff section for anyone brave enough to want a whiff of a stinkbug!


The Beetle Book,
written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, 2012

Did you know that one out of every four living things on earth is a beetle?  Jenkins presents beautiful, intricate illustrations of these creatures -- along with a wealth of information about beetles' life cycles, communication, defenses, and other topics.


The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs,
written and photographed by 
Judy Burris and Wayne Richards,
also photographed by Christina Richards, 2011

Introducing bugs common across the United States, this brother-sister team shares useful information and colorful, close-up photographs of each of the bugs' various life stages. They also give advice on raising moths and protecting bug habitats.


Biggest Bugs (life-size!),
written and photographed by George Beccaloni,
also with photos by others, 2010

This fun book showcases 35 of the biggest, longest, and heaviest bugs from around the world, with life-size pictures. (The photo of the world's longest insect, the Chan's megastick, even requires a fold-out page!)  Beccaloni includes maps to show where each of the bugs lives, and provides quite a bit of scientific information about the creatures, as well.


The Natural World of Bugs & Insects,
written and photographed by 
Ken and Rod Preston-Mafham,
also photographed by many others, 2000

This is a book for true insect enthusiasts!  While it was not written specifically for kids, my in-laws gave it to Emmalie when she was six, and she used to spend hours and hours poring through the photographs of this visual encyclopedia and reading the information given.  It used to be her very favorite book.  (You can tell from the top picture that it's been well-loved!)  It contains a 160-page introduction, explaining the differences between bugs and insects, mating, defense, life cycles, etc., and then goes on to tell about the bugs and insects in different areas around the world.  The large, vibrant photos give readers the chance to study these creatures up close.


Have you read any of the books above?  If so, what did you think?  Do you have any other favorite books about bugs? Our family is always happy to hear about new ones!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


So is the child slow stooping beside him
picking radishes from the soil.
He straightens up,
his arms full of the green leaves.
She bends low to each bunch and whispers,
Please come out big and red.
Tugs at them gently to give them time to change,
if they are moody and small.
Her arms filled, she paces
beside her grandfather's elderly puppet walk.

~David Ignatow

I happened to see the picture above while browsing through PublicDomainPictures.net one day, and thought it was a cool photo.  A week or so later, I came across this poem by David Ignatow in a book I was reading, and knew I had to put the two together! :)  The poem and the picture both remind me of walking in the garden with my grandma when I was little -- I always loved helping her harvest the produce that was ready, and then eating it later that day.  There's nothing like food fresh from the garden!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A deeper understanding of things...

Photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Library

"Books educate us about art 
and politics and people and ideas.  
This happens in non-fiction and fiction.  
And in poetry, of course.  
So many of us have been 
moved to a deeper understanding 
of things -- or many things -- 
by taking in a few 
dark lines on the page."

~ Elizabeth Berg

Try to imagine all the things you wouldn't know about -- wouldn't understand -- if you'd never read a book in your life.  I know, for me, it would be a staggering amount of information.  Yes, I've learned a lot from teachers, family members, and friends.  I've been educated by life in general.  But there are so many, many other things that I wouldn't even know existed if I hadn't read about them in a book....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


A few weeks ago, I came across the word panoply in a book I was reading.  I don't remember seeing or hearing the word before, and didn't know what it meant, so I looked it up. According to Dictionary.com, panoply [pan-uh-plee] is a noun meaning "a wide-ranging or impressive array or display".  Here are a few examples I wrote, using my newly-learned word:

I closed my eyes and listened to the symphony's music,
 reveling in the panoply of sounds.

A panoply of lights and colors burst across the sky 
as we celebrated the Fourth of July.

It is an enormous zoo, 
filled with a panoply of interesting animals.

What ways can you think of to use panoply in a sentence?