Review: Where Are My Books? (2015)

Young Spencer loves his books. Before bed, he and his mom read his favorite, Night Night Narwhal, and then Spencer puts the book away in the same spot he always puts it on his bookshelf. Life is good, until the next morning when Spencer wakes up and the book is gone! He makes due with other titles, but the calamity continues as each night more books go missing. Where are his books?

IMG_2663 Debbie Ridpath Ohi has created a fresh new book with appealing illustrations and an unexpected twist. Kids will love solving the mystery of the missing books. I was certainly surprised to find out where they had gone! This book will soon get purchased and cataloged into our school library and I look forward to sharing it with our primary kiddos. It even talks about library procedures near the end and will lend itself well to library orientation.

My 5 year old son has one question after reading – “Do narwhals really sleep?” I’m guessing it’s time to develop some research skills together! -Erin



Review: Snoozefest (2015)


Snoozefest by Samantha Berger

Imagine a place you might go to listen to all the best bands, visit great vendors, and meet people with the same interests as you.  Now imagine that place was a cross between a music festival and a sleep away camp… for sloths.  You would be at Snoozefest.  “This is the place where the best sleepers go to snore their way through this naptacular show.”

Snuggleford Cuddlebun is the sleepiest sloth in Snoozeville and she only interrupts her napping to head to the great NuzzleDome where all the best sleepers in Snoozeville gather.  At Snoozeville, there are pj parades, stands for buying posters and t-shirts, bands with names like The Nocturnal Nesters and the Tranquility Trio performing, and, of course, milk and honey to go!

Written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, this book is on the Goodreads list of most anticipated picture books of 2015.  This is definitely a clever, fun idea for a children’s book.  The pictures are cute, and there is a lot happening on each page, maybe a little too much on some pages.  One of my absolute favorite things in the world is a rhyming picture book and I did love that this book rhymed.  But, some of the rhyming was forced.  I will tuck this book away in my mind with other cute rhyming stories that are perfect for bedtime, such as Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows and If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul.  -Marika


Books On CD: The Perfect Road Trip Companion?

I recently returned from a road trip with my two small children.  Fifteen hours in the car (one way) makes for looo-oong driving days with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old.  To pass the time in the car, I brought along some books on CD.  We have tried books on CD before with only mild success.  Last time we traveled, we brought along Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo.  My kids were already very familiar with Mercy Watson books but seemed only half-heartedly interested in hearing the familiar story read by somebody new.

For this trip (one year later), I decided to try a couple of books that are new to my kiddos.  We stHorrible Harry & the Green Slimearted with Horrible Harry and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline which is read by Johnny Heller.  I chose this one because it is a short chapter book with lots of pictures and I had a copy for my son to follow along with.  Since it is a series, I also hoped that he might take a liking to it and want to try reading more Horrible Harry books after the trip.  I know Horrible Harry books are written to have short, simple sentences that are easy to read but I was still disappointed with the way this book was read out loud on the CD.  While my son listened dutifully (and even laughed occasionally as he listened), Heller read the book with such a staccato, abrupt voice that I found the story to be slightly jarring and uncomfortable to listen to.  The best thing about this book on CD was that it was over in less than an hour.  When I asked him about it later, my son did say that he liked the book though so that’s something.

The second book on CD that accompanied us on our road trip was an absolute delight!  I took along Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  I am a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and purchased this book at an author event where I was able to meet DiCamillo just before the book won the Newbery.  This book was read by Tara Sands and shFlora and Ulyssese did a phenomenal job!  Her tone was perfect and the subtle voice changes helped to distinguish each of the characters as they spoke.  The idea of a “superhero” squirrel who writes poetry and the temporarily blind neighbor boy were humorous enough components to the storyline to delight my 5-year-old. What was most impressive to me, though, was the way Tara Sands handled “reading” the graphic novel portions of the book.  She described each scene with simple, straightforward and clear explanations that enhanced the story and (had you not had a copy of the book in front of you like we did) would have made the reader completely oblivious that they were missing any pictures.  It was beautifully done, and I imagine I may have enjoyed the book even more for having listened to it.  My 35-year-old husband, my 5-year-old son, and I each enjoyed the story immensely, which was most evident when my son would ask to hold the book in order to follow along with the words and pictures, and also when he would ask to listen!  When I talked to my son after the trip about which book he liked listening to better, there was no hesitation when he said Flora and Ulysses.  I would highly recommend picking up Flora and Ulysses on CD for your next road trip (with or without kids)!  -Marika


The Top 10 Chapter Books of 2015: SRES Library

On the heels of my previous post on our most popular picture books, I bring you the top 10 chapter books circulated in our school library for 2015.

dragonet10. The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1) by Tui T. Sutherland (2012)

Dragons are awesome. Who wouldn’t want to read a book (or a whole series) about them? Our 4th graders kept draggin’ these to the circulation desk.

9. Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes (2013)

This book was a hit at our Scholastic Book Fair.

terabithia8. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)

This classic novel by Katherine Paterson continues to connect with our kids. Many are surprised by the ending. It is also on the regional Battle of the Books list.

minecraft7. Minecraft: Essential Handbook by Stephanie Milton (2013)

There is now an entire series of these Minecraft handbooks. The kids at our school are die-hard fans.


6. Rules by Cynthia Lord (2006)

Our school is lucky to have programs which integrate special needs students into the classroom. Rules is about 12 year old Katherine, a girl whose brother has autism and who makes a friend in a wheelchair with other special needs. This book is well-written and very popular with our students. Another title from the Battle list.

0-545-10795-45. Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes (2009)

This novel about students whose parents serve in the military really hits home with many of our students. It is also a Battle title.

sisters4. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (2014)

Surprisingly, this book is equally popular with both girls and boys. Perhaps it is because it is a graphic novel? Road trip tale with a Colorado tie-in.

wonder3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2013)

Wonder is a wonderful novel about a kid who doesn’t fit in. This book has been solidly flying off of our shelves for the past 2 years. Also a Battle title.

cabin2. Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6) by Jeff Kinney (2011)

There is no end in sight to the Wimpy Kid reign. Kids love this series!

1. Three Times Lucky (Tupelo Landing #1) by Sheila Turnage (2012)

A mystery story that reads like it was written for adults. This book was new to the Battle of the Books list this year and did not disappoint.

“This book was amazing. It was a fun and wild ride through a lot of imagination!!”
-Jessie, 5th grade


The Top 10 Picture Books of 2015: SRES Library

The school year has come to a close, and I am reflecting on the days we spent together in our K-5 elementary school library. I started wondering what the most popular books were that left our shelves. I bring you the top 10 Picture Books circulated at our school in 2015: not10. That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems (2013) A story with a crafty twist at the end. This book is a riot to read aloud with children. battle9. Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers (2013) Clever idea for a story. The “original” book is called Birthday Bunny, but then a kid named Alex uses his creativity and drawing skills to change the story into something he finds more appealing. Check out this YouTube video that the illustrator made for more on his inspiration. You can also download and print blank Birthday Bunny pages for kids to create with. It’s no surprise that this book was a hit, especially with boy readers. tuesday8. Tuesday by David Wiesner (1991) This one surprised me until I remembered the lesson we did on wordless picture books. Tuesday is the book that first comes to my mind when I think of this genre. Genius and classic. Love the many ways you can use illustration to teach comprehension. house7. This House Needs a Mouse by C. Jeffrey Nunnally, illustrated by Tamara Brink (2014) Our school was fortunate to have the very talented author of this book visit us. He presented his work to captivated audiences in grades K-5, teaching a writer’s workshop lesson and tapping into the untold potential of ideas and words that live within us all.  If you are in Colorado and are looking for a wonderful author visit, let me know. chicken6. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (2010) I love to use this book with classes who struggle with interrupting, and then gently remind them not to be “Interrupting Chickens” during subsequent class times. pigeon5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003) We simply can’t get enough of The Pigeon or his author, Mo Willems. This year we used the app on our iPad (Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App) and our students had a blast creating their own pigeon stories. dark4. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2013) Even younger kids want to check out books that seem scary. This one handles “scary” in a delicate, relatable way.  hungry3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969) I wasn’t expecting to see this make the list, but then again, it is Eric Carle. A fantastic classic story that kids love. nancy 2. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (2007) Another book that had escaped my radar. The credit for this one appearing on our list goes to the girls in kindergarten.


1. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (2013)

The most popular picture book in our school library for 2015! This book, a series of resignation letters from crayons, is a lot of fun. Our students are not alone in their love for this book, it also won our state award this year.


coming soon – the most popular chapter books in 2015!


Review: What Do You Do With An Idea? (2013)

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

This children’s picture book by Kobi Yamada is an inspiration!  What do you do with an idea

A little boy, one day, has an idea.  He tries to ignore his idea.  He worries what other people will think of his idea so he doesn’t share it with anybody.  But his idea is demanding and needs attention so the boy feeds it and plays with it and his idea just keeps growing and growing until it becomes impossible to hide.

The illustration of this little boy’s idea is (as the book describes it) “strange and fragile”.  In the beginning of the book the idea looks like an egg with legs and a crown.  As the story progresses, the idea gets bigger and bigger until it finally grows wings and takes flight.  Mae Besom, the illustrator, uses color effectively to highlight the magic of the idea in her illustrations.  It’s simple and lovely how the bold, bright idea on each page brings color to the rest of the gray and white illustration, shedding it’s brightness onto the picture around it.  As the idea grows, so does the color.  Brilliant.

My favorite part of this book is the message it sends children: do not be ashamed or try to ignore your ideas.  They are magical.  Who knows where they may take you!   -Marika


Review: The Night Gardener (2014)

night gardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a perfectly creepy story. In the author’s note at the end of the book Auxier credits inspiration from Ray Bradbury and Washington Irving, and then goes on to say that The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett also weaves it’s way into this work. Well, who can resist the thought of a spooky Secret Garden?

The story follows Molly and Kip, two young Irish orphans looking to find work as servants, as they travel to the mysterious Windsor Estate which is hidden away deep in “the sourwoods.”  Along the way they meet an old traveling storyteller named Hester who helps them find their way once Molly promises to share stories of the enigmatic estate with her. When they arrive at the Windsor house they soon realize that things are not as they appear. Entwined within the house is a gigantic, sinister tree. The inhabitants of the house appear pale and sickly, and it isn’t long before Molly begins to encounter the Night Gardener. Then there’s also the matter of the locked door at the top of the stairs…

School ends next week, but I can’t wait to book talk this one with the kids in the library next year! This is a thrilling read with an element of mystery that propels the story forward. It is the perfect amount of creepy for elementary school kids. I would recommend it for readers ages 8-13 who appreciate a bit of suspense and dark imagery. I loved the additional themes within the story of storytelling (what makes it different from lying?), and greed. -Erin