Category Archives: Books

Leading Authors and Illustrators call on The President To Save Appreciation For Literature In Education

121 leading authors and illustrators of books for children, including several national award winners, (and some of my favs, Judy Blume, Maya Angelou) are calling on President Obama to “change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature.”

I love that they did this. Literature is oh so vital to our children and it feels like we are losing sight of that in current education. Read the letter below.

October 22, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.

We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.

Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations. As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, “It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.”

Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.

This year has seen a growing national wave of protest against testing overuse and abuse. As the authors and illustrators of books for children, we feel a special responsibility to advocate for change. We offer our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.

Alma Flor Ada
Alma Alexander
Jane Ancona
Maya Angelou
Jonathan Auxier
Kim Baker
Molly Bang
Tracy Barrett
Chris Barton
Ari Berk
Judy Blume
Alfred B. (Fred) Bortz
Lynea Bowdish
Sandra Boynton
Shellie Braeuner
Ethriam Brammer
Louann Mattes Brown
Anne Broyles
Michael Buckley
Janet Buell
Dori Hillestad Butler
Charito Calvachi-Mateyko
Valerie Scho Carey
Rene Colato Lainez
Henry Cole
Ann Cook
Karen Coombs
Robert Cortez
Cynthia Cotten
Bruce Coville
Ann Crews
Donald Crews
Nina Crews
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Laura Dower
Kathryn Erskine
Jules Feiffer
Jody Feldman
Mary Ann Fraser
Sharlee Glenn
Barbara Renaud Gonzalez
Laurie Gray
Trine M. Grillo
Claudia Harrington
Sue Heavenrich
Linda Oatman High
Anna Grossnickle Hines
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Phillip Hoose
Diane M. Hower
Michelle Houts
Mike Jung
Kathy Walden Kaplan
Amal Karzai
Jane Kelley
Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
Amy Goldman Koss
JoAnn Vergona Krapp
Nina Laden
Sarah Darer Littman
José Antonio López
Mariellen López
Jenny MacKay
Marianne Malone
Ann S. Manheimer
Sally Mavor
Diane Mayr
Marissa Moss
Yesenia Navarrete Hunter
Sally Nemeth
Kim Norman
Geraldo Olivo
Alexis O’Neill
Anne Marie Pace
Amado Peña
Irene Peña
Lynn Plourde
Ellen Prager, PhD
David Rice
Armando Rendon
Joan Rocklin
Judith Robbins Rose
Sergio Ruzzier
Barb Rosenstock
Liz Garton Scanlon
Lisa Schroeder
Sara Shacter
Wendi Silvano
Janni Lee Simner
Sheri Sinykin
Jordan Sonnenblick
Ruth Spiro
Heidi E.Y. Stemple
Whitney Stewart
Shawn K. Stout
Steve Swinburne
Carmen Tafolla
Kim Tomsic
Duncan Tonatiuh
Patricia Thomas
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Deborah Underwood
Corina Vacco
Audrey Vernick
Debbie Vilardi
Judy Viorst
K. M. Walton
Wendy Wax
April Halprin Wayland
Carol Weis
Rosemary Wells
Lois Wickstrom
Suzanne Morgan Williams
Kay Winters
Ashley Wolff
Lisa Yee
Karen Romano Young
Jane Yolen
Roxyanne Young
Paul O. Zelinsky
Jennifer Ziegler

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Happy Banned Books Week

We’re smack dab in the middle of banned books week. Our nation and our schools have a long history of a silly little tradition of banning books in the name of….? Protecting our children’s minds, I suppose?

Some of my absolute favorites were banned books at one time. Books like Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and so many more. These are classics that have shaped our nation.banned2

To celebrate this important week, go to the library immediately and pick up a copy of a previously banned book. Grab one for your kids- make sure they gobble up that literature. See what you’ve been missing all this time.

Please share your favorite banned book below!

banned books  banned3

In Honor Of Harry Potter’s Birthday: 33 Harry Potter Quotes

Harry Potter is 33 today! All this time I never knew he was the same age as I! (A few months older actually).

In honor of his birthday here are some lovely quotes from the books & movies.

Happy Birthday Harry Potter, Happy J.K. Rowling and Happy Birthday to my mother today too 🙂Harry Potter Cake

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  ~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with caution. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

There is no good or evil: only power and those too weak to seek it. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,
Spoken by Quirinus Quirrell.

The best of us must sometimes eat our words. ~ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.  ~J.K. Rowling, “Dobby’s Reward,” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999, spoken by the character Arthur Weasley

You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think  that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him. ~ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Alkaban, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

As much money and life as you could want!  The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Man with Two Faces,” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.  ~J.K. Rowling, “Padfoot Returns,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Sirius Black; a variation of sayings by Philip Dormer Stanhope, 1748, and Charles Bayard Miliken, 1910

It’s a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Hungarian Horntail,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Mirror of Erised,” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

You place too much importance… on the so-called purity of blood!  You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Parting of the Ways,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind…. At these times… I use the Pensieve.  One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Pensieve,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.  ~Steven Kloves (screenplay), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

In dreams, we enter a world that’s entirely our own.  ~Steven Kloves (screenplay), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

There was no point in worrying yet…. what would come, would come… and he would have to meet it when it did.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Beginning,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000

It is my belief… that the truth is generally preferable to lies.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Beginning,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high.  Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world.  ~J.K. Rowling, “Horcruxes,” Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2005

Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Beginning,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Time is making fools of us again.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Secret Riddle,” Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2005, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.  ~J.K. Rowling, “A Sluggish Memory,” Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2005, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

According to Madam Pomfrey, thoughts could leave deeper scarring than almost anything else…  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Second War Begins,” Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.  ~J.K. Rowling, “The Parting of the Ways,” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.  Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.  ~J.K. Rowling, “King’s Cross,” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?  ~J.K. Rowling, “King’s Cross,” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here! ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. ~ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth. ~ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore to Harry.

If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. ~ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. ~ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

His priority did not seem to be to teach them what he knew, but rather to impress upon them that nothing, not even… knowledge, was foolproof. ~ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Mom Guilt Strikes Again

Have you ever read some sort of brilliant advice about how to do/be awesome at things and in the back of your head you realize you don’t quite live up to those standards and then you feel insanely guilty for doing it wrong?mom guilt

Yeah that.

I’m not sure if this just pertains to Mom Guilt or it also comes with other run of the mill other activities that we’re all failing at as well.. But sometimes it just hits us. Generally I don’t really care about all the awesome crap people are apparently doing all around me because I think most of it is for show and not real.. All the Pinterest creations? Nope, they don’t bother me a bit. But every once in a while that pesky Mom Guilt gets me and gets me hard.

read aloudThe other day I was flipping through the book, The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease. First of all it’s brilliant (hence the Mom Guilt). The book discusses techniques on how to make life long readers of your children.  The book offers both suggested reading for all ages as well as techniques to do with your children to make them better readers, such as the importance of reading aloud to them.  The book offered some insight that I hadn’t thought of, in particular the idea that your child’s reading level and listening level probably isn’t the same, meaning they can listen and comprehend and absorb vocabulary of a book or story that they probably can’t read to themselves and comprehend. For instance our five year old’s reading level may barely be approaching Dr. Seuss books but their listening level may be reaching longer length chapter books and we actually may be insulting their intelligence if we continue reading the simple See Spot Run type stories and not move on to more entertaining complicated stories. According to the book a child’s reading level and listening level  will converge at about 8th grade. And I hadn’t thought about this, hence the further guilty feelings that I’ve been doing it all wrong thus far.

We aren’t really a nation of readers, Only about 17% of adults in the United States read for fun. In a country that isn’t really known for great public education and passing on a love of books, a big hope of mine is to pass my love of reading on to my kids. I actually say that with a bit of guilt because although I consider myself an avid reader, my time dedicated to reading books (lately) has dwindled. I get distracted by the glow of the internet and also dedicate a lot of my free time to my own writing, so I don’t get to read as much as I want to. Stephen King claims he reads four hours a day to become a better writer. Well shoot, that’s not going to ever happen.

I do read to my kids and they do read to themselves and they do all love books, but I also admit I don’t read to them as much as I feel that I should and certainly not as much as the above book suggests.

I suppose when you know better, you do better.. but sheesh if you know how to combat the guilt that you get when you feel like a failure, let me know. Also forget my guilt – read this book, it’s great.

Top Ten Favorite Children’s Books

Top Ten Tuesday.. Favorite Children’s Books

Narrowing down my favorite Children’s Books is darn near impossible.  I’m pretty sure a top 100 list would have been more appropriate than a top ten, but that certainly would’ve been way too many pictures to insert into this post.  I narrowed the list down by books that are special to me and conjure fond memories of reading them over and over again to my children.  There are definitely many titles that didn’t make the list, not because they aren’t equally worthy, but because it may not have been on the frequent rotation list for my kids.

On the Day You Were Born by Debra Fraiser

This was given to us as a gift when my first child was born. Impossible to make it to the end without crying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is one of the best authors of all time, so many good titles to choose from. This is one I’ve read to my kids time and time again. Love the silly rhymes and nonsense words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

Before my son could read he would recite this book to me word for word with surprising accuracy. My kids all love discussing the pictures in this as much as reading the words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Three owl babies, three kids of my own. Love Love Love how the owl babies wish for their mother to return.. and she does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Best bedtime book ever, hands down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

I like how this book has very few words, I make up a different storyline every time I read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I hemmed and hawed over what Eric Carle book to pick. His words and illustrations are amazing and every book of his I read is better than the next. This one is just a classic, and can’t be left out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis

Little Kids are not too small to hear big words. I love the lessons and family theme in this story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne

I absolutely love this whole series. These are for elementary school aged children and are great for kids that are new to reading chapter books. Brilliantly written, great way for kids to learn some history while reading a great storyline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A fun read that was a favorite of mine as a child and a favorite to read to my kids. Brings back memories of my own childhood, I had learned to recite this myself and would just say the poem out loud even without the book in front of me.