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Posts by Susan T.

Susan T.

Polliwog Serenade

Posted by Susan T. on December 11, 2009 at 1:50 PM in Picture BooksPoetry
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9780061800221.jpgPoetry Friday is a tradition at many of the children's book blogs. People review poetry books for kids, share original works, and post short, copyright-friendly excerpts of other authors' poems. It's a lot of fun; I call Poetry Friday a literary happy hour.

So, today is a Friday, and a perfect time to mention The Frogs and Toads All Sang, a picture-book collection of ten poems by Arnold Lobel (HarperCollins, 2009). Yes, the very same Arnold Lobel of the Frog and Toad beginning readers. The characters in the new book, very much their own amphibians (and different from the beloved Frog and Toad Are Friends guys), dance, bake, eat, and, in general, celebrate life. One even leaps to the moon.

Recently a couple of first-grade buddies and I were reading the book aloud. Suddenly, one little girl stopped and asked if she could sing the one of the poems. I said, "Sure." In the sweetest high-pitched voice, she began, "A bright green frog/With slippery skin/Played waltzes/On a violin." I clapped at the end. Good books inspire kids time after time.

Arnold Lobel died more than twenty years ago, but had written and drawn what became The Frogs and Toads All Sang as a single-edition gift for a friend. The work eventually found its way to Lobel's daughter, Adrianne, a Broadway set designer. She added watercolor to her father's original sketches and used them, along with the poems, to create a new book.

Publishers Weekly said that the poems and illustrations are the "progenitors" of the Frog and Toad series, but I didn't go into the publishing history with the first graders. We just enjoyed the book together. I bet you and yours will, too.

Feel free to sing.

If you would like to read more of the entries for today's Poetry Friday, Diane May is gathering all the links together at her blog, Random Noodling.

Susan T.

Babies Like Books

Posted by Susan T. on December 2, 2009 at 10:50 AM in Board BooksPicture Books
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When my son was a baby, he loved a book called Alphabet Band. An older friend had handed it down as a present. Outfitted with a side panel of buttons to push, the book talked. I can still remember the very electronic voice starting off, "Alligator number one/Squeezes the accordion." We took it with us wherever we went.

When the kiddo grew into a toddler, he decided to figure out how Alphabet Band worked. I'm not sure what he discovered, but the book did not survive the thorough investigation—and is no longer in print, either.

These days when I'm looking for gifts for babies, one favorite resource is the annual "Best Books for Babies" list at Beginning With Books, an early-literacy center in Pittsburgh. The 2009 lineup (for books published in 2008) can be found online here.

Now ten, the Alphabet Band enthusiast is happily reading (and not tearing apart) chapter books, but if he were a toddler or preschooler, I'd use the recommendations for that age group at the blog Your Friendly Librarian. I like her roundup of 2009's best, which includes the lovely rhyming picture book All the World, written by a blogging pal, Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Marla Frazee.

Susan T.

Wish Lists

Posted by Susan T. on November 17, 2009 at 10:00 AM in
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With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the December holidays quickly approaching, parents may need some great book recommendations fast. Whether the children are looking for entertainment for a long plane trip or a little something to tide them over until the turkey is ready, the following offer a bounty of ideas. I collect lists, and these are some of my favorites:

The New York Times Book Review's Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2009

Booklist's 2009 Top Ten Religion Books for Youth

Outstanding science books of 2008, chosen by the National Science Teachers Association

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Gift Guide 2009. A large, wide-ranging selection of books published in the last few years.

The National Outdoor Book Awards. This roster includes books for children and adults.

The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards

Wired Magazine's GeekDad's book picks for 2009. Geektastic titles for kids and grown-ups.

Susan T.


Posted by Susan T. on October 20, 2009 at 11:55 AM in Easy ReadersMiddle Grade BooksPicture Books
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From preschool through second grade or so, my son loved to read about volcanoes. A while back, I rounded up some of our favorites, most of which I read aloud. For all of you with young scientists (aged about four to seven) in the house, here's our list, with some notes:

Why Do Volcanoes Blow Their Tops? by Melvin Berger. Picture book, lots of facts, Q. & A. format. Includes directions for making a grand baking soda/vinegar/dish-soap explosive concoction using an empty soda bottle. Because of this book, "magma" has been a part of my vocabulary for the last seven years.

Hill of Fire, by Thomas P. Lewis. Illustrated beginning reader about the farmer who stumbled across a volcano (the beginnings of one) while plowing. About the 1943 eruption of Mexico's Paricutin. A Reading Rainbow selection.

Volcanoes, by Stephanie Turnbull. From the Usborne Beginners series, a nice introduction to the subject, short bits of text, index, glossary, recommended web sites--all in 32 pages.

The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes, by Gail Herman, with illustrations by Bob Ostrom. You can't go wrong with Ms. Frizzle, the extraordinary science teacher, and her class.

An Island Grows, by Lola M. Schaefer. A colorful picture book for preschoolers and early-elementary kids.

Magic Tree House #13: Vacation Under the Volcano, by Mary Pope Osborne. Early chapter book about Pompeii, from the popular series.

Volcanoes! Mountains of Fire, by Eric Arnold. Advanced beginning reader about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

Volcanoes! by Jeremy Caplan. Another advanced beginning reader, with photos.

Volcano, by Nicholas Harris. Pompeii from the Ice Age into the present, with tabbed pages. Picture book for older readers. Part of a series called Fast Forward. Vesuvius included, of course.

For older readers, there's Seymour Simon's Volcanoes, a Smithsonian picture book with vivid photographs.

Susan T.

Mother's Finest: Nursery Rhymes

Posted by Susan T. on October 6, 2009 at 9:50 AM in Picture BooksPoetry
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"Here we go round the mulberry bush, / The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush; / Here we go round the mulberry bush, / On a cold and frosty morning."

On your next jaunt to the library, add Here Comes Mother Goose to your list. Young children will love thumbing through the pages of this big, beautiful book of nursery rhymes. Some of the poems, like the one above, may be familiar to parents and caregivers, but Here Comes Mother Goose also includes some lesser-known (at least to me) gems:

"My Aunt Jane, / She came from France, / To teach to me the polka dance; / First the heel, / And then the toe, / That's the way / The dance should go."

Published ten years ago by Candlewick, the handsomely illustrated classic is still available at online booksellers and, of course, at public libraries. Rosemary Wells, of Max and Ruby fame, is the artist, and many of the colorful pictures, bustling with funny animal characters, take up a whole page. (The large print is especially easy on the eyes, too.) The children's literature expert Iona Opie compiled the rhymes.

Wells and Opie also collaborated on My Very First Mother Goose (1996) and Mother Goose's Little Treasures (2007).

Susan T.

Miss Annie Sez

Posted by Susan T. on September 22, 2009 at 12:27 PM in Chapter BooksLibrariesPicture Books
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In my town, Miss Annie has a following. A big following--of babies, chess players, chapter-book readers, and parents who can chant "Alligator Pie" along with her.

Miss Annie (her real name is Annie Reuter) works in the children's department at the Westport (CT) Library. Some years back, my son and I took part in many of her toddler story times. A fifth grader now, he stops by to chat with her. So do I.

Recently, after she finished up supervising the Wednesday junior chess club, I asked Miss Annie for her latest read-aloud recommendations. Here's her list. Each book works for a group or one-on-one.

For first and second graders: Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers 

For kindergartners: The Moonglow Roll-O-Rama, by Dav Pilkey 

For three and four year olds: Preschool to the Rescue, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand 

Miss Annie is one of a fabulous staff of book lovers in the children's section of our library. They all know information like this!

What are your local librarians recommending these days? Stop by and ask. You'll get lots of good ideas.

P.S. The full text of Dennis Lee's poem "Alligator Pie" is online at the University of Toronto Library. Click here to read it.

Susan T.

A Big Hello from Susan Thomsen

Posted by Susan T. on September 17, 2009 at 8:16 AM in Introductions
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Greetings, Booklights readers! What fun it is to be visiting here over the next few weeks. I love talking about books and reading. Here's a little bio:

Susan Thomsen writes about children's books at her blog, Chicken Spaghetti, which she named after a favorite Southern casserole. Once upon a time she worked at The New Yorker in the Goings On About Town section, and later reviewed New York theater for an online city guide. She is the author of Elvis: A Tribute to the King, a gift book in the shape of a record. A member of the Authors Guild and PEN American Center, Susan lives in Connecticut with her husband, 10-year-old son, and various pets, including an orange tabby cat, two chickens, and a garter snake named Snakey. Her latest favorite children's book is The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, and she is thrilled to be guest-blogging for Booklights.

What's your latest favorite kids' book?

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