Friday, May 31, 2019


Written by Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Adam Rex

(Balzer + Bray, 2017)

The game Rock, Paper, Scissors has been my go-to to solve so many minor disagreements between kids. Who has first chance at the last swing on the playground? Who’s going to be goalie for soccer? Who gets the last cookie?

Rock, paper, scissors…


Kids like the randomness of it. Maybe I’ll be the victor, maybe I won’t. Whatever the result, they know they had a hand in it. Literally. No calls of “Not fair!” No pleas for best two out of three. The rules are all too clear: rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock. Brilliant—even if I’ve always wondered how a sheet of paper really beats a rock. (Wrapping it? Please.)

Drew Daywalt—he of mega-popular The Day the Crayons Quit—has teamed up with beloved illustrator Adam Rex (Pssst!;Tree Ring Circus) to bring an origin story of the Rock, Paper, Scissors game.

Yes, once upon a time in separate kingdoms, Rock, Paper and Scissors lived unsatisfying lives, doing battle with unworthy rivals. 

Rock vs. Clothespin.
Paper vs. Trail Mix Bits.
Scissors vs. Roll of Tape.

I always caution a young audience that the pictures post-battle are gruesome—a smooshed apricot (Egad!), severed bits of tape (Yikes!). 

These are hollow victories, indeed. Nothing to celebrate at all.

SPOILER ALERT: It took the coming together of Rock, Paper and Scissors to offer worthy challenges. Even defeat felt rewarding. The stakes of battle proved just right.

This is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-it books. A simple concept, but told with kid-friendly humor. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is a terrific read-aloud, one that will allow you to test your battle-ready dramatic delivery as these fierce warriors seek and find their respected competitors. Battle on!

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Written by Adam Lehrhaupt

Illustrated by Scott Magoon

(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Two eyes stare out from a dark cave.  These are the eyes of Theodore. Who is this cave-dwelling creature? A bear? A monster? The bogeyman?! Whoever--whatever--it is, it seems primarily focused on eating. Or not eating.

Various creatures--a bird, a wolf, a tiger--approach the cave and each time Theodore shoos them away. "I will not eat you."

But then a silly boy appears, dressed in a cape and bearing a sword and shield. Does the boy dare to taunt Theodore?

"Don't bother me, pesky boy," he bellowed, "or I will eat you.

But the boy does not heed Theodore's warning. He does not back down.

Finally, we see who Theodore is. Without spoiling the story, I'll just say that the interaction is surprising in a way that still leaves the reader to wonder how things may play out after the story's end.

Lehrhaupt, the author of the delightful Warning: Do Not Open This Book, has a knack for amusing the reader. There's such a quick flow to the story that it's over before I wanted it to be. Perhaps there will be a sequel involving Theodore and the boy. There is a fun, quirky, slightly uncertain relationship here that deserves another tale.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


By Elisha Cooper

(Orchard Books, 2010)

I'm a big admirer of Elisha Cooper's books. I've previously blogged about his wonderful Building and Ice Cream. Here again, Cooper matches crisp language with gorgeous watercolor artwork to create a cohesive book on a single topic.

What boy doesn't love the farm? The machines and the animals captivate young imaginations. Cooper has clearly studied farm life to offer a clear idea of what it's like in this setting.

Take a farmer, another farmer, a boy, a girl. 
Add a house, two barns, four silos, some sheds, three tractors, some trucks, a few farmhands, and plenty of equipment.
Then cattle, chickens, countless cats, a dog.
Put them together and you get...a farm.

A young reader is instantly hooked. As always, Cooper adds precious details to make things realistic.

Inside the tractor, the farmer drinks coffee and listens to weather reports on the radio. Every once in a while, he turns in his seat to check the tiller.

Cooper packs so much in short sentences.

It starts to rain. The tractor stops again. March is a mud month and weather must be dry for tilling. The framer will have to wait. Weather can't be fixed.

Some pages have a single scene, but Cooper typically includes several smaller illustrations to show action. Against white and soft blue backgrounds, the red images pop, just like the red barns we see when driving in the countryside. As an adult reads, a child has so much to see, so much to imagine.

Cooper takes the reader through a year on the farm, from early spring tractor preparation to the fall harvest and the time when "cattle are sent to market." (Wisely, he does not elaborate.)

In all, this is another feast for the eyes and ears as children and adults can enjoy the interplay between text and pictures. It's another book worth tracking down!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


By Oyvind Torseter

(Enchanted Lion Books, 2013)

I want to start by saying I love this book, but then I can say that about almost every book I blog. This one, however, is simply brilliant, all because of a pencil-sized hole that cuts through the middle of the book. Opening the book, we see a simply drawn guy moving into a new apartment. Inside his apartment is a hole in the wall right beside the door. At first, it's not a problem. The guy hasn't noticed it. He unboxes a few items and makes a fried egg for a meal. As he sits on another box to eat, he looks up and finally sees the hole, eight pages into the story.

"What's this?" he says as he leaps up to examine the hole in the wall. He walks through the door to look at the hole from the other side; however, the hole seems to be gone. In the new illustration, the hole now  represents the window of the washing machine. He returns to the first room. By drawing the first room from a slightly different perspective, the hole moves from the wall to the floor. The guy trips. This hole is a hazard! It continues to move on each page as the guy makes his way through different parts of the apartment. Egad!

He calls a science lab. "Yes, hello...I've found a my apartment...Yes, no...It keeps moving...Yes...Could you come and have a look?"

Alas they can't. They want him to bring the hole to them. The guy must trap this moving hole in a box and take it to the lab. As he travels with his boxed hole, the hole on the page becomes part of a traffic light, the tire of a vehicle, a nostril of a child.

Kids shout out, "Eww!" when it gets to the nostril page. But they are hooked. They examine the always-present hole in the center of the page and marvel at how it forms a different item in each illustration.

Fortunately, the scientists take the hole from the guy who returns home, relieved that the hole is out of his hands. But, of course, we know the hole remains on the page. It's only a matter of time until the guy is distressed once again.

This is a truly novel picture book, with very few words. (The text was originally published in Norwegian.) It's one that kids will want to look at again right after the first viewing, spending more time paying attention to how the hole seems to move and how it takes on different forms due to Torseter's creative design. It's a book that's well worth the extra effort of tracking it down.  

Friday, May 10, 2019


By Taro Gomi

(Chronicle Books, 2012)

I just love the concept of this book. It begins with:

I don't know what you're grumpy about, but why don't you try doodling? Doodle anything you like. See? Aren't you starting to feel better?

And the likely answer from a truly grumpy person will be, "NO!"

But that's okay. Taro Gomi provides ample space for grumpy doodles. Gomi draws a simple shell of a house and invites the doodler to "draw a person being very cranky inside this house." The doodler next gets to make a teapot angry and create a crabby train.

It gets more absurd. "What do grouchy mountains look like?" Draw the clothes you would wear when feeling mad. Make a "furious clock".

After about fifty pages of angry doodles, Gomi says:

Well, well! You don't look grumpy anymore. What does your face look like now? Now that you're feeling better, turn the page for more doodling.

Here's where I expect a typical doodler to resist, not due to still being grumpy, but simply to have fun. There are pages and pages left for the user to draw angry blobs and squiggles. Or not. Maybe a smiley face will creep in. Ultimately, I have a strong hunch that the budding artist will find amusement in free-form doodling, regardless of whatever emotion he or she feels in the moment. Art is indeed a form of expression.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


By Steve Antony

(Scholastic Press, 2014)

When I began to read this book for the first time, I was alarmed. A doughnut-carrying panda seemed to be a not-too-distant cousin of Grumpy Cat.

Panda:     Would you like a doughnut?
Penguin:  Give me the pink one.
Panda:     No, you cannot have a doughnut.
                 I have changed my mind.

Oh, dear.

One by one, black and white critters--a skunk, an orca whale--are offered and then denied doughnuts. As an educator, I wondered why in the world anyone saw fit to publish this book. This gruff panda is not a proper role model. Bring back cutesy pandas!

But, of course, my shock was for naught. Perhaps I've become too accustomed to people who fail to practice good manners. As the book goes on, we see that panda is not a doughnut hog who lacks the ability to share; instead, panda is taking a stand for good manners. Of course! How lovely.

When I read the story aloud to a group of students, I can see them go through the same thoughts as I experienced: mean panda, greedy panda,...ah, but no. A principled panda! As students catch on, there is an implied wink shared between us.

Turns out this book is a delightful way to remind children of the power of "please".

Sunday, May 5, 2019


By David A. Carter

(Tate Publishing, 2012)

The pop-up books of my childhood never lasted. Too many hands on them, too many folds that just gave out as the wear and tear from small hands proved unforgiving. Sadly, the few that I came across in classroom and library collections had a short shelf lie. And yet, they were magical works, books to gaze at with wonder while appreciating their unique design.

Pop-up books, while fascinating in and of themselves, can teach children how to value something delicate and, more broadly, how to respect a book. I received the glorious Hide and Seek as a gift shortly after its release and I’m proud to say my copy is well preserved despite having been viewed by many classes of children. The key has been presenting the book to the whole group and treating it as the treasure that it is. At first, I open the book to a random page. There is a chorus of “Whoas” and “Wows”. Little bodies inch up. A few complain they can’t see. (You can get a peek at the book on a YouTube video here.)

I close the book again. It is immediately clear to all, regardless of how much or how little they saw, that this is a special book and it requires a different kind of viewing. We sit on the floor in a circle. I talk about how hands on the book can damage the delicate pieces so extraordinarily designed. I share my own wonder over how they can print multiple copies of such an intricate work. 

The tricky part of Hide and Seek is that each page invites searching eyes as harder-to-find features are mentioned in the text.

A fish and a teardrop.
Five black spots, four blossoms blue and a T that is white.
A heart and an arabesque.
A smile, a black Q and a reflection of you.

Yes, each page presents the danger more inching forward. The viewers have to trust that the book will be turned and shifted so that everyone has a chance to nod when he or she was spotted the named objects. The pages invite you to linger.

Carter sticks to a bold, limited palette of red, blue, yellow, black and white. He invites hands to pull tabs and turn wheels to reveal more items on the page. This is when turn taking may bring out calls of “No fair” when someone doesn’t get picked, but I mention that pairs of students may come to my desk during reading times to see the book up close again. It’s amazing to see how carefully they turn and examine each page.

Inevitably, a few features on the page will give out from simple page turns and, yes, from hands that just can’t resist. It’s happened in a couple of places to my copy, but that just serves as a reminder that this pop-up book has been loved.

Friday, May 3, 2019


Written by Jennifer George

Illustrated by Ed Steckley

Invention design by Jospeph Herscher and Ed Steckley

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017)

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who devised complex, convoluted pathways for accomplishing everyday tasks. There would be a setup of pulleys and hammers, balances and levers that would be set  in motion like a chain of dominoes. This book takes an ordinary school day and imagines how a young Rube might make them more interesting through a series of linked steps. Simply waking up is no longer so simple. It requires a ray of sunshine reflecting off a mirror, ricocheting off and warming (and thus lightening) a wet towel which the raises its half of a balance...and so on and so forth. A boxing glove, a train set, a vacuum cleaner and a pitcher of water also come into play, creating a ten-step wake-up routine.

Oh, my.

A classic Rube Goldberg cartoon                            
Young readers will study the illustrations at length and then read the directions, imagining how a particular circuit might play out in their own lives while also possibly finding the glitchier steps in each sequence. Who wouldn't want to try getting dressed with a chain of events that begins with sliding down a banister? And why  not board the school bus by launching onto a zip line from your front doorsteps? Finding a hungry goat might get in the way of Rube's plan for sneaking into class late, but the sequence will put a smile on the reader's face. Art and P.E. teachers may have to brace for their rooms being completely transformed to make room for Rube's painting and hoop-throwing contraptions.

No doubt, kids will want to draft their own sequences for accomplishing ordinary tasks. There are, in fact, Rube Goldberg Machine contests held each year in which teams create their own multi-steps chains for doing a particular task such as putting money in a piggy bank. More information can be found at

Whether this book inspires kids to create a team or simply amuses them by looking at the fourteen tasks presented within, it's a book that should definitely be added to classroom and home libraries.