Tag Archives: humor

Be yourself: Standing out or blending in

4 Oct

Tigers. They are significant features in two new picture books about being yourself. They both remind me a little of Mo Willems’ Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, which is my favorite Mo Willems book.

In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown, the situation is quite the opposite of Naked Mole Rat’s dilemma.


All the animals wear clothes, walk on their hind legs, mind their manners and act, well, civilized. Mr. Tiger feels the need to cut loose a little.  He takes baby steps at first.


Then he really runs wild.


Well, haven’t we all felt a little constrained sometimes? Maybe you’ve never wanted to run naked on all fours, but I bet you get tired and just want to ROAR once in a while. I do.

And then we have the strange case of Maude Shrimpton in Lauren Child’s Maude The Not-So-Noticeable-Shrimpton.


She is a quiet soul, surrounded by a flamboyant family. Can you see her? Second from the end.


Instead of getting her the quiet, calm goldfish she wanted for her birthday, her family got her a tiger. Oh my!


Let’s just say, it doesn’t go well for her flamboyant family members. Maude ends up OK because “Sometimes. Just sometimes, not being noticeable is the very best talent of all.”

It would be fun to read these to your class, then have them write a story about a person who ran wild or didn’t stand out.

Everybody likes an Underdog

28 Sep

Right from the first page I had a feeling I was going to like Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee.


I also had a sense, right from the start, that this would be a perfect 4th grade read aloud. Both feelings stayed with me right to the end. This is a really fun read that doesn’t seem to be getting much attention.

Benji is a small sickly boy who is often picked on by the school bully. After a serious seizure he has 2 options: wear the world’s ugliest green helmet or get a therapy dog. What arrives at his house is a massive Newfoundland who can speak, though only Benji can hear him. Parker Elvis Pembroke IV informs Benji that a terrible mistake has been made. he was supposed to be sent to the White House. While the adults are trying to correct the mistake, Benji and Elvis become friends, get into and out of some trouble and help Benji end his pack.

You can check out  the book at  http://elvisandtheunderdogs.com/ or at your local library like I did.

This one is definitely on my list for the teacher read aloud club.

A little friendly competition

26 Sep

When I was taught to outline, there was a protocol using for numbers, Roman numerals and letters. In word, when bulleting, you get the same three choices if you want something other than an actual bullet or arrow. But which is best? How do you chose?

In Mike Boldt’s 123 versus ABC   numbers and letters both want to be the stars of the book.


Their debate escalates when funny animals and props start arriving: 1 alligator, 2 bears, 3 cars. You can see where this is going. Each grouping of new animals and objects are highlighted in the text and I found myself wanting to count each monkey or lion to make sure there were, in fact, that exact number.  This is not a number/alphabet book for beginners. Some of the humor is a little sophisticated for early readers, but made me laugh, like the page on which A states that “today is Bring Your Lowercase to Work Day. Here is little a.” Of course I loved the fact that 25 balls of yarn were needed to knit sweaters for 26 zebras. I always enjoy a good knitting reference.

This book would be a fun read aloud, as 1 and A both have very strong voices.


Crazy inventors

5 Sep

When I was in teacher’s college, we had an “Invention Convention”, the 80’s alternative to the Science Fair. I innovated Band Aids for my teapot that were placed around the spout to catch drips. Very practical.

The main characters of 2 new books are a little less practical.


Poco Loco, by J. R. Krause and Maria Chua, tells the story of a rat who invents things by combining two seemingly unrelated items into unique but practical creations. This book is fun for a number of reasons. First, there are the wacky inventions like salt & pepper gloves, vacuum cleaner socks and yo-yo pants. Secondly, it incorporates Spanish vocabulary into the text. A glossary of terms used in the story appears before the story begins, but the context clues often help readers decipher the meaning of the Spanish words without needing to consult the glossary. This would be a fun read aloud, or an inspiration for crazy things kids could invent and write about.

The wacky inventor in What Floats in a Moat?, written by Lynne Berry and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, is a goat name Archimedes.


Archie wants to cross a moat with out taking the drawbridge, as suggested by his friend, Skinny the Hen. Rhyming text introduces readers to the principles of buoyancy and the scientific method.  The author also includes a description of the real Archimedes’ experiment about water and displacement. A fun read that will encourage young scientists to persevere “in the name of science!”

Candy can save the world

22 Aug

Growing up, my dad used to eat beets and tell my sister and I we should try them because they’d put hair on our chests. My dad had a very hairy chest and we would squeal. When one of my nieces was about 3, he’d tell her beets tasted like candy.  My niece would say, “Do you like candy? I don;t like candy.”

Several years ago, at the Hollywood Farmers Market, and I noticed all sorts of people walking about with gorgeous beets.  Alas, I didn’t eat beets. I thought I didn’t like them. I decided to be brave and find out what all the buzz was about, so I bought some and, it turns out, beets are earthy and delicious!

As an adult, I have learned to eat a lot of things I didn’t really enjoy as a child. And that is the underlying theme of  The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall.


Instead of beets as the nasty food, we have capers. I still don’t really enjoy capers, but I really enjoyed this book.

Sour Mr. Caper is popular with adults, but longs to be loved by kids in the way Mr. Lollipop is. He sneaks into the lollipop factory and pours caper flavor into the vats of lollipop batter. The result is a disaster. Fortunately, Lollipop comes up with a win-win solution.

In first grade, I wrote a tory about a story called “The Pea Family and the Yellow Beans”. Maybe, after reading this, kids could write about other foodstuffs and the difficult problems they have to solve.

Channeling Clementine

16 Aug

I have been a huge Clementine fan from her first appearance. In fact, when I adopted Fiona, who came with the unfortunate name of Yo-yo, I almost renamed her Clementine, just because of the books. She is very bassety. Clementine is frequently “distracted” by things when she is supposed to be doing what others want and then explains ” I was paying attention” and then says what she was paying attention to. If you’ve ever walked with a basset, you know that you might want to be moving forward, but they are frequently sidetracked and pay attention to things you don’t even see. I try to channel Clementine when I walk the girls.

I just reread Clementine for the 2013-14 Battle of the Books season (more on this later)


and then I read Clementine and the Spring Trip which came out earlier this year, but I’m finally getting to it.


And I am happy to say that this, the 6th book,is wonderful! And I love Margaret, who is the perfect OCD foil to Clementine’s ADD.  I love their interactions and how they have to negotiate their friendship.  In this book, a new girl named Olive arrives and Clementine is no longer the only student with a food name. Having just reread Clementine,  I can see how much she has grown up since that first book, but she is still sweetly naive and genuine as she tries to find her place in the world.

As always, Marla Frazee’s illustrations capture all the emotion & hilarity.

Why I’m glad I have basset hounds

15 Aug

Bassets are lazy. Here’s what it looks like at my house most of the time.




Lucy is the most energetic, but she will only play fetch for 5-10 minutes, before it is nap time again. In the summer, the three of us often go take 2 hour naps. I sometimes put my pajamas on & get under the covers.  Going back to work after having the summer off can be difficult for all of us.

In her nearly wordless book, Ball,  Mary Sullivan shows what it is like at the opposite end of the dog spectrum.


It is nearly wordless, because one word appears on almost every page:


This is a fun book and would be great as a read aloud to show kids to teach them about voice in writing. The one word of text  is repeated forty-four times in various sizes, upper and lower case, with varying punctuation and by different speakers with equally varied visual interpretation. The size and boldness of the letters in the panel above convey a message very different from the panel below.


There are other things I like about this book. The pictures and colors make it look like an older book and help the reader read between the lines and decipher the dog’s  emotional state.

So glad my girls are not this ball obsessed.

They’re not gonna take it any more

8 Aug

Sometimes, things get too be too much and you just have to stop and say “no more”. Duncan’s crayons feel that way in  The Day the Crayons Quit written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.


They are tired of being abused and want to stick it to the man. That man happens to be Duncan, who, according to the crayons, has unrealistic expectations of them.

Each page features a letter to Duncan from a particular color, outlining that color’s grievances, and an illustration proving their point. Here’s a sample from the green crayon:


I will admit that the copy I have on hold at the library has not yet arrived, so I read this, standing up in Powell’s. I laughed out loud and worried people noticed me.

This book has me thinking about all the ways you can use it n the classroom: letter writing, persuasive writing, humor, imagining  what another inanimate object might write…..OOOO imagine what a chair might say! Scandalous.

Definitely a must have. I think this is one I will add to my teacher read aloud book club for this year. It looks like it will be a “go” for 2013-14.


Just for laughs: Super Hair-O and Crankee Doodle

3 Aug

In my personal reading, I tend not to read humorous books. However, I absolutely love reading a funny book to kids; it’s a form of performance art. I have two new funny books to add to my comedic repertoire.

We often think about superpowers we’d like to have (or actually have?) and I’ve talked about this with kids.  But have you ever considered the source of your superpower?


In Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom  by John Rocco (who has an awesome portrait in his bio at the back of the book), our young superhero believes the source of his power lies in his locks. Alas, one day he is captured and taken to the barber.


With the cutting of his hair, color disappears and he looks in vain for a replacement of his power source. when a emergency arises, he & his friends realize that, despite their haircuts, they were still super. With my super future-telling power, I can see a writing project where kids have, lose and regain a superpower.

And then, there’s  Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger.


With this book, I can indulge my inner curmudgeon because this Yankee is cranky and doesn’t want to go to town.


His wise donkey helps young readers understand the song on which the story is based and laugh all the way to town. Our first grade team does aunt on American symbols and this would be an excellent resource for them. They kids could learn the song and have some chuckles.

Poetry and Pets

26 Jul

When I was very young we had a dog, but all I remember about it was its last days in the basement. We begged to have pets throughout my youth. Mom always said no because they were messy. As teens who knit, my sister & I tried to convince my dad to have sheep, who could double as lawnmowers. So, I had to wait until I was an adult to become a pet-owner. Perhaps it was my deprived youth that cause me to become obsessed & involved with basset rescue.

On the other hand, we have the narrator of  The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses, written  by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora.


She wants a pet and her science minded parents send her off to research the pet project.


She is systematic, logical and funny. She visits a farm, a zoo, the woods, her home, and a pet store. In each she carefully and poetically describes the ups & downs of each potential pet.

This book would be a fun intro to a Science Inquiry project or a persuasive writing assignment, to name but two ways I can see  teachers using it. It would also be a fun read aloud. But be warned: the word poop appears a few times. Kids will surely love that!

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