Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 24. Gramma's Walk

Book 90.
If there's one thing the H section has never failed to deliver, it's books with prominent senior characters.  And each one I come across offers something unique and special.

In Gramma's Walk, Donnie visits his Gramma for their walk. Gramma is in a wheelchair and it's immediately clear that these walks hold very special meaning to Donnie and Gramma. Gramma and Donnie proceed to take an imaginary journey to the beach, describing all they come across along their walk. The play on the senses is incredible and translates well to the reader, too.

What a very cool experience this would be to bring into the classroom daily or weekly.

By the story's conclusion I noticed my senses were heightened and I actually felt calmer.

The magic of picture books. Love it.

- Matthew

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 23. Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti

Book 89.
No shortage of sensationalism here.

A kid pours out the love for his dad, who cuts no corners when it comes to showing affection, playfulness and love. I'm not exactly sure how a child would take this, but outside of asking, How does your own dad compare?,  this book's purpose is a little muddled.

...but there is a bare bottom, so lots of kids will flock to that.

I wonder if this was published during a particularly strong rebellion against the deadbeat dad? It's certainly got a strong emphasis on the family unit.

Two kisses.

- Matthew

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 22. Pigs to the Rescue

Book 87.
At last! A Shelf Challenge book that toddler boy and I can read over and over and over.

It's been a particularly slow reading season for me during this Shelf Challenge. I'm just not coming across the gems like I did in the L's last year. And while I've read a couple of great books, nothing has had the reread value of Pigs to the Rescue.

If you're new to Himmelman's neo-classic (sequel to Chickens to the Rescue), the story rests on problems occurring day after day on the farm and some do-good pigs determined to save the day. Hilarity ensues.

7+ reads later in just two days and I think we have a new favorite.

"Um, thank you, I think."

- Matthew

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 21. Moonsong Lullaby

Book 78.
I've come across a lot of books circa my childhood and it's sparked a lot of introspection. Moonsong Lullaby, in particular, has caused me to think a lot about the Native American peoples of North America. There are few chapters in America's brief history more tragic or shameful. I suppose that's what makes books such as Moonsong Lullaby so important.

Picture books help us understand one another and ourselves. They are windows of truth with messages not to be taken for granted. As we become further and further removed from elder cultures, picture books can help us remember, preserve, and protect history. But in all of my ramblings, I still can't shake the feeling that I'm not working hard enough in my library to educate my students on the lives and culture of the Native American peoples.

It's something I can certainly work to improve.

- Matthew

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 20. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

Book 72.
I couldn't avoid writing about The Country Bunny, just as I couldn't avoid reading it from cover to cover. Written in 1939, this tale "as told to Jenifer" reveals the five Easter bunnies charged with delivering baskets of eggs throughout the world for Easter. When one is too aged to continue, a replacement must be selected. And in the case of this story, a certain country bunny who has raised 21 children to be independent and responsible, proves her worth in the candidacy despite presuppositions.

I'd love to think either of my grandmothers would have read this (or have it read to them) as young girls and I'd love to know their responses. Here, a country bunny raises 21 children alone and, against all odds, trains the children to be independent and responsible for all of the house upkeep. Meanwhile, mother rises against the odds to become the next Easter bunny and even earns herself a coveted set of gold shoes.

A single bunny mother is fully capable of raising well-mannered, well-adjusted children.

A single bunny mother can achieve and excel at work outside the house.

The experience of being a single bunny mother and raising children on your own affords the individual a certain set of skills that prove invaluable outside the home.

This book feels ahead of its time.

- Matthew

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 19. Rosalie

Book 80.
Dogs are family. And like family, it's difficult to see them get older and suffer the pains that accompany aging.

Rosalie is a dog. She's an old dog. Sixteen, and loyal as she ever was to her family. A young girl narrates this story in a voice as understanding and wise as any child could be. With each explanation, always shared so matter-of-factly, the audience understands more keenly how much Rosalie is suffering. And yet, she remains a constant companion.

This book immediately reminded me of Elisha Cooper's Homer, for it's delicacy and respect for man's best friend.
I miss my dog.

- Matthew

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 18. Mr. George Baker

Book 78.
Books with prominent senior characters are speaking to me this Shelf Challenge. Today's read, another title by Amy Hest and an exciting discovery to happen upon another illustrative work by Jon J. Muth, a personal favorite, is about a young boy and his elderly next door neighbor. These cross-generational stories are so powerful, if nothing else than for the wisdom the eldest has to offer to those younger. It's a delicate role that, I feel, takes a special author in order to effectively communicate.

Needless to say, I am quickly learning that Amy Hest is one such author.

Here, an older man meets his grade school-age neighbor as they wait for the bus to arrive. There are so many examples of good character exhibited in the character of Mr. George Baker, and allowing us, the readers, to simply enjoy the story and absorb all of those qualities is a gift in an of itself.

I am never surprised to read such outstanding literature and discover Muth's name ascribed. He seems to have a keen sense for quality.

- Matthew

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 17. The Crack-of-Dawn Walkers

Book 76.
In The Crack-of-Dawn Walkers a young girl wakes early in order to join her grandfather on his morning walk for fresh onion rolls and a cup of coffee. She wants nothing but to have Grandfather all to herself and she relishes every moment of their time together. Of course, she cannot help comparing the experience she and her grandfather are having with those outings Grandfather takes with her older brother.

The beauty and simplicity of the story perfectly capture the childhood feeling of wanting to live in a moment forever and to be as special to someone as they are to you. But what I connect with most deeply is the undercurrent of wanting to absorb every single word and breath and sense of the experience so that it never has to end.

That, I feel like, is the moment we're always chasing with those we love most of all.

- Matthew

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 16. The Dinosaur Who Lived in My Backyard

Book 68.
When I was in first grade I attended Art once a week. On once such occasion I painted a picture of a dinosaur standing in a swamp with trees surrounding the water. My art teacher liked it so much she sent it to the county fair. It won a blue ribbon. My mom framed that painting and it still hangs in her downstairs hallway.

Fast forward 20+ years to me sitting in bed with my son, reading books for the shelf challenge, and coming across our first dinosaur book of the challenge, The Dinosaur Who Lived in My Backyard, wherein a brother and sister liken the dinosaurs to children of today in the way they ate vegetables, made friends, and sometimes had terrible fights. It's a cute book and it works really well for preschool-aged children.

But as I approached the book's conclusion, I opened to a page that was the spitting image of my ribbon-winning dinosaur painting. This may be (have been) my first authentic experience with deja vu. The book was published in 1988, which means that it would have been published the year I started 1st grade. Might my art teacher have read it to us? Might I have been inspired by the very image whose copyright I now realize I was infringing? Or was this all just a really, really strange coincidence.

Either way, it's still pretty cool.

- Matthew

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 15. A Weekend with Wendell

Book 67.

Maybe my Kindergarten teacher read this to me. And maybe, in the story when Sophie was struggling to adapt to Wendell's constant need to manipulate the situation to his favor, I thought about someone in my class and understood a little bit better. And maybe, just maybe, I, too, understood that sometimes it's good to give people a taste of their own medicine, but then, despite all they've done, you have to forgive them, laugh, and move on.

Classic Henkes. Using mice to help us understand ourselves a little better.

- Matthew

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 14. Julius, the Baby of the World

Book 65.
I love the concept behind this book: rejection of a new sibling is only permitted by the old sibling and is to be considered outright rude from outside party members. Lilly's parents pour on the love when baby Julius is born, but Lilly is hard to adjust. In fact, she tries everything imaginable to get rid of (or at least antagonize) Julius. Her veracity and commitment matches that of her parent's in their attempts to continue to show love to Lilly. But when a cousin insults Julius using the same harsh criticisms Lilly once used, big sister finally draws the line.

It makes me wish I had an older sibling.

...and it makes me hope I was (am) a good big brother.

- Matthew

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 13. Jessica

Book 56.
Do kids really have imaginary friends? As in, did you or did anyone you know actually have an imaginary friend? It's a concept by which I'm equally both intrigued and perplexed. Mr. Snuffleupagus was Big Bird's imaginary friend (and that's my childhood frame of reference), but I never actually had one myself. 

Reading Jessica makes me wish I had.

- Matthew

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 12. If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo

Book 53.
There's something about visiting zoos that makes me feel really happy, and there's something about reading books about zoos that makes me feel really sad. This story had just enough charm, though, to overlook that.

Zoos can be a great way for children to learn about animals which, in turn, can aid them in being stewards of the earth and all its creatures. And the girl in If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo so loving offers to steward each of the zoo animals should anything ever... well... go wrong. After all, the zebras' caretaker tells her that zebras need a large fenced-in area to graze and she immediately offers that she's got a big backyard that's fenced it. Other accommodations are offered and the end result, thanks in large part to the gorgeous water colors, will certainly bring smiles.

I think I'll have to make a point to share this one with my 1st graders!

- Matthew

Day 11. Cool Dog, School Dog

Book 48.
Cool Dog, School Dog gets checked out all the time by our Kinders and 1st graders, but it wasn't until tonight that I actually had a chance to read it. No wonder it's so well-loved. The text is rhythmic and fun to read aloud and it's about a dog who cannot keep him or herself away from school and his boy.

Totally great!

- Matthew

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 10. Some Things are Scary

Book 47.
Is it wrong that, as an adult, I also find some of these things to be scary. Things like...

Waiting to jump out and say BOO! at someone is scary.


Thinking you're not going to be picked for either side is scary.

and especially

Playing hide-and-deek when you're it and you can't find anyone is scary.

I think a lot of my students could connect to the situations in this book. Unfortunately, I think the illustrations might turn a number of them off. Perhaps a result of production, the illustrations appear dated and faded. Not something you'd expect from a picture book published in the year 2000.


- Matthew

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 9. Who's in the Hall?

Book 44.
I'll tell you who's in the hall and the path my brain had to follow before we finally discovered the truth.

Okay. The babysitter has left the kids in the apartment alone for a few minutes. No big deal.

Wait a second, who's knocking at the door? And if it's not the janitor, but the person says he's the janitor and that he's here to repair the sink, but the kids don't recognize the person and their babysitter says that she never told a janitor that they're sink wasn't working.... just WHO is at this door that could even remotely be appropriate for a children's picture book that isn't already on the guidance counselor's shelf and written into a thousand stranger danger and kidnapping books?!

Oh, wait. It actually is the janitor and there just seems to have been a mix-up between this apartment and another one on the bottom floor with kids that undergo near identical circumstances. 

I felt more than a little creeped out.

Yeah. That's putting it lightly.

- Matthew

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 8. Shelf Challenge Blog Spotlight #1

While a number of us are soaking up the warm rays of Spring Break, others have been cracking spines, mending dog ears, and battling dust bunnies in the name of the 2013 Shelf Challenge.

This week's Shelf Challenge Blog Spotlight bloggers discovered new favorites, out-of-place titles, and a rising stack of books to weed. Check out their finds by clicking on the links below.

The Library Girls - Stacey (@libraryjo92) is reading the "A" books in her Everybody section, amidst an equally impressive to-read pile of her own. Don't miss what she has to say about The Pencil by Allen Ahlberg. Sounds like an awesome book!

Curtis Library Elementary - Shawna (@CurtisLibrary1) is reading through all of the "N" books in her Everybody collection and squeezes in time to share her favorite finds with all of us. I was particularly intrigued by Who Made this Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa. 

The Merry Media Center - Misti (@MistiSikes) is spotlighting stand-out titles from the "T" authors in her Everybody section as she makes a mighty reading trek in the name of the Shelf Challenge. She arrived today at a personal favorite of mine: Tumford the Terrible by Nancy Tillman.

Blogging about your Shelf Challenge adventures? Be sure to let Matthew know by using the #ShelfChallenge hashtag to share your posts on Twitter or by emailing Matthew direct at mwinne2(at)gmail(dot)com.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 7. Seven Brave Women

Book 43.
Tracing one's family lineage can reveal some interesting truths, the most memorable, of course, being those with an element of wonder or amazement. But in Seven Brave Women, Betsy Hearne reminds us that we need only look so far as the circumstances in which our ancestors lived to understand the great things each accomplished. Those who refused to abandon their beliefs, families, or passions despite society's influence demonstrate a bravery tangible to readers.

I was moved.

What surprised me most though, even now, is that I was the first to break this book's spine. It's got a copyright from 1997. Is it possible it's remained in our collection for nearly 15 years (and nearly 5 library media specialists) without ever being read by a child?

We'll have to change that.

- Matthew 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 6 of 30. The Grumpalump

Book 38.
Okay, Flannel Friday friends... I know you're out there! Please tell me someone has made a flannelboard adaptation of this charming cumulative tale by Sarah Hayes.

With its rhyming wordplay and persistent playfulness, surely this is a perfect fit.

And the cast of a bear, a cat, a mole, a dove, a bull, a yak, an armadillo, and... wait for it... a gnu! Now, come on! Tell me you aren't smiling right now.

I'm not sure why I hadn't before heard of The Grumpalump (published in 1990), but I am already very much excited to share it with my PreK and Kindergarten friends in the very near future.

This is my favorite find of the 2013 Shelf Challenge by far!

- Matthew

Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 5 of 30. My Prairie Year

Book 30.
How important is it that we remember the past?

I know. I know! What a terrible question! But isn't this exactly what's running through your mind as you read through your collection and consider what to keep and what to weed?

Is it as simple as consulting circulation numbers?

This book hasn't been checked out in nearly 10 years, therefore it needs to be weeded.

Can you reason weeding the title based on its publication year?

This book was published in 1986 and is nearly two decades older than our oldest students.

Can format be blamed?

This book's pencil illustrations are moving and evocative, but the bulky paragraphs would turn off any of our readers.

It doesn't seem fair. My Prairie Year, written from the journal entries of Elenore Plaisted, a successful children's book illustrator, at the age of nine in 1889, is a perfectly preserved slice of history. But it's in it's very DNA that it loses it's modern audience. It doesn't match the curriculum. It's of an experience to which none of our students could relate. It just doesn't fit.

And I'm having a very hard time coming to terms with that.

- Matthew

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 4 of 30. Princess Hyacinth

Book 23.
What is it about princess stories that keeps them feeling new? Perhaps it's subtle twists to the familiar story, like in Princess Hyacinth (the Surprising tale of a Girl who Floated). Here we have a princess who, like most, seems bored of her royal upbringings. She longs to feel freedom from the burdens her life has bestowed upon her (in this case, the burdens being literal to keep her from floating off). The story's not told with a great deal of whit, nor does it need to be. You're charmed because it's charming.

Plain and simple.

- Matthew

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 3 via Okle Miller.

Okle Miller is doing the impossible: she's attempting to read each of the books in the "S" section of her Everybody collection before the end of April. Read about her progress so far as well as all the treasures she's discovered (including Allen Say's Grandfather's Journey) here or visit

Day 3 of 30. When Randolph Turned Rotten

Book 19.
Were you ever jealous of a friend? And were you ever driven by that jealousy to do something rotten to the friend? And did you actually commit that rotten deed, even though you friend was undeserving and, perhaps, even unaware?

Trust me. Randolph knows all about that feeling.

I have a feeling this book is going to be popping up more and more in our guidance lessons since it's Shelf Challenge discovery, and for very good reason.

- Matthew

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day 2 via Misti Sikes.

Misti Sikes is taking on the T's in her Everybody section in her school library in Georgia. Today's find was a treat of Spanish language immersion. Read about the above book and other finds here or visit

Day 2 of 30. All the Colors of the Earth

Book 9.
Hamanaka's All the Colors of the Earth was simultaneously a new read and an old friend for me. This love poem to the people of the earth sings of the beauty of our differences and the majesty of our very skin. It's amazing, and it's a poem I feel would serve our school well to learn. And when children and adults alike spoke the poem, I would hope they feel the words the same way I did and I do.

...because our children really do buzz with laughter that kisses the very ground we walk on.

...because they really do buzz with sunlight that dances free and happily like butterflies.

It just makes you feel so thankful to look in their eyes and to see our future.

"Children buzz with laughter that kisses our land, 
With sunlight like butterflies happy and free,
Children come in all the colors
of the earth and sky and sea."

- Matthew

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 1 via Sherry Gick.

Sherry Gick is taking on the nonfiction section in her Rossville, Indiana library. Read about her adventurous start on her blog here or visit

Day 1 of 30. Tuck Me In!

Book 1.
The Shelf Challenge is back! That's a very good thing indeed! Especially when you get to start with a book like Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt. I discovered this book in our collection shortly after our now 2 1/2 year-old was born and I like the book even more now that he can read it with me. The premise is simple: a bunch of wild animals are going to bed and each need to be tucked in. Solution? Have the reader tuck in each character by flipping a half-page blanket. 

Adorable. Every time.

- Matthew


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