Possum Come a Knockin’

Possum knocking on a doorVan Laan, Nancy. Illustrated by George Booth.  Possum Come a Knockin’. New York: Trumpet Club, 1990.

Conversation around the lunch table this week, made me remember this book.  I have a friend, who lives near the edge of a small town.  Like many of us, who live on the fringe of town, she had a possum visit her yard.  She was worried that it might carry off one of her small dogs or they might try to eat it.  Her story made me think about this book and how I inadvertently tormented my niece and nephews with it.  It is a standard joke at our house.  As a matter of fact, my husband just wandered by and said, “Oh, Possum Come a Knockin!  Going to scare more, small children, are you?”

I first heard this book, when I was teaching in a private preschool.  We had an itinerant music teacher, Mr. David.  He read my students this book.  I understood why he chose it.  It had a wonderful cadence and rhythm. It was almost musical.  I recorded myself reading this book (https://goo.gl/ZvigbY) to give you a feel for it.  Here, also, is a link to a video of a teacher using this book in class: https://goo.gl/zcSZ6Y.

I thought it was such a wonderful, musical type of book that for the next gifting occasion I figured it was perfect for my brother-in-law and his family.  He and his wife were both musicians so I thought they and their children would enjoy this book as much as I did.  Alas, I forgot that they too lived at the edge of town. While they didn’t have a possum come a knockin’, they did have a possum get under their house. It made a lot of  creepy scratching noises.   That possum terrified my niece and nephews and unfortunately so did this book! They didn’t think it was musical or rhythmic, they thought it was scary!

Hopefully, you won’t encounter any possums and you can enjoy the cadence written into this story.

Nancy Van Laan

While I was looking at information on this author, I found someone who described her books as good for reading aloud.  This book is terrific for reading aloud, I am not certain I could keep it to myself.   Here are a few fun facts about this author.

  • She read to pass the time on long trips.
  • She wrote and illustrated her own stories when she was young.
  • Her first love was ballet, but an injury ended her careers
  • She has been an English teacher in a private school, a creative writing teacher at Rutgers, and a network censor at ABC.
  • She has an MFA from Rutgers and has painted murals for schools and private clients
  • In 1989, she began to write full-time.



My Dad the Magnificent

Parker, Kristy. My Dad the Magnificent. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1987.

Happy Father’s Day!  Here is a great book for Father’s Day.  It is about a boy and his Dad.  Buddy’s Dad wears a suit, works in an office, and has meetings.  He isn’t a lion tamer or a cowboy or a deep-sea diver.  What make him magnificent to Buddy?  Saturdays!  Buddy and his Dad spend Saturdays together.  From breakfast to bedtime, they work and play together.  Here’s the wonderful end to this story.

Then he hugs me real tight, and he says, “I love you.  See you in the morning.”

And you know what? My dad is the most magnificent in the whole world. And that’s the truth.

Here’s a picture of my Dad, taken for his high school graduation.  He looks so young.  He passed away several years ago, but I still miss him.  He was a magnificent Dad!  I am sure we were a trial for him.  I remember when we were little, he would come home from his office, take off his tie, and spend some time wrestling with us.  It was the best time of the day for us.  I expect his was tired, but it never showed.  I remember him raking up all the leaves in the yard and not getting angry when my sister and I jumped in the piles.

Our parents both had their skills, but for adventures you wanted Dad.  He was the parent, who chaperoned our field trips.  I remember him driving us around to go caroling.  He was the one who took us fishing.

One of the strongest memories I have of him is on the day of my wedding. He was tall (at least taller than me), handsome, and strong.  When I think of him now, it is the way I see him.  He taught me so many lessons without words.  How to be kind, how to be persistent, and how to be caring.  He was a wonderful Dad!

Happy, happy, happy day to all fathers everywhere.

A Is for “All Aboard!” An Alphabet Book for Autism Awareness Month

  • Kavan, Stefan and Barbara. Illustrated by Michaelin Otis. Trainman: Gaining Acceptance…and Friends…through Special Interests.  Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing, 2011.
  • Kluth, Paula and Victoria Kluth. Illustrated by Brad Littlejohn. A Is for “All Aboard!” Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2010.

I wanted to share these two books in recognition of Autism Awareness month.  About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)¹. Autism is diagnosed on a triad of issues: Social Skills, Communication, and Unusual Interest and Behaviors². These two books give perspective on the unusual interest and behaviors legs of this disorders.  Sometimes these unusual interests can keep children with autism apart from other children, who don’t share them.

Trainman is Stefan’s story.  He is a boy with autism. His interests are maps, roads, and trains!  His mom and his teacher both worry about him.  He sits alone at lunch, partly because the cafeteria is too noisy and partly because his interests aren’t shared by the other children. One of the goals on his individualized education plan (IEP) is self-advocacy.  To address this goal, his mother suggests that he might like to make a presentation to his teacher and classmates about his autism and his special interests.  He agrees.  Stefan is good at PowerPoint. Armed with information from his mother, he creates a presentation for his class.  He shows this to all his peers, his teacher, and his principal.  This presentation helps them understand that Stefan is much like them.  They are impressed with his knowledge of trains.  This disclosure helps Stefan with his classmates, teacher, and even the principal (who Stefan only sees when he is in trouble). The children in his class have much more patience, when he talks about trains or roads.  Stefan, also tries to remember to ask them about their special interests.

Stefan and his mom wrote this book for other students with autism.  It is her hope that this book will encourage classroom discussions around relationships.  All children, including those with autism, need acceptance and understanding from peers.  They all need friends.

Kari Dunn Buron, a noted autism education specialist, has contributed ideas for using this book as a teaching tool. She also contributed information on special interests and students with ASD in the back of the book.

The second book I offer is a delightful alphabet book written by Paula Kluth and her sister, Victoria Kluth.  Paula is also a noted specialist on autism, literacy, and inclusive education.  When she was researching for her book on literacy and autism, she discovered that there were no train ABC books. Paula drafted her sister, Victoria, to help her write this alphabet. From “A Is for All Aboard” to “Z Is for Zephyr,” all the letters have a special significance to train lovers including these two authors.  Their father worked on the railroad and they spent some quality time in the railyard.

When I was reading this book, I thought about my own Grandpa worked on the railroad.  I wonder how he would have liked this book.  He never talked much about his work and I was too young to collect his thoughts.

Paula and Victoria created an alphabet book for any train enthusiast. Like Trainman, this book can also be used as a teaching tool.  Paula has included a section on using alphabet books to teach.

Here are some great autism resources.

¹CDC Autism Spectrum Disorder: Statistics and Data – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
²CDC Autism Spectrum Disorders: Signs and Symptoms – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html

Lost Teeth: Two Books to Share

  • Bate, Lucy. Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth. Diane deGroat, Illustrator. New York: Scholastic, 1975.
  • Brown, Marc.  Arthur’s Tooth. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985.

In case you haven’t noticed, the months of January and February have been brought to you by the letters A and B.  When I was browsing my shelves, I found these two books on the same subject by authors whose names begin with the letter B.  The young people in these books are concerned about their loose teeth!

In Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth, she doesn’t want to eat hard food, like carrots and beans.  They are after all too hard for a little rabbit with a loose tooth.  Dessert strawberries would be much better!  Mother Rabbit, as mothers do, has a better idea.  Little Rabbit can have the soft strawberries for dessert and can eat carrots and beans with her teeth that aren’t loose.  All week, Little Rabbit eats hard foods with her other teeth and soft foods with her loose tooth.  Finally, she loses it in Friday’s chocolate ice cream.  Read this book to find out all those unanswered questions you have about what to do with a loose tooth, what the tooth fairy might do with the teeth she collects, and most importantly what was the going rate for teeth in 1975.

I don’t know when I bought Arthur’s Tooth.  I know that Marc Brown was the featured author in my preschool classroom.  In this book, Arthur is the only one in his class that hasn’t lost a tooth.  It is embarrassing and is branding him a “baby” with his other classmates, especially the annoying Francine.  His tooth was loose and no amount of wiggling it was making it come out!  All his friends offer to help.  Buster brings him hard carrots to eat.  Brain invents a special (scary looking) tooth removing machine.  Finally, Binky Barnes offer to knock it out!  Finally, his Mom takes him to the dentist.  Dr. Sozio assures Arthur that nothing is wrong and the tooth will come out.  He admits to Arthur, that he didn’t lose his first tooth until after he was eight.  Read this book to find out when Arthur loses his tooth and who helps him.

The girls and I loved this book.  They worried about not losing their teeth as well.  Each of them lost their first tooth well after all their friends had lost theirs.  It was comforting to them to see someone else who was late losing teeth.  One of them had a particularly stubborn loose tooth.  Please don’t try this at home, but we tied a piece of dental floss to her tiny tooth and the other end to a door.  We slammed the door shut and that tooth came flying out! The girl was happy the tooth was out! The tooth fairy collected her tooth and left a quarter. I think our dentist was horrified when we told her what we did.  She said, “Don’t do that again!!!” Fortunately, all other loose teeth in our house came out in a timely way!

Lucy Bate

I couldn’t find much on this author online.  Here is the little bit I found. Lucy was born on the 19th day of March in 1939.  She is best known for her children’s books.  She was also a playwright.  Here is her website: www.lucybate.com.

Diane de Groat

Growing up in a time before DVDs, video games, or magic markers, Diane started her drawing with crayons and chalk.  Her driveway was her canvas.  She loved to watch the “Wonderful World of Disney”.  I remember that show!  Her favorite place in the classroom was the painting corner.  She also liked to draw Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  She says, “Every time I illustrate a book, I am learning something new.”

Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth was the first picture book she illustrated.  She has illustrated many, many books for many different authors.  She wanted to illustrate her own books so she joined writer’s groups and took writing classes to learn more about this craft.  Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink was the first picture book she wrote and illustrated.

Read more about Diane on her website: www.dianedegroat.com

Marc Brown

He must have a wild and wonderous time in third grade.  Most of his characters are based on the people he knew at that time.  He says that his Arthur stories came from the bedtime stories that he told his son.  He says that children can relate to Arthur, because “he is dealing with the same issues that they’re dealing with in their lives.”¹

He graduated from the Cleveland Art Institute with a degree in painting.  Did he become a celebrated author right away?  No!  He had a series of other jobs before a story, told to his five-year old son about and aardvark who hated his nose, launched the Arthur series.¹

He credits his friend, Fred Rogers for making Arthur a TV program.  He claims that Mr. Rogers set a high standard for how to use television in useful ways for children and families.²

As I was reading about Marc Brown, I found that the first book he ever illustrated was for one of my other favorite authors, Isaac Asimov. I am going to have to find that book, What Makes the Sun Shine! I think this is so cool!  This is definitely a book I need to acquire for my collection.

You can visit these websites to find out more about this author.



Ten, Nine, Eight

ten_nineBang, Molly. Ten, Nine, Eight. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1983.

The day has been long and we are ready for bed.
It is after dinner and after bath.
We are both exhausted from the day’s aftermath.
We need a story before you lay down your head.
Scanning the bookshelf for a story or two,
We spy a book that we think will do.
We hop on the bed and snuggle up close,
This book begins with 10 little toes.
With Molly Bang’s Ten, Nine, Eight,
I don’t have long to wait.
As we  count down from ten to one,
You fall asleep as the day is done.

In 1984, Molly Bang received a Caldecott Honor award for this charming counting book.  When I was browsing my bookshelf for a new book to share, this one leapt into my arms.  I hadn’t read it in some time.  I had forgotten what a lovely book of grace and comfort it is.  It made me remember snuggling up and reading a drowsy child to sleep.

Molly Bang

Ten things to know about Molly Bang

  1. She was born in Princeton, New Jersey and went to public school in Baltimore.
  2. While waiting to get into graduate school to study Far Eastern Studies, she got a job as a translator for a Japanese newspaper. For this job, she traveled the United States. She reported on the Apollo missions and sat in the press box to watch the first landing mission to the moon take off.
  3. She has 2 master’s degrees in Far Eastern Studies, one from University of Arizona and one from Harvard. She decided a life of the scholar was not the job for her.
  4. She worked for the Baltimore Sun as a reporter, again another job that was not for her (she was fired).
  5. She always wanted to write and illustrate books.
  6. She started by retelling and illustrating folktales.
  7. She spent time in Bangladesh illustrating documents for UNICEF.
  8. She wrote a book called, Picture This: How Pictures Work, which explains the structural principles that all artists use to make their pictures emotionally powerful. It is used as a text-book in some art programs.
  9. Her concern about American children’s lack of understanding of science, prompted her to team up with Peny Chisholm, Professor of Ecology at MIT, to write a series on how sunlight affects the earth.
  10. She thinks it is very important to read to children. (I do too!!!)

For more information on Molly Bang, you can visit these websites.

Lucy Daniels Center Interviews Series with Molly Bang

December 26: Jolabokaflod and Other Book Matters

bookflood_afterIt is the day after Christmas and there is peace in the house.  We had a delightful holiday.  We enjoyed each other’s company, delighted in each other gifts and ate until we were full (and then some).  We are fortunate to have our family home with us this year.

We enjoyed our Christmas Book Food (Jolabokaflod ) books.  If you saw my last post, you saw the wrapped books waiting for distribution on Christmas Eve.  Here is the stack after we opened them.  I love my daughters!  They put such careful thought into selecting just the right book for each of us. Sarah, with Alexis’ help, chose the books for everyone except herself.  Alexis chose the book for Sarah. I provided the chocolate, but we were too full to eat it.

Jim received Death Wave by Ben Bova. He was delighted with this selection for his reading pleasure.  Ben Bova, a master of science fiction is one of his favorite authors.

Jim’s sister, Mary received a copy of the graphic novel Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. She has a hard time reading, but she loved this novel.  She took it to bed to read.

Alexis likes Neil Gaiman and graphic novels.  Her gift was a graphic version of Gaiman’s Coraline.  It is a beautiful book and Alexis is savoring it.

Sarah wanted a mystery, light and fun.  Alexis made a trip to the book store to discover Leslie Budewitz’s Assault and Pepper (A Spice Shop Mystery). Sarah, must be enjoying this book as she has been reading it nonstop, when she hasn’t been sleeping. I am hoping she will share it with me, when she is finished reading it.

I saved the best for last, my book!  Sarah found me The Complete Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton!  We have been watching the Father Brown Mysteries on our local PBS station.  I remarked how much I liked them and that I had read a few of them in the past.  I am delighted with Father Brown!

I received one more book bonus under the tree this year.  It is a game called Bring Your Own Book, The Game of Borrowed Phrases.  You can find out more about this game on this website: http://www.bringyourownbook.com/.  Here’s what is written on the back of the box.

Your old favorite book is now your new favorite game!  Draw a category card, grab a book and then quickly skim to satisfy the chose prompt (and the judge!) with the most entertaining phrase.  Can you find a “ridiculous tabloid headline” in that latest best-selling novel? How about “dating advice” in your well-worn cookbook? Since you can use any book, you can play with any group and find limitless potential on every page!

It is a wonderful game!  We played two rounds this afternoon.  We played with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Ree Drummond’s Dinnertime, and Ray Bradbury’s The Toynbee Convector.  It was marvelous fun even if I didn’t either of the rounds.