Find the Constellations-2nd Edition

Tween Star Gazing Flyer for event on 2/23/18Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations, 2nd Edition. New York: Sandpiper, 2008.

This past Friday evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Public Library for a stargazing event for tweens.  “What are tweens?” my husband asked, when I described the event we were attending.  Referencing the library poster, I informed him that tweens were children 9-12.  I am so glad that the library is developing activities for this group of children.  I remember when my girls turned this age that there were so library/literacy things for them to do.  They are too old for story time, but too young for some of the events for adults and teenagers.

As advertised this event was to feature stargazing in the library parking lot by the Williamson County Astronomy Club.  My husband is a member.  His connection to the event is how I happened to be at the library on a Friday evening.  Alas, it had been a gloomy day it was an equally gloomy evening, the outside stargazing was scrubbed, but the program was scheduled and so Plan B was used.  The librarians already had the most important items for an evening for tweens, food (Probably a part of their Plan A)!  There were star-shaped rice crispy bars, asteroids (grapes) and flying saucers (pizza).  After food there were crafts.  I particularly liked the one with the rocket ship and straws.  There was also make a kaleidoscope station and make a constellation station using mini-marsh mellows and toothpicks. I wonder, if they found a book in their collection with these activities or if they found them on Pinterest?  All of them looked fun!

Realizing a few days before the event that anything outside would be scrubbed.  The Williamson County Astronomy Club moved to their Plan B. Several amateur astronomers brought their telescopes inside and set them up so the students could take a look at them and ask questions.  The club president provided a very interesting 30-minute presentation on basic astronomy, including: a bit about the different types of telescopes (there were 3 different ones on display), how telescopes work, things you might see with one, and a small bit on light pollution.  Only about 10-15 tweens attended, but all of them paid attention during the presentation part of the evening.  At the end, they had thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask the group of amateur astronomers.  One tween asked about who gets to name constellations, which brought a wonderful answer from the club president, “they were named a long, long time ago”.  This question and its response jogged loose the memory that I had this book in my collection, Finding the Constellations, 2nd Edition.

This book was written by H.A. Rey in 1954 and was updated in 2008.  I found it on a past vacation and wanted it, because H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series, wrote it.  I love his style of illustration.  I was also intrigued by its content.  It is a delightful explanation of the constellations and how to find them.  Here is a bit from the foreword.

Few people can tell one star from another.  Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.

Yet it is not difficult to know them.  Simple shepherds, 5,000 years ago were familiar with the heavens; they knew the stars and constellations – and they could not even read or write – so why don’t you?

Its is good to know the stars, if only to enjoy better the wonderful sight of the starry sky.  But you simply must know them if you are interested in space travel.

I wish I had taken it with me on Friday.  I think it would have been a cool resource to share.  It was written for tweens.  It has plenty of basic astronomy information, but is written in a fun and chatty style.  You can learn about star magnitudes, their names, and where to find them in the constellations we see in our northern hemisphere night sky.  Did you know that there are only 15 stars of the 1st magnitude (brightest) in our northern skies?  If you remember that constellation names came from the distant past, you also might remember that some of them come from ancient myths.  He tells the stories of two of them, Andromeda and Orion.

The book contains some very practical help.  It has sky view charts for winter, summer, spring, and autumn stars.  It has some helpful hints for stargazing outdoors.  Although they aren’t constellations, he doesn’t neglect our solar systems planets.  Some of them are as bright in our night sky as a star.

Alas our skies are not as dark as they were for H.A. Rey, but there are still some wonderful sights to behold.  So find a clear night, drag out your comfy chair, or better yet a blanket, and look up.  You don’t need any fancy equipment to view our heavens.  I end this blog the way Mr. Rey ends his book: Happy stargazing!

Here are some interesting links for you.


Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day

VDayDe Paola, Tomie.  Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1967.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I was looking through my book collection for a book to share on this day and this one leaped off the shelf and into my hands.  This book wanted to be shared so I decided that I would.  Over the years, I have been a room mother for one or the other of my girls elementary classrooms, a preschool teacher, and a library story-time lady.  I expect I purchased this little book as a resource for activities for an evening at home or a party at school.  These were the kind of resources you needed “back in the day” as my stint in all those roles came after 1983 and before the age of Google, DIY, and Pinterest. Here is the perfect book for all your DIY needs from ancient times.

Do you need Valentine Cards?  How about making some?  This book has easy, but detailed instructions on how to make block print cards with Styrofoam and poster paint.  Messy work, but fun to do.  It also included instruction for making an envelope for your cards.

Does you child need a Valentine Mailbag for school? Do they still have Valentine Mailbags at school?  It has been a long time since I have attended a party at an elementary school.  Here are the instructions for making one using a brown paper grocery bag.  Brown paper shopping bags were terrific!  You could make so many  great things from one.  Alas this activity might need modifications as brown paper grocery bags are hard to come by these days.

Do you need to organize a Valentine’s Party?  This book has all you need from food to games. For food there is a recipe for fancy sandwiches and chocolate snowball valentines. I don’t have any food stains on the book so I never made these recipes. With supervision each of these recipes would be easy for a child to construct.

What else do you need for a party?  Why decorations of course!  This author provides some simple decorations that can be made in a snap.  Once your guests arrive, you need games to entertain them.  This is a one stop book, so it includes information on several different games.  I found some construction paper hearts tucked in the back of this book so I have organized the Valentine Relay Race at some point.  It is a rowdy game, sure to tire out some silly players. Here’s what you need and how you play.

You need:

  • Red construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Black crayon
  • A piece of string six times as long as your arm

How to do

  1. Before the part, cut out a heart for each player.
  2. Think of some things to do, such as jump, crawl, hop, skip, and walk backwards.
  3. Take two hearts. Write the same thing to do on each.
  4. Do this for all the hearts. Put the hearts into two piles.

How to play:

  1. Make two teams of players
  2. Put the string on the floor
  3. Line each team up behind it.
  4. Put a pile of hearts across the room from each team.
  5. On “Go”, the first player on each team runs up to a pile and takes a heart.
  6. The players then come back, doing what it says on the hearts.
  7. When the first players get back to their teams, the next players run to the hearts.
  8. The team finished first wins.

Do you need a gift for your Valentine?  The book had an excellent recipe for making “Baker’s Clay.”  You could craft a little something wonderful for your special person.

This little book has everything you need for a wonderful day of activity for young ones or those young at heart.  Interspersed throughout the books are bits of valentine humor.  They are groaners.  I will be kind and share only two.  I hope you have a terrific day with all of your loved ones!

A Valentine’s Joke

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Olive who?
Olive you!

A Valentine Tongue Twister

Lila’s love laughs loudly!

Last Stop on Market Street

LastStopDe La Peña, Matt.  Last Stop on Market Street. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Many of the children’s books I featured in my blog are older books. I write about them, because I have wonderful memories associated with them.  When I pick up a book, I remember the first time I read it either to one of my daughters or to a group of children.  I have been lucky to have read many fine books over time.  I am delighted to add this new book to my collection.  Eventually, I will get to read it to special young person.

This is a very new book to me. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Texas Book Festival. I am ever in pursuit of Caldecott and Newberry award winners.  Not only did it win these two awards, but it also won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.  I brought it home and placed it on my shelves for a future blog post.  Just after the first of the year, I bought myself a 2018: Desk Diary Literary Datebook from Barnes and Noble.  It is chock-a-block full of all sorts of literary bits and bobs.  A couple of weeks ago, I was looking it over for interesting facts and I found one about this book.  My diary informed me that on January 11, 2016 Matt De La Peña became the first Hispanic winner of the John Newberry Medal award. It was kismet!  It was a sign! This must be my next book blog.

Wonderful words and praiseworthy pictures come together for a charming story about CJ and his Nana.  I already have something in common with CJ.  He calls his grandmother, Nana and that what I called my grandmother and my girls called theirs. Every week after church, CJ goes with his Nana to help at the soup kitchen, which is near the last bus stop on Market Street.  He is young and restless.  Why do they have to walk to the bus stop in the rain? Why don’t they have a car? He has a few other laments.  For each question, his strong and sunny Nana has a calm and thoughtful answer.  She guides him to ideas and thoughts outside of himself.  A question about why they don’t have a car, brings this reply, “Boy, what do need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” It took me a couple of readings and examination of the illustrations to find the reference to the bus that breathes fire.  It is an illusion to the fire-breathing dragon Christian Robinson has illustrated on the side of CJ and Nana’s bus.

This is a wonderful book about how we see things about us.  CJ, with Nana’s help, learns to hear and see the wonder of the world that surrounds them.  Whether you’ve ever ridden a bus with your Nana or not, this is a wonderful book.  Read it and remember all the times someone who loved you, helped you see the bigger picture.

Santa Calls

SantaCalls1Joyce, William.  Santa Calls. New York: Laura Geringer Book, 1993.

I found this book about 4 or 5 years ago.  It delighted me so much that I had to add it to my Christmas book collection.  This fall when Jim and I went to the Texas Book Festival, I was excited to see that William Joyce was a featured speaker.  In the children’s book tent, there was a display of his books.  I managed to reign in my desire and purchase only a copy of one of his other books for myself and two copies of this book to send to my two young nephews for Christmas. I am hoping that it is a new addition to both of their book libraries and not a repeat of what I sent last year.  I am going to have to start keeping a log of what I send.

Some of you may know that I started this blog as a review of the books we gave one of my nephews for his Mama’s baby shower.  I bought too many books to explain to my niece at her shower how special each and every book in the collection was to us.  I was so excited about all of them, I wrote her soon-to-be born son a book about all the books. That book about my nephew’s little library got me started on this blog.  I try to include updates to that book for each new book that I send.  Here is some of what I sent this year.

Santa Calls is a book written about a boy, who lives in Texas.  Your Grandma and Grandpa and your Uncle Jim and I live in Texas and I know you visit it often.  I love words, so I could not resist a book that opens with an alliteration (ask your Mom about this).  Here’s the first sentence: “Art Atchinson Aimesworth was a very singular boy.” It is a book about boy, who lives in Abilene, Texas and helps his Aunt and Uncle run a Wild West Show and Animal Phantasmagoria.  With these two sentences, I knew Santa Calls was a book that needed to be shared with you.  It is about Art’s Extraordinary Adventure of Christmas 1908.  In this exciting adventure, Art, Spaulding (his friend), and Esther (Art’s little sister) take a trip to the North Pole.  They go because, “Santa Calls.”

This Extraordinary Adventure of Christmas begins just before Christmas.  A mysterious box appears in front of Art’s laboratory.  Did I mention that Art has many talents/hobbies?  He is an inventor, adventurer, and crime fighter. Art and Spaulding systematically and scientifically attempt to open the box.  Their most scientific method?  Poking it with a stick.  A note pops up.  It reads: “Open the box. Assemble the contents. Come NORTH. Yours, S.C.” Art and Spaulding as directed, assemble and modify the contents.  By Christmas Eve, they are ready to head north.  Esther has been watching and helping with the preparations and she asks to go on their quest.  As we learn early in the book Art has one weakness and one flaw.  His weakness is his love of sweets and candy.  His flaw was being mean to Esther.  As you guessed, Art refuses to take her along after all she is too little to come.  She of course, threatens to tell if she doesn’t get to go.  Art’s reply, “You know an Aimesworth never tells.”  Esther knows the truth of this so she watches sadly as they rev the engine to go.  Art, however, is not heartless.  At the last-minute he lets her hop in. “You won’t be sorry,” Esther says.  They lift away on their northern adventure.

What an adventure it is!  They meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, Ali Aku (Captain of the Santarian Guard), Dark Elves (trouble), and their evil Queen (even more trouble).  There are battles, a kidnapping, and an amazing rescue all before Christmas Day!  This book reminds me of so many other wonderful adventure stories like Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, the movie Babes in Toyland, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters.  It is an exciting book to read.  Santa is in the book, but Art, Spaulding, and Esther have the starring roles.

I told my nephews that I loved words and language and this book is filled with wonderful little sayings mostly from Art.  They remind me of old science fiction movies.  I can’t call to mind which movie, but here are a couple of them for you to think about.

  • By the rings of Saturn!
  • To the Pole! (I wanted to add, “and beyond!” It reminded me of Buzz Light Year in Toy Story.)
  • By the moons of Jupiter, this is a swell place.
  • Why in the name of Neptune did you call for us?

The illustrations in the book are soft and warm, but rich with detail.  While they are illustrations, they remind me of sepia photographs.  They set the right mood and enhance the story at every turn of the page.

You are going to need to read the book to find out the answer to these questions.  I predict you will have fun making these discoveries.

  • How does Art’s one weakness and one flaw play into this story?
  • Why were they called? Art imagines it to solve an arctic crime wave. Is it?

Ride along with these young people and have a magic adventure. I hope you enjoy this rollicking Christmas adventure!

Happy Reading!

Owl Moon

Girl and man on snow hillside under an owl moonYolen, Jane. Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr. New York: Scholastic, 1987.

I am over the moon, so to speak, to tell you about Owl Moon.  It seems it is the perfect week to do so.  It was the full moon on Monday that made me remember this book. The moon was large, bright, and lustrous.  This book takes place on a night with a full, bright moon. Here’s how the book opens.

It was late one winter night,
long past my bedtime,
when Pa and I went owling.
There was no wind.
The trees stood still
as giant statues.
And the moon was so bright
the sky seemed to shine.

What else make this a perfect time for this book?  It snowed this evening in central Texas.  If you have friends from central Texas on Facebook, this is probably no surprise to you. Everyone I know in the area has posted a snow picture.  Those of you who live where it is cold and snowy will not be impressed.  I hope you will forgive our giddy pleasure in this skiff of snow.  You will notice this book takes place on a snow covered wintry night.  With a snowy night and a full moon in the same week, I think I was destined to write about this charming book.

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The little girl in this story lives on a farm in a very, snowy part of the country.  She has been waiting oh, so very long to go owling with her Pa. It is late, way past her bedtime, when they head out.  The snow on the fields they pass glistens in the light of the moon.  It is quiet and she can hear sounds from far away as clear as if they were close by.  Have you ever walked on a pristine field of snow with no one around?  It is so quiet and bright.  It crunches as you walk.  If the snow is deep, you have to lift your feet high to walk.  As they walk together their feet crunch in the snow.  It is the only noise they hear.  She knows that if she goes owling with her Pa, she has to be very quiet.  She has to run to keep up with her dad sometimes, but she is still quiet.  They make shadows on the snow, tall and thin, short and round.  They walk to the forest at the edge of the fields.  They stop and Pa gives the call of the Great Horned Owl. They listen and listen, but there is no answer.  She isn’t disappointed as she knows from her brothers that “sometimes there is an owl and sometimes there isn’t.”

As the girl and her pa walk further into the forest, they listen.  There is suppressed excitement and anticipation.  I can almost imagine the little girl bouncing silently up and down as she listens and waits as Pa calls out again. Then they hear it, the faint echo of a returning call.  As they listen the call comes nearer and Pa turns on his big flashlight and catches the owl as it lands on a branch.  Momentarily, they stare at one another, owl to girl and man and back.  Then the owl wings its way back into the forest.  The owling is over and it is time to go home.  She could be loud, she could laugh, but she holds the silence inside as she walks home.  A wise young one, she is.  Here is her final reflection.

When you go owling
you don’t need words
or warm
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies on silent wings
under a shining owl moon.

Jane Yolen is a wonderful storyteller.  She evokes feelings of peace and quiet, just what you need for a night of owling.  When I read it aloud, I almost want to whisper.  I want to keep the serenity I see in the pictures and hear in the words.  I hope you can find this book and add it to your collection.  It would make a restful, reflective read on a wintry, full moon night.

Jane Yolen

Facts about this author.

  1. She wrote her first poem in preschool. Amazingly she still has it.  She recites it to groups of students, “because it was so bad that I tell them that, clearly, they’re writing better poems than that.”¹
  2. She has written over 250 books. They seem to cover many genres and all ages. You can take a look at her website for a full listing:
  3. Owl Moon was the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner.
  4. She won the World Fantasy Award in 1987 for Favorite Folktales from Around the World. In 2009, she was earned their Lifetime Achievement award. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres.²
  5. She’s been an editor, a teacher, a storyteller, a critic, a songwriter for rock groups and folk singers.³

Here are some websites to visit to learn more about this author.


Counting to Christmas

Courting to Christmas Book CoverTafuri, Nancy. Counting to Christmas. Roxbury, CT: Duck Pond Press, 2005.

Yesterday, we brought out the Christmas decorations.  We put up the incredibly tacky, blow-up “Santa Sleigh” Rocket in the front yard. We put up the tree and trimmed it with lights and ornaments.  When the girls were little we might have stretched these maneuvers over several days as a count to Christmas.

One of my greatest pleasures at this time of year is to bring out my collection of Christmas books.  Yesterday, I brought them out.  How I love to look at each and every one.  It makes me remember when I bought some of them and how much fun we had reading them together.  At one time or another, they were a part of our count to Christmas.

This lovely book is a new pleasure for me and an excellent addition to my collection. It is a story of a little girl and her preparations for this holiday.  She is counting to Christmas. I read on the book jacket that the author shared her family’s favorite holiday crafts and activities. I bought this book, because it reminded me of our Advent calendar activities.  These were some of our favorite activities, too! We haven’t counted to Christmas in a number of years, but I still remember how much fund we had.  As we did, the girl in this story makes Christmas cards with paper, paint and glue.  She writes and sends letters to the people important in her life, including Santa.  She mails her cards. We mailed ours, too, but we had a special ritual for the letters to Santa.  We used to write letters and send them to Santa via smoke signals (we burned them in the fireplace).

What count to Christmas doesn’t include baking?  She makes elaborate gingerbread cookies and lovingly decorates them. The author included a recipe here, if you are keen to try your hand at them.  We liked making cookies, too.  Our favorites to bake were, and still are, cowboy cookies, Russian tea cakes, double chocolate bourbon cookies, and giant ginger cookies.  We used to bake cookies and give them to all of the girls’ teachers.  We had a great time in the kitchen together.

The girl in this story makes animal treats for the wild things that live near her home.  We did that too.  We used to string popcorn with cranberries and hang them on the tree in our backyard.  We made the pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed animal feeders.  It was a messy fun project. Her snowy backyard is filled with many animals large and small like mice and birds and deer and bear.  They all come to enjoy her treats.  Here in this part of Texas, we don’t have snow.  Even with no snow, we have enjoyed watching animals come to our backyard.  We have deer and fox and rabbits and roadrunners.

Here is a charming book to add to your Christmas book collection.  The illustrations are soft and warm.  The child is a delight.  It would be a comfy book to snuggle up and read. It might be a good addition to your count to Christmas.

Nancy Tafuri

Nancy Tafuri has the great fortune of doing what she loves, writing and illustrating books for children. Here are her words on this subject. “I feel honored to be creating literature for young children. The early years in a person’s life are so important, I can only hope that my books can contribute in some small way to that growth.”

Here are 8 facts about this author.

  1. She has always liked art. She convinced her Home Economics teacher to allow her to paint a mural instead of making a dress.
  2. She attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
  3. Her first job was as an assistant art director with Simon & Schuster. She went on to open a graphic design studio with her husband Tom.
  4. One of her favorite early books was The Little Engine That Could¹.  She has something in common with out family, we love that book, too!
  5. Her illustrations were not accepted at first. They were considered “too graphic” for children of 5, 6, and 7 in the early 1970’s. ¹
  6. She lives in Connecticut. She writes and illustrates in a converted chicken shed, which over looks a duck pond.
  7. Perhaps her studio over looks the duck pond represented in her Caldecott Honor Book, Have You Seen My Duckling?
  8. She loves nature.  She says that it is always auditioning for her.

For more information on Nancy Tafuri, check out these websites.


A Turkey for Thanksgiving

Book cover with moose, rabbit and turkeyBunting, Eve.  A Turkey for Thanksgiving.  Illustrated by Diane de Groat. New York: Scholastic, 1991.

I was at home this week preparing for the upcoming holiday.  In the mornings, I listened to the newscasts.  I was completely amused by the two early morning news anchors on Monday. There was a filler article on the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon.  Did you know there was an annual Turkey Pardon?  I don’t know, why turkeys need a pardon.  What is their crime, not enough dark meat? At any rate, the male news anchor was pretty disgusted by the whole idea.  He thought that it was a significant waste of resources.  Evidently the two turkeys, in this case Beau and Tye, were put up for a few days at the Willard Hotel to await their pardon.  The other news anchor commented on the turkeys’ names.  The male anchor noted that better names for the turkeys would have been Lunch and Dinner.  At 6 am, I thought this was hysterical (housework and early hours can warp the mind). The pardoned turkeys live out the rest of their days at Gobbler’s Rest at Virginia Tech.   A most peaceful end for each of them.   Soon after this segment, I went to look for a Thanksgiving book for this blog.  I found this one and thought it would be a perfect book to share for the holiday.

In this story, Mr. & Mrs. Moose are preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.  Their friends, Sheep, Rabbit, Porcupine, and Mr. & Mrs. Goat are coming and they are making everything just so for their friends.  They were looking over their decorations and all looked good, especially the paper turkey.   Alas, Mrs. Moose was sad.

Mrs. Moose sighed. “Yes. But I wish we had a real turkey for Thanksgiving. Everyone always has a turkey for Thanksgiving. Everyone but us.”

Mr. Moose nuzzled Mrs. Moose’ head. “Well that won’t do. I will go this minute and find you a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Off he goes to find Mrs. Moose a turkey for Thanksgiving. As he wanders to find one, he enlists the help of all his friends.  They find the turkey in his nest.  The turkey runs away despite Mr. Moose sweetly telling him they want him for Thanksgiving dinner.  Is there a happy ending for Mr. Turkey? Why yes there is!  A chair at the table for Mr. Turkey right next to Mrs. Moose!  He surveys the table of all the good food Mrs. Moose has prepared.

“I hope you find something her to your liking, Mr. Turkey,” Mrs. Moose said.  “I wasn’t sure of your taste.

“You are so kind to worry about my taste,” Turkey said. “I thought you’d be worrying about how I’d taste.”

“Heavens, no!” Mr. Moose smiled his big-toothed smile…. “It’s so nice to have friends around the table at Thanksgiving.”

It was a Happy Thanksgiving for Mr. Turkey.  He was at the table and not on it.  He has new friends for Thanksgiving.

What an amusing take on the turkey and Thanksgiving! Perhaps, Beau and Tye, will meet new turkey friends at Gobbler’s Rest?   They will be at the table and not on it, too!

I liked this charming book.  Eve’s words along with Diane’s lovely watercolor pictures make it a pleasure to read.  I bought it to share with my preschool class.  They loved the story.

Whether a turkey is on your table or at your table (sometimes it can be both), I hope all of you have a lovely Thanksgiving Day.