No Brew For You! Halloweensie Contest


Free clip art image courtesy of Graphics Factory

It’s time for tricks, treats and tiny tales called Halloweensies! This happy holiday hoo-haa is brought to you by the lovely and talented Susanna Leonard Hill, and you are invited to join the fun! All you have to do is follow these simple rules from Susanna’s website:

Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkin, broomstick, and creak.   Your story can be poetry or prose, scary, funny or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people :)  (And yes, I know 100 words is short but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got nearly 80 fantastic entries last year so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. creak, creaky, creaks, creaking, creaked.  No illustration notes please!

All the details are HERE on Susanna’s website where you will also find links to all the fabulous Halloweensie stories.

My entry comes in at 100 words, exactamundo.

No Brew For You

Pumpkin soup!
Sweet and hot!
Come and get it from my pot!

 Witchy hag,
Bent and black,
Stands beside a crooked shack.

 Creeping near
Steaming brew
Fizzes, bubbles, crackles too.

Smells like dirt,
Lumpy, thick.
Stirred with creaky worn broomstick.

 “Take a sip,
Won’t you please?”
“Sorry, no. My allergies!

 I’m vegan,
Gluten, peanut-free,
As tempting as it looks to me.”

 Witchy frowned,
Grabbed a cup.
Glub! Glub! Glub! She drank it up.

There’s smoke, and then
She turns into my Mom again.

 “Wait and see,
This I bet:
I’ll trick you to eat veggies yet!”

Wishing you all a spooktacular Halloween! May your costumes be colorful and your trick-or treat bags filled with chocolate. I’m happy to take any surplus Reese’s Peanut Butter cups off your hands…

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PPBF: Monster Needs A Costume

Monster Needs a Costume
Written by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb
Scarletta Kids Press, $16.95, Ages 3-6
Themes: Making choices, Halloween, dress up

Sept 2014 end 004

As soon as back-to-school shoppers emptied stores of pencils, notebooks and glue sticks, the shelves were replenished with pumpkins, candy corn and costumes. For many parents, this becomes a trying season. Trying to ignore those jumbo bags of candy until Halloween. Trying to allay fears of scary sights and sounds. Trying to be patient as children mull their costume options before the big night!

Opening/synopsis:  A delightfully indecisive oversized beastie tries on a variety of outfits and personas to find the perfect apparel for trick-or-treating.  Told in rollicking rhyme, a boy offers a series of helpful and comical suggestions: “I said to Monster, ‘Do you know what kind you’d want to wear?’ / An astronaut? A fireman? / A giant Bartlett pear?” 

Monster chooses to be a cowboy until he tires of it after one week wearing a 20 gallon hat, bandana and sheriff-starred vest. Next he wants to be a ballerina, but dances in a tiara and pink tutu to the point of exhaustion. “He kept on dancing, day and night, until his feet were sore./ But then he didn’t want to be a dancer anymore.” His third selection, a masked stealthy ninja, also fails to be just right. Will Monster be inspired once again before Halloween night?

Czajak’s story snaps along in brilliant rhyme, incorporating fantastic and unusual vocabulary words. Monster cowboy wants to rope some “desperados” and Monster ballerina spins in “pirouette, plié and tendu.” Monster ninja throws a “shuto and some round kicks” in the air.

Grieb’s Monster is a plump, purple furry fellow with double yellow horns, floppy tail, huge feet and fang-spangled jaws. As Monster imagines himself in various costumes, the images are black and white then burst into full color as he plays out his ideas. The illustrations are well-paced, incorporating large double spreads to show details. The silliest costume choices fill single pages perfect for sharing in a story group setting.

Why I Like This Book: This clever story is mild enough for youngsters timid about trick-or-treating, and funny enough to entertain older kids struggling to find the perfect original costume idea. The satisfying ending is a brilliant mash-up celebrating creativity and individuality.  Monster Needs a Costume is definitely a delicious Halloween treat!


  • Watch the funny book trailer
  • Download Monster coloring pages
  • This is a stretch – but since Monster contemplates dressing up as a Bartlett, make these adorable Halloween pear ghosts from The Pear Dish!


Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, October 2014. Read your issue online here.

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PPBF: When Elephant met Giraffe by Paul Gude

When Elephant Met Giraffe
Written and illustrated by Paul Gude
Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, Ages 3-5
Theme: friendship

2014 September 010

For children, September is about back to school, settling into routines, and making new friends.  But how do you become friends with someone who is very different from you?  Paul Gude’s new book When Elephant Met Giraffe is a funny, upbeat collection of simple short stories that will entertain young readers while helping to answer that question.

Opening/synopsis:  Early in the morning Elephant bounces out of bed, eager to get to the water hole with her puffy pink polka-dotted floaty.  At the water hole she meets Giraffe, who doesn’t say hello or answer any of Elephant’s many, many questions.  In fact, Giraffe says nothing at all.  Elephant leaves in a huff, but then spends some time reading about giraffes.  What she learns leads her back to the water hole and paves the way to a wonderful new friendship.

Gude’s digital illustrations are cheerful and bright, thickly outlined in black with minimal detail. Clear blue sky, rolling green hills and pale tan sand provide a simple static backdrop that draws attention to the expressions on the animal’s faces.  Did you look carefully at the cover and see “Elephant” in thick blocky gray letters while “Giraffe” is written in narrow yellow and brown spotted text?  Clever!

After the two new pals paddle in the water hole, their second story is about making pretzels, and a big mess, while cooperating.  The third chapter (The Bossy Pirate) is a delightful tale of finding ways to compromise during an imaginative round of dress-up.  Each story, though brief, is humorous and well-paced while the lessons are understated and subtle.  The text is simple enough to work as an early reader for older kids as well as a funny storybook for the preschool set.

Why I Like This Book: Elephant and Giraffe are appealing and relatable in their child-like enthusiasm and sense of adventure, yet they are distinctly different characters.  Elephant is consistently bubbly and upbeat, throwing herself wholeheartedly into every activity.  Giraffe plays counterpoint as a reserved, gentle soul who will particularly appeal to shy or introverted readers.  Together, they are a dynamite duo!


  • Find out if giraffes really can make sounds by watching this video from the Myth Crew!
  • Compare the buddies in this book to Mo Willem’s popular Elephant and Piggie series.
  • Check out nonfiction books to read more about the differences between elephants and giraffes!

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, September 2014. Read your issue online here.

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August Picture Book 10 for 10: The 2014 Edition

pb 10 for 10Could you choose ten – only ten – favorite picture books? I took up that challenge as part of the fifth annual August Picture Book 10 for 10 blog event hosted by Cathy at Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning. This year, as in 2013, I truly struggled to reduce my list to a top ten. These are the special books that I am giving as gifts, recommending to parents and teachers, and moving face out on library and bookstore shelves:


Gaston Written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson
Whether tough or tender, precious or brutish, readers will fall head over heels for the ooo la la charm of Gaston.  Zippy text and freshly retro illustrations guarantee read-it-again giggles in this delightful tale about families, belonging, and being true to oneself.


Mr. Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich
Oh how poor Mr. Bud suffers, forced to wear The Cone while a hot spot heals. Pesky Zorro is not sympathetic, despite his costumed humiliation in Zorro Gets an Outfit. I love this wacky dog pair, first introduced in Say Hello to Zorro! A canine Elephant and Piggie.


The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino
Because this adorable spindly-legged crocodile doesn’t like water, he plays alone while his snaggle-toothed siblings cavort. When Croc goes kersplosh and gets a snoutful of water, the reason for his struggle is ultimately revealed. Gush-worth illustrations galore.


Tea Party Rules Written by Ame Dyckmen and illustrated by K.G. Campbell
I love how the sly, sweet expressions on this cub’s face pair perfectly with Ame’s funny, well-paced text. Oh the anticipation of discovery! And there are cookies!


Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Hysterically funny for parents and kids alike, goat glumly compares himself to unicorn’s sparkly awesomeness. But wait…is that a goat cheese pizza? Our copy of this book is nearly worn-out from re-reading and quoting favorite lines.


Dare The Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud
Written by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
This picture book biography features an inspiring naval pioneer who “had always felt the sea tug at her heart, strong as a full-moon tide.”  You can almost feel the spray of salt water on your face, and hear the weighty snap of thick canvas sails overhead.


The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Lovely life story of Kate Sessions, an accomplished arborist/scientist/gardener who followed her childhood passion and transformed a barren landscape into a lush public park. Well illustrated and clearly written, a nice “turf” to pair with Dare The Wind’s “surf”!


I Hatched! by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Jen Corace
An energetic, enthusiastic killdeer chick with an irrepressible zest for life zips through this rhyming narrative nonfiction treasure. Surprises abound for the reader and the chick as he discovers his new world and his new body. A delight and full of fun.


Sparky! Written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Soon after Mom agrees that our nameless narrator may have a pet, Sparky! arrives by Express Mail. This charming tale, filled with slow sweetness and quirky humor, is appealing and fun. Don’t speed past this story without savoring its silly delights.


Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton
“Huzzah!” cries Mo, when he receives a big, black, beautiful mustache in the mail. As soon as he dons his snazzy new lip accoutrement, wacky trouble ensues. Now all the adorable monsters want their own mustache!

It’s not too late to join the fun at August Picture Book 10 for 10.  Check the links for participating bloggers, or look on Twitter for posts under #pb10for10.  What favorites would you put on your top ten?

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The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water (PPBF)


The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
Written and illustrated by: Gemma Merino
NorthSouth Books, 2014

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: crocodiles, swimming, siblings

Opening: “Once upon a time, there was a little crocodile. And this little crocodile didn’t like water. He longed to play with his brothers and sisters. But they were far too busy with swim club. And this little crocodile didn’t like swim club.”


Brief Synopsis: Even though he doesn’t like water, little crocodile does like climbing trees. But no one else does, so he gets lonely. Croc finally summons his courage and dives in with the aid of a swim ring, but still can’t play ball or swim underwater. An ultimate kersplosh and a snoutful of water helps Croc discover why he had struggled all along.

Why I Like It: O.M.G. this book! The incredible range of expressions on the simplest of snaggly toothed little faces. The rich textures of waves, water and croc skin within a muted, perfect color palette. The way the text is carefully placed on the pages, perfectly underscoring the action. The super creative and adorable personalities of each spindly-limbed croc. The synchronized swimming! Little red slippers and rainboots! The endpages! I’ve far exceeded my allotment of exclamation marks, but suffice it to say that I ooh’ed and ahh’ed, giggled, squealed and sighed. Any book so short, sweet and uplifting with a funny twist ending and every imaginable read-it-again quality definitely belongs on the Perfect Picture Book list.

This is  a debut picture book from Gemma Merino, an author-illustrator born in Spain and living in London. TCWDLW  has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch, Korean, Swedish, Finnish and Spanish, and has won the Macmillan Picture Book Prize 2011, the Bishops Stortford Picture Book Award 2014, and Coventry Inspiration Book award 2014.

Links to Resources:

Go swimming! (siblings optional)

Make a cheeky paper crocodile.

Or make one from bubble wrap!

Run, don’t walk to your bookstore and/or library to get your hands on this marvelous story. Enjoy your summer while Perfect Picture Book Friday goes on hiatus! And find many more wonderful reads at the 101st edition of  Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

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The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans (PPBF)


The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans
Written by: Barbara Elizabeth Walsh
Illustrated by: Layne Johnson
Calkins Creek Books, 2012

Suitable For Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: Memorial Day, veterans, poppies, Flanders Fields

Opening: “March 1917. German U-boats had sunk another American ship – and the nation was outraged! Would the president call for war? Would Congress agree? Moina Belle Michael prayed not…”

Watch the Book Trailer

Brief Synopsis: An earnest tribute to the dedication of Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia who was inspired by a poem to launch a national campaign establishing the red poppy as the symbol of sacrifice and courage of America’s soldiers.

While searching through her father’s WWII memorabilia, ten year old Barbara Elizabeth Walsh found a postcard addressed to her mother with a red poppy pinned to one corner. Her father explained who “The Poppy Lady” was and how kind she had been to him and his soldier buddies during the war. Decades later, Barbara was inspired to research Moira’s story and write this beautiful, moving book for children. Layne Johnson’s light-bathed illustrations are soft and luminous.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Links To Resources:

Make red paper poppies

Read the poem In Flanders Fields

Monday, May 26, 2014 is Memorial Day in the United States.
Participate in a parade, visit a cemetery, and thank a veteran.

Why I Like This Book:

It’s an multi-award nominee!
Bank Street College of Education for Best Books (2013), TriState Young Adult Book Review Committee for Books of Note (2013), Eureka! Silver Award (California Reading Association (2013).

A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefits children of the U.S. military.

As a child, I loved buying and wearing red poppies on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. It was as much a part of our family tradition as attending the town parade and planting geraniums at the cemetery. Sadly, it has become far less common to find poppies being sold, and I have often resorted to asking local friends on Facebook to let me know where I can buy them! I am grateful for Barbara’s lovely book telling Moina’s story and ensuring that the red poppy tribute will endure.

For a complete list of great books with resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. Happy Memorial Day!

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: FEATHERS Not Just for Flying

feathers cover

Feathers: Not Just for Flying

By Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Charlesbridge Books, 2014
Suitable for: Ages 6-9
Themes/Topics: feather types, bird behaviors

Opening: “Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky. All birds have feathers, but no other animals do. Most birds have thousands of feathers, but those feathers aren’t all the same. That’s because feathers have so many different jobs to do.”


Image courtesy of Charlesbridge Books

Brief Synopsis: Part scrapbook and part science journal, this is a colorful and intriguing exploration of all the ways birds can use their feathers. Elegantly rendered watercolor illustrations depict how sixteen species from across the world use their feathers in both typical and unexpected ways.

Why I Like This Book: Kids will love learning about the extremely unusual things some birds do with their feathers. For example, the male sandgrouse in the Gobi Desert soaks his absorbent belly feathers in a watering hole, then flies to the nest where his chicks suck the feathers to quench their thirst. I also liked the club-winged manakin from Ecuador that shakes his specially-ridged feathers to attract females with a high pitched whistling trill.

FEATHERS is a treat for the eyes as well as the mind! Laid out like a birder’s notebook, each spread features highly detailed images of the feathers in actual size as well as a portrait of the bird and its habitat. Scrapbook-style tidbits like stickers, drink umbrellas, and postage stamps serve to reinforce unique functions of the feathers, such as shading, digging or carrying.

The book concludes with a helpful author’s note on research, a detailed spread on feather types (filoplume, anyone?) and a reminder that it is prohibited to collect feathers from native wild birds without a specific permit or license.

Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly (December 16, 2013)

Links to Resources:

Can you imagine racing across the ocean faster than a bird can fly? Check out my review of DARE THE WIND: The Record Breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern at Good Reads with Ronna.


For a complete list of great picture books with helpful teaching resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. 


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