Monday, December 16, 2013

More Christmas Fun at The Castle Library

Good Day Dear Readers:
Two more weeks until Christmas is upon us. Oh what fun! I've found a few more places with fun ideas to engage your children in this festive season.

The Queen
(Who is all bundled up with her royal feet warming by a fire)

Here are more Christmas books...

Check out for more holiday fun!

15 Nativity Picture Books for 0-5yrs from Sun Hats and Wellie Boots.



Cute Gift Ideas:


10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids over at 

Growing Book by Book. 


  And A Book:

Are You In a Holiday Play? This Might Be Fun!
"Emily Cat is getting ready for her big role in the town play! Her whole family is
even going to watch. Read along to find out if Emily will strike it big, or the
curtains will come down around her!"

 Find Emily Cat's Tale over at MeeGenius


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Reading Fun!

Good Day Dear Readers!
The Queen here wishing you a joyous season and Merry Christmas to all.

I have so many books stacked on my desk I wish to share with you, but with the upcoming holidays, I know you're interested in what's out there right now. So, instead of making my piles higher, I've sent out my knights and dragons in search of holiday reading and as they return with news, I will share links to places you can go to find books to help you celebrate this festive season.

Today, I've found one particular place that has a list of books just released this season.
 @Imagination Soup

At Imagination Soup, you'll find information about these books and even more.

Mother Reader has updated her 150 Ways to Give a Book for the Holidays. If you would like to find fun-filled ways to give your youngster the gift that keeps on giving: Yes, that would be a BOOK, then take a peek at her extensive and creative list.

Okay, now for something fun to do with the younger children. When I was little, we loved to make holiday decorations for our tree. These decorations lasted a long time and when I grew up to be Queen of the Castle Library, I was still putting some of our creations on my own tree. So, here are a couple of sites that offer ideas for simple ornaments children can make and hang on your tree.

Candy Canes- Easy and quick and little mess!

For older children, and using some of the same materials as the candy canes... Try Foil Christmas Angels

Check back again as we find more great finds for your holiday enjoyment.
Happy Reading!
The Queen

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dirkus' Story Debut- Jingle Bells Anthology is Here!

Hello Good Readers.
Nope, not the Queenie here. It's me Dirkus! 
Oh boy, oh boy, have I gots some exciting news. Some awesome-wasom news!!

Our own castle scribe, Jackie Castle, has written up one of my fabuloso stories and it's been published in an anthology. What's an anthology, you ask? Well, that's when a whole BUNCHES of scribes- some people call them authors- get together and put all their stories together into a big book.

Mrs Castle, renown scribe here at the Castle Library, has two enchanting tales in this Christmas anthology called, Jingle Bells: Tales of the Holiday Spirit from Around the World. And oh boy, some stories come from writers who live in the USA, some are from Australia, and others from the UK. Yep, they really do come from all over.

Not only that, but I must say, Mrs. Castle has drawn up a splendid picture of me that goes along with my story. Oh, and I'm supposed to also tell you she also write a story about Jack Frost. But who cares? I'm the star! And I think my story comes first. So there!

Oh, and another thing, Wiz Lexiconi says I better mention that he is also in the story. Even though the story is about ME. Not him.  I'm also supposed to say that Wiz Lex says he taught Mrs. Castle everything she knows.


Here's the important part I'm supposed to tell everyone. You can get your own copy of my... er, I mean, the anthology which is full of other stories which I'm sure are just as great as mine is.

Wiz Lexiconi says I need to stop bragging or the Queen wont let me chase the knights around the courtyard anymore. So, okay, I'll only say that you need to get this book. Not just because of my Christmas story, (Which is great by the way) but because all of the stories are really good and are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. Not only do you get stories but there's all kinds of drawings there, too. Mrs Castle says she will put the drawing she did of me here in this post. So if you want to, right click, save the picture and print it up to color after you've read my amazing, awesome-wasom story.

I'm gonna be sooooo famous. I told my big brother Rankus I'd be sure not to forget the little people like him. Ha... whatever.

Book Information:
Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit From Around the World
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Date: (November 21, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1493739400

For a limited time, you can get the kindle version for .99 cents. 

Stories and drawings from:
Authored by Rebecca Fyfe, Emily Morgan, C S Frye, Ashley Howland, Theresa Nielsen, Kelly McDonald, Robert Fyfe, Jo Hart, Melanie E. Lancaster, Nicole Zoltack, Angelica Fyfe, Alayne Kay Christian, Deirdre Sheridan Englehart, Beth Avery, Cecilia Clark, Marissa Ames, Abbi Knight, Jackie Castle, Nancy Churnin, Kelly Vavala & Dani Duck 

Proceeds from this anthology and Teapot Tales go toward funding the Chapter Book Challenge coordinated by Becky Fyfe 

If you like these Christmas tales, you might also want to check out another anthology from this same group titled: Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unique Fairy Tales

Book Information:
Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unique Fairy Tales
Paperback: 102 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Date: (September 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1492145173
ISBN-13: 978-1492145172

Although I'm not in this book, it's still a full of fantastical tales the both children and adults will enjoy. Two of which our favorite Castle Scribe has written.
Why, the Queen often reads them to us during her story times. You can, too!

Oh, and if you want to see more of our castle scribe's stories, check out Jackie's Scribbles site or The White Road Chronicles for a sampling of Mrs. Castle's other books. 

And here's the best part that I promised you... a picture of ME. Get your own Dirkus's Dumb Christmas coloring page right here. Enjoy. And go get my... er the Christmas stories book!!!

Happy Holidays!
(With the Queens help. She won't stop shaking her head and rolling her eyes. I don't know why.)

right click and save, then print for coloring fun

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Little Stinker by Stephen Sanzo

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here this beautiful fall day with a new story by Stephen Sanzo titled Little Stinker.  You'll love the bright, retro illustrations along with a very real-life problem of dealing with younger siblings. They can be a real drag, can't they? Find out how one big brother deals with his pesky sister in this easy to read picture book.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Author: Stephen Sanzo
Illustrator: Mark Mullaney

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Cranky Pants Publishing (November 1, 2013)
Reading level: 4 and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Children's Picture book
ISBN: 978-0975962718

Book Theme:
Sibling rivalry, big brothers and little sisters, being lost, love of shoes, patience, love

Book Summary
Cranky Pants is back--but much to his chagrin, his joyfully rambunctious little sister is along for the ride. "The Little Stinker never gets in trouble . . . has mushy oatmeal hands, sticky grape jelly hair, a runny nose, and smelly feet." When she goes missing in a department store, her big brother realizes that life without her just wouldn't be the same. Can he save the day? Little Stinker welcomes back the lovable, albeit cranky, protagonist from Cranky Pants and celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters. Adults and children alike will delight in exploring the book's vibrant, retro-inspired illustrations featuring 1970s icons like Holly Hobbie, GI Joe, and LiteBrite. Little Stinker is sure to become a bedtime-or-anytime favorite.

Activity Adventures:

Crafty Ideas:

Go to the Classroom Freebie site to print this

Story Elements Puzzle!

 First, fill out the questions according to the book Little Stinker.
Color the pieces, then cut out. See if you can put the story back together.

 Writing Prompts:
If you have siblings, make a book about them.Include a drawing, a fact page about sibling, then make a page about things you like and things you don't like. On the front, draw a picture of you and your sibling.

Discussion Questions:
There will always be good and bad things about the people in our lives, including parents, family, friends, teachers. We learn to overlook the bad and focus on the good, just as brother did when his sister was lost. He began remembering why she was important in his life, and how important he was to her. Talk about ways you can overlook the irritating things and love a sibling anyway.

Authors Arena

Author: Stephen Sanzo

When he is not writing children's books, Stephen Sanzo spends his days as the Chief Operating Officer at Isovera, a software/web development firm in Waltham, MA. His first book, Cranky Pants was a finalist for the USA Book News award and received praise from the Houston Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, and the Copley News Syndicate. Stephen currently lives in Arlington, MA with his wife and two girls. He has B.A. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and is a member of the MBA program at Babson College.

Illustrator: Mark Mullaney
 Mark Mullaney is a talented freelance illustrator/animator who works with many kid-focused clients in the Boston area. This includes directing and lead animation functions for the Emmy-nominated (Boston) Drawing with Mark series.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Luminosity by Jackie Castle

  Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with a special book feature. Our own scribe in residence, Jackie Castle has written the second book in The White Road Chronicle series titled, Luminosity.  If you read and enjoyed Illuminated, then you'll want to pick up the next book in this series to see what happens next.

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Book Information:

Publisher and date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (September 24, 2013)
Reading level: 12 and up
Book Info: Paperback: 328 pages
Genre: Teen fantasy
ISBN: 978-1492818557
Author has enabled Amazon book match. Purchase a print book and get the e-book for free.

Book Theme:
Strong friendships endure time and distance, Finding your strengths and talents, facing your fears and running your race.

Book Summary
Alburnium is at war.
Eighteen-year-old Alyra’s joy of being reunited with her family fades when Prince Issah sends her beloved friends away on various quests across the kingdom. Allies must be gathered to stand against the dark ruler, Lord Darnel. The reclusive dragons happen to be necessary allies. Alyra’s friendship with the young drake, Crystal, offers a slim hope of being heard by them instead of being burned.

Alyra must travel to Drakensburg with her resentful brother, Ethan, a Messenger, who doesn’t trust her, a prankster Okbold intent on honoring his debt to her, and a unseen Guardian Instructor, who must teach her how to use the Illuminate’s gift before they reach the dragons' hold. Ethan has the words to persuade the dragons. Alyra carries the red fruit of the white tree to present as a peace offering. Until she finds Tarek, beaten and near death.

She must choose between using the fruit to save the man she loves, or the kingdom she serves.

As usual, I rarely offer activities for teen books, however, I will include a few discussion questions and if you have a reluctant reader in your life, check out the suggestions provided by RIF's parent's handbook on how to encourage readers, for ideas.

Discussion Questions:
1. Alyra now knows she has the gift of being an Illuminate. But knowing what you can do, and learning how to do it, are two different things. Discuss ways she learned to use her light gift in the book.

2. Now think about your own abilities. What are you good at? What do you think your giftings are? Not sure? Read the article: Being the Piece You're Meant to Be and then take one or both of the tests provided to see where your strengths are.

3. What are some practical ways you can learn you better your strengths?

4. Why do you think the author chose to use centaurs in her story? What do they represent to you?

5. Each of the characters faced obstacles in their quest. Do you find yourself facing problems when you want to accomplish something? Is there anything in the story that might encourage you to keep going?

6. Alyra's relationship with her instructor, Riyah, was troublesome most of the time. Why do you think Alyra saw Riyah the way she did? What happened to her when things started to change? Why do you think that was?

7. Are there things hindering you from seeing those put in your life who are meant to help you? What barriers do you think there are and how can you overcome them?

8. Do you hope Stitch will grow a beard as much as he does? Why do you think that's so important to him?

9. Why do you think being promoted is so important to Jerin? Do you think it will really make a difference in who he is? What are your thoughts about gaining status to help you feel more important, or worthwhile? Is that a truth or a lie?

10. What themes stood out in this story that spoke to you? Why do you think that was?

Get your journal and write down your thoughts about these questions, or discuss with others who've also read the story.

For parents of teens:

Ways to encourage teens to read...
  • Set an example. Let teens see you reading for pleasure.
  • Furnish your home with a variety of reading materials. Leave books, magazines, and newspapers around. Check to see what disappears for a clue to what interests your teenager.
  • Give teens an opportunity to choose their own books. When you and your teen are out together, browse in a bookstore or library. Go your separate ways and make your own selections. A bookstore gift certificate is a nice way of saying, "You choose."
  • Build on your teen's interests. Look for books and articles that feature their favorite sports teams, rock stars, hobbies, or television shows. Give a gift subscription to a special interest magazine.
  • View pleasure reading as a value in itself. Almost anything your youngsters read—including the Sunday comics—helps build reading skills.
  • Read some books written for teens. Young adult novels can give you valuable insights into the concerns and pressures felt by teenagers. You may find that these books provide a neutral ground on which to talk about sensitive subjects.
  • Make reading aloud a natural part of family life. Share an article you clipped from the paper, a poem, a letter, or a random page from an encyclopedia—without turning it into a lesson.
  • Acknowledge your teen's mature interests. Look for ways to acknowledge the emerging adult in your teens by suggesting some adult reading you think they can handle.
  • Keep the big picture in mind. For all sorts of reasons, some teenagers go through periods without showing much interest in reading. Don't panic! Time, and a few tips from this article, may help rekindle their interest.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Good Day Dear Readers,
The Queen here with a chapter book for older readers titled, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I adored this based on a true story fictional tale about a Gorilla who wanted to make a difference. This is a story adults will want to read with their children. After, take the book a step farther by checking out the links below and learning the true story behind Applegate's tale. There really was a silverback gorilla names Ivan, who really was part of a circus mall side show, and who really did paint pictures.

The tale of Ivan is beautifully done with a simple text and lovely drawings. However, there is nothing simple about the reality of what happened to Ivan, and other animals as well.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Author: Katherine Applegate

Book Information:

Publisher and date: HarperCollins; 1 edition (January 17, 2012)
Reading level: 8 - 12 years
Book Info: Hardcover: 320 pages
Genre: Fiction chapter book
ISBN: 978-0061992254 

Book Theme:
Friendships, helping, animal protection, zoos, circus, animal cruelty, promises, art

Book Summary
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Activity Adventures:

From the Author

When I started to write about the grim facts of the real Ivan's solitary existence, a new tale slowly began to take shape.  At least on the page, where anything is possible, I wanted to give Ivan (even while captive behind the walls of his tiny cage) a voice of his own and a story to tell.
For more about the book, visit

Research: Find out more about the real Ivan
Remembering Ivan Foundation on Facebook: See some of Ivan's real artwork.

Crafty Ideas:
All About Gorillas at Enchanted Learning: Find coloring pictures, diagrams, and information about these big wonderful creatures.

Writing Prompts:
Have you been to a zoo lately? Maybe pick a day in the near future to make a visit. Take a sketch book with you and draw what you see.

Pick your favorite animal and imagine what a day in the zoo might be like. Really put yourself in their paws, hooves or whatever. People come to watch you. Some seem to admire you, but there might be a few who taunt you, throw things into your domain. What about the people who care for you? How would you wish to be treated if you were that animal? Would you dream of someday returning home? Or would you be happy in your zoo home? Think about these things, then write a story about your conclusions.

Discussion Questions:
On what Katherine Applegate would like young readers to take away from the book
"I think we have a real obligation when we do have animals in captivity to understand their needs and to care for them as well as we can. Stella the elephant in Ivan says, 'You know humans surprise you sometimes,' and I hope that the next generation can surprise us all."

Talk about animals you've seen in captivity, such as Zoo's, circus's, even petting zoos. What obligations do we have to them?

Our cities are filled with urban wildlife. Do we have an obligation to them as well?

What about the pets you own? What obligations do you have in understanding and caring for them?

Authors Arena

Katherine Applegate's many books include the Roscoe Riley Rules chapter book series, a picture book entitled The Buffalo Storm, and the award-winning novel, Home of the Brave. With her husband, Michael Grant, she wrote the hugely popular series Animorphs, which has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the "Shopping Mall Gorilla." The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry. He was a beloved celebrity at the zoo, which houses the nation's largest collection of western lowland gorillas, and was well known for his paintings, which he "signed" with a thumb-print.

Katherine lives in California with her husband and two children.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Young Chicken Farmers by Vickie Black

Good day dear Readers-
The Queen here with a fascinating non-fiction book for young farmers. Young Chicken Farmers, to be exact.  Vickie Black breaks down how to raise chickens so that children can understand. The book if full of wonderful pictures and easy to read details on what's required in caring for fowl. 

Since this isn't a book for pure enjoyment, or basic learning, I have no crafty ideas to share this week. Use this book if you want to teach your children about farming. The best way to learn is to let them do it. To enhance the experience, encourage them to keep a Chicken Journal of their discoveries each day while raising their own chicken.
Book Title: Young Chicken Farmers

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Beaver's Pond Press (November 1, 2012)
Reading level:
Book Info:Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Non-fiction picture book
ISBN-13: 978-159298555

Book Theme:
Raising chickens, how to care for fowl, types of fowl, aimed for young farmers.

Book Summary
Young Chicken Farmers: Tips for Kids Raising Backyard Chickens focuses on basic aspects of care from the time baby chicks arrive until hens start laying eggs.  The book has color photographs on every page of kids interacting with their pet chickens, and is best suited for children ages three to eight years old.

Activity Adventures:
Resources from Author's blog:
My favorite website is They can ship as few as 3 chicks at a time. You’ll find all kinds of chicken supplies and an AWESOME variety of HELP topics.
Another great website is Lots of fun stories and photos from other chicken lovers.

If possible, try raising a few chickens. Fresh eggs are wonderful and the experience children will get from learning to care for another creature can be life changing, while teaching them responsibility, compassion, and patience.

Authors Arena

Vickie Black is a wife, mother, and proud backyard chicken farmer. A resident of MN, she has a bachelor’s of science, a master’s of education, and works as a marketing consultant. The family got their inspiration for raising chickens while visiting a local pumpkin patch that had a small flock. Her husband Jason built their coop in the garage over the winter, with the help of their two boys, Brady and Hudson. The family loves the entertainment and fresh eggs that the chickens provide.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kinta and the Big Wave by

Good Day Dear Readers-
Love this book for two reasons. First, it's based on a true story. And I love that. Second, I remember reading in the news about this happening and think this book will be a great read when discussing weather disasters or waves/ocean themes. The pictures are well done, and show most of the story. 

I really couldn't come up with unique ideas on activities to go with this. But as I said, Kenta and the Big Wave by Ruth Ohi would make a great companion book to a themed earth science lesson. 

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Kenta and the Big Wave
Author and Illustrator: Ruth Ohi

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Annick Press (July 30, 2013)
Reading level: 4 - 7 years
Book Info: Paperback: 32 pages
Genre: Based on true events picture book
ISBN-13: 978-1554515769

Book Theme:
Tsunami, Japan, survival, natural disasters, helping others, family

Book Summary
The tsunami has swept everything away--including Kenta's most prized possession.

When tragedy strikes Kenta's small village in Japan, he does all he can to hang on to the things that matter to him most.  But amidst the chaos of an emergency evacuation brought on by the tsunami, Kenta and his family must quickly leave their home. 

Climbing to safer ground, Kenta watches as his prized soccer ball gets swept away by the waves, never to be seen again...that is, until it washes up on a beach on the other side of the world, into the hands of a child who takes it upon himself to return the ball to its rightful owner.

Activity Adventures:

This would be a great book to start off a lesson on waves, storms, ocean weather....

Investigative Readers:

Crafty Ideas:
Younger children can make a wave bottle while teacher discussed how waves are formed.

Discussion Questions:
Visit Ruth Ohi's site for more information behind the story.

Authors Arena

Author & Illustrator: from author's website

I am the illustrator of  56 children’s picture books (15 of which I am also the author). I have had the great pleasure of illustrating for authors such as Joy Kogawa, Hazel Hutchins and Sharon Jennings.  I live with my family in Toronto, Canada.   I am a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.
My books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book's “Baker’s Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council's "Great Books", the Ontario Library Association's "Best Bets", and the Toronto Public Library's "First & Best".  They  have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons , Mr. Christie, and Blue Spruce.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Here I Am by Patti Kim

Good Day dear Readers,
Today, I've come across a delightful wordless book titled: Here I Am by Patti Kim. Experience a young boy's journey to a new land, with strange words and a loud, crazy culture to adjust to. Kim really helps a young person understand what it's like to walk in the shoes of a foreigner, along with showing how her story boy overcame his fear and stretched himself to make new friends.

I really found this story enchanting and full of learning possibilities. Think you will too. I included the book trailer because it was well done and helps add to the flavor of the book. I'd recommend viewing both.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Here I Am
Author: Patti Kim                                                                              Illustrator: Sonia Sanchez (Illustrator)

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Capstone (September 1, 2013)
Reading level: ages 5-9
Book Info: Hardcover: 40 pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
ISBN-13: 978-1623700362

Book Theme:
*Wordless picture book that follows a child's "immigration journey" to the United States
*Deals with the emotions of acclimating to a new community and way of life

Book Summary
Newly arrived from their faraway homeland, a boy and his family enter into the lights, noise, and traffic of a busy American city. The language is unfamiliar. Food, habits, games, and gestures are puzzling. They boy clings tightly to his special keepsake from home and wonders how he will find his way. How will he once again become the happy, confident kid he used to be? Walk in his shoes as he takes the first tentative steps toward discovering joy in his new world.

Activity Adventures:
Group Activity: Talk about various places people come from. Using a world map, or globe, pinpoint where everyone was originally born. Most might have come from the very town they are now living in. But others might come from different countries, or states. Tape their name to a pin-flag, or small sticker to mark where everyone is from.

Teacher can extend this activity to encourage children to explore the lands where their friends have come from. View videos, or look at books from the library. Allow children to talk about where they came from.

Writing Prompts: Imagine you wake up one morning in a whole different place that spoke a different language. Write about how you would feel if you didn't understand what people were saying, and couldn't read the words on signs. Think of what you could do to help yourself adjust to your new environment.

Discussion Questions:
  • Talk about ways to help new children adjust to your classroom or school. 
  • Do you have any foreign students in class? Let them talk about where they came from and what differences they encountered when moving to your city. 
  • Talk about the little red seed the boy kept in his pocket. What did the children think it was at first? How did it help the boy make friends? 
  • Talk about ways children can open themselves to new experiences.


Authors Arena

Patti Kim was born in Pusan, Korea, and immigrated to the United States on Christmas of 1974 with her mother, father, and older sister. At the age of five, she thought she was a writer and scribbled gibberish all over the pages of her mother s Korean-English dictionary and got in big trouble for it. Her scribbling eventually paid off. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland. She is the author of A Cab Called Reliable. She lives with her husband and two daughters who give her plenty to write about every day. This is her first children s book.

 Sonia Sanchez--poet, activist, scholar--was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women's Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of sixteen books.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Tremendous Pagoda Tree of Martha's Vineyard by Amy MacDougall

Good Day dear Readers
Today I'm enjoying this beautiful summer day sitting beneath a shady tree, a lemonade in my royal hand and a dragon reading over my shoulder.

I love that The Tremendous Pagoda Tree of Martha's Vineyard is a real tree that has stood through history and thrives even today. This might be considered a fictional book, but the story is based on real events. Which, leads to several activities which will require some historical research.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: The Tremendous Pagoda Tree of Martha's Vineyard
Author: Amy MacDougall                                                                    Illustrator: Nicole Gsell

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Lychee Books (May 10, 2013)
Reading level: Pre-k and up
Book Info: Paperback: 34 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
ISBN: 978-0989162302

Book Theme:
History, Pagoda trees, Thomas Milton, Martha's Vineyard

Book Summary
The Tremendous Pagoda Tree of Martha's Vineyard illustrates the history of the famous tree from Edgartown, MA for which the book is named. It is affectionately told by a mother to her daughter, about the life of a tree-its journey-from a little sapling in the Orient to its home in Martha's Vineyard in the USA. It adresses two people who lived far apart on a shared Earth many years ago, yet formed a friendship which the Pagoda tree symbolizes and celebrates to this day!

Activity Adventures:

Pick one of the events in history and learn more about it.

Study plant growth, possibly growing your own tree. Enchanted Learning has several plant activities.

Crafty Ideas:
Make a tree from your hand. On a large sheet of construction paper, paint your arm, palm and fingers brown. Press onto paper, leaving a trunk and limbs imprint. Use your thumb and fingers to paint in green leaves.

As an added bonus: Think about your own history. At the roots, write the day you were born. Moving up the tree, list important events you've experienced over your life. In the limbs, write names of family members and even friends. Make the tree a document of your own life.

Writing Prompts:
Tell a story from the tree's point of view. Using the book, write a description of when the tree first noticed lights inside of houses, or planes flying over head. How do you think a tree would view our history?
Write a story about your ideas.

Discussion Questions:
Read the story behind the book here. Talk about your thoughts on how the author came up with this story idea.

Authors Arena

Author: I could find little information about the author Amy MacDougall, but did find her blog. Hop over there for the story behind the story, and perhaps some other interesting things.

Nicole Gsell is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, Illustration and a Concentration in English.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Nicole moved to Boston, MA in the Fall of 2010 to pursue a career in publishing. She has had much luck, and currently is the Creative Director for an independent children’s book company Pinwheel Books in Brookline, MA.
She also teaches children’s art classes at Brookline Arts Center. View her teaching profile here or check out some of her student’s work.
Nicole has illustrated her first book through Pinwheel Books called Sam and Ben, available now online and in local bookstore Brookline Booksmith. She’s working on her next book projects now!
When she’s not illustrating children’s books, she loves visiting diners, knitting, cooking, and writing all about it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Zebra Stripes Go Head to Toe

Good Day Dearest Readers,
The Queen here with a fun book for our youngest knights to help them learn about shapes and patterns. Zebra Stripes Go Head To Toe by Sheryl and Simon Shapiro focuses on stripes and squares and is a companion to Lady Bugs Have Lots of Spots.  The pictures are colorful, the prose rhyming and easy for youngsters to follow along.

Check out the activities below to add to the fun.
Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Zebra Stripes Go Head to Toe
Authors: Sheryl and Simon Shapiro                                                                                                             

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Annick Press (July 30, 2013)
Reading level: 3 - 5 years
Book Info: Library Binding: 24 pages
Genre: Children's picture book - nonfiction
ISBN-13: 978-1554515813

Book Theme:
Squares, shapes, stripes, lines

Book Summary
This little book shows children
That squares are here and there.
And if they keep an eye out, 
then stripes are everywhere.

A perfect companion to Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots, the fun, simple text and vibrant design of Zebra Stripes Go Head to Toe explore the concept of squares and stripes. Using words such as "cube," "block," "line," and "band," short poems encourage readers to spot the similarities (and differences) between the shapes of the stripes on a zebra and a colored striped sock, for example, or between a square soda cracker and cubes of cheese.
Whether paired with Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots or read independently, this innovative book is a great way to introduce the concept of shapes to young children.

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Go on a square and stripe scavenger hunt. Give prizes to the one or team who finds the most. Make a collage with your found items. Take the game outdoors with a camera and take pictures of striped and square items like the authors did. Make your own book. 

Crafty Ideas:
Print a picture of a stripe-less zebra. Have children glue black yarn or cut paper to make stripes.

Cut out several colorful square pieces of paper and have children make objects with the squares such as houses, cars, animals, ect.

Writing Prompts:
Turn their projects into a book and have children write sentences about their creations.

Discussion Questions:
Talk about where else we might find squares and stripes in the world.

Authors Arena

Sheryl and Simon Shapiro are the husband-and-wife team who wrote the rhyming picture books Better Together and Slither, Slide, What's Outside. They live in Toronto, Ontario.

When Sheryl and Simon Shapiro met over 35 years ago in South Africa (where they were born and grew up), they had very different interests. Simon had studied subjects like applied mathematics and physics, and worked as a computer programmer. Sheryl had studied print-making and oil painting and worked as an art teacher. Over the years, their lives—and their interests—changed. Simon took up photography as a hobby, learning about color and composition, and now loves visiting art galleries. Sheryl became an art director and book designer, and now spends all day, every day, using a computer.
They have other things in common like enjoying music, movies, theater, reading, and spending time with their son Stephen who has written four books for Annick Press. They also discovered that they liked writing humorous rhymes for special occasions. When the opportunity came up to write a book together, they jumped at the chance.
Bio taken from Annick Press website

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Each Kindness

Good Day Dear Readers
The Queen here with a heart wrenching story told from a bully's point of view. This story saddened me, yet I know, many children go through this same scenario when they walk into a new classroom. The narrator of this story doesn't even realize she is being a bully or acting unkindly until her teacher gives a lesson on kindness.

I hope parents and teachers will use this book in the same manner. There's several places that offer ideas for lessons to go along with the book. I've included a couple of my own ideas.

Happy Reading, and Be kind to one another, always.
The Queen


Book Title: Each Kindness
Author: Jacqueline Woodson                                                             
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Nancy Paulsen Books; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
Reading level: 5 - 8 years
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: Children's picture book
ISBN-13: 978-0399246524

Book Theme:
kindness, acceptance, unkindness, bullying, friendship, reaching out to others, judging

Book Summary
Each kindness makes the world a little better

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down.

Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Activity Adventures:
You can find Lesson Ideas at these places:
Teaching Books has videos from the author and classroom lesson plans.

Teach Mentor Text offers suggestions on how to incorporate this book into a classroom discussion on showing kindness. She even provides pictures of her charts.

Check out the Random Acts of Kindness page for ideas on how to make the world a better place. 

Crafty Ideas:
Create a poster of ideas on ways students can show kindness to a new student. Sometimes, children' simply don't understand how to show hospitality.

Writing Prompts:
Write a story about when you were in a new situation. How did you feel? What do you wish other people might have done to help you feel more comfortable. What did you do in this new place? What might you do differently next time?

Discussion Questions:
Talk about ways to show kindness to new people and even people children already know. Talk about what it means to be a bully and ways to avoid letting that happen.

Authors Arena

Jacqueline Woodson's awards include 3 Newbery Honors, a Coretta Scott King Award and 3 Coretta Scott King Honors, 2 National Book Awards, a Margaret A. Edwards Award and an ALAN Award -- both for Lifetime Achievement in YA Literature. She is the author of more than 2 dozen books for children and young adults and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York

E.B. Lewis has illustrated more than fifty books for children, including Nikki Grimes' Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner; Alice Schertle's Down the Road, an ALA Notable Book; Tolowa M. Mollel's My Rows and Piles of Coins, an ALA Notable Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Bat Boy and His Violin by Garvin Curtis, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Jacqueline Woodson's The Other Side, a 2002 Notable Book for the Language Arts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spiky, Slimy, Smooth- What is Texture by Jane Brocket

Good Day Dear Reader Friends,
The Queen here with a touchingly fun book titled: Spiky, Slimy, Smooth- What is Texture by Jane Brocket. Brocket seems like a quiet soul who loves color, beauty and simplicity. Her photography is stunning. Check out her blog and many other books on quilting, foods, and engaging the senses. 

Happy Reading,
The Queen

Author and Photographer: Jane Brocket                                                                                                       

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Millbrook Press (April 1, 2011)
Reading level: 4 and up
Book Info: Library Binding: 30 pages
Genre: Non-fiction picture book
ISBN-13: 978-0761346142

Book Summary
Soft, gooey, fluffy, prickly--textures are all around us. What clever words will you use to describe the textures pictured in this book? Jane Brocket's appealing photography and simple, whimsical text give a fresh approach to a topic all young children learn about.

Activity Adventures:

Since there's no reason to recreate the wheel, I've did a quick search on lesson ideas for teaching textures. I'm sure you'll find all sorts of fun activities in the links below. 

Lesson Ideas for Texture:
Texture Theme Activities
Kid's Activity blog
Texture Scavenger Hunt (for older children)
Pinterest Board on Texture lesson Ideas

We learn everywhere we go: the farmer's market, a petting zoo, the grocery store, the park, and the list goes on and on. Provide children with a small notebook they can carry in a pocket. Think of the different types of Textures such as smooth, rough, slimy, squishy, ect. Write the descriptive word at the top of a page. 

Now, throughout the day, as your children encounter these different textures, have them list what types of items they found that were smooth, rough, squishy, ect. For younger children who aren't writing yet, simply have them make a tally mark under the correct descriptive words.

At the end of the day, or week... however long you wish to play this game, award prizes for the ones who either came up with the most creative descriptive terms, who found the most rough or scratchy things, who listed the most items that were smooth. However you wish to do this. Thie point is to get them searching and finding and thinking about textures and how to describe the various textures we encounter during a day.

Authors Arena

Jane Brocket is the author of The Gentle Art of Domesticity (2007) and The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking (2010) and of two books based on the wonderful things characters eat and do in classic children's books: Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer (2008) and Ripping Things to Do (2009)--a selection of the pieces in these two books has been collected into one volume for the US as Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts (Perigee, 2010). She is currently writing a series of four Clever Concepts books for Millbrook Press. She has a knitting book to be published in 2011 and two more craft books in the pipeline.

Jane enjoys knitting, quilting, sewing, baking, growing flowers, and taking photographs of the things she makes as well as details of the world around her. She loves color, pattern, texture, shapes, and objects. And, above all, she love books and reading.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What Goes Up by Paula Bowles

Good Day Dear Readers!
The Queen here. I'm back from a month-long journey into our resident writer's storyland. We had a pleasant stay there, but now it's back to business.

And since we've been off on an adventure, and chasing dreams, I've found a beautifully done book about a dragon, named Martin, who had his own dreams of flying. With the help of some imaginative friends, Martin begins to see the possibilities. I do believe you'll find What Goes Up by Paula Bowles and enchanting tale. See below for some acitivty ideas that will help the book come more alive.

Happy dreaming and reading. Summer is upon us, what is on your reading lists?
The Queen


Book Title: What Goes Up
Author and Illustrator: Paula Bowles

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Tiger Tales (March 1, 2013)
Reading level: pre-k and up
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
Genre: fictional picture book
ISBN-13: 978-1589251199

Book Theme:
Dreams, challenges, achievement, friendship, team work, making your dreams come true.

Book Summary
March 1, 2013
Martin the dragon is sad. He longs to fly, but his wings are just too small. He tries flying like a bumblebee, a leaf, and a cloud. But . . . CRASH! It's no use. “What goes up, must come down,”says Martin sighing. Luckily, the village's children know how to teach Martin to go up and stay up. This beautifully illustrated picture book shows the power of practice, imagination, and most of all believing in oneself!

Page from What Goes Up. Such delightful watercolors

Activity Adventures:

Young Readers:
Make a pair of paper wings. Talk about where you would go if you had no limits. Paint them pretty colors like Martins.

Older Readers:
Make a floating lantern, parachute, or paper airplane. Find out what makes flight possible.

Writing Prompts:
Is there anything in the world you want to do? Write about what one thing you wish you could accomplish. Now, brainstorm a few ways you can make that happen. Share your thoughts with your parents or friends. Get their help in finding ways to help you succeed. Sometimes, we need help from others to achieve our dreams. 

Authors Arena

Paula Bowles graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in 2005, and now lives and works from Bristol, UK. She works primarily for children’s publishing, and has worked with a variety of publishers including Random House Children’s Bo­­oks, Templar Publishing and CBeebies Driver Dan’s Story Train.

Her first author/illustrator book, Scary Mary, was published by Tiger Tales in Spring 2012, her second book, What Goes Up, was published recently in March 2013. She is currently working on her first author/ illustrator book with Little Tiger Press, and her first picture book title with Bloomsbury Publishing, London.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Change The World Before Bedtime

This was one of my favorite books that I've read this year and had to do a re-post on it.

 Good Day Dear Reader Friends,
The Queen here with a feel good book titled, "Change The World Before Bedtime." I loved the simple, child-like watercolor and collage illustrations.

Sometimes, little ones feel like they're ... well, too little to do great things. Not so, shows this book which is full of ways and ideas to help out and make the world a better place. I think young and old can find an idea or two of simple things one can do to help others, and show random acts of kindness.

I've also come across a couple of websites that offer extended ideas that I'm sharing here as well.

Do go pick up a copy of this book. The activities inside can be done as a classroom assignment, or at home. What I loved most was how the authors showed the children working together, as a multicultural community. We need to work together to make the world a better place. Teaching our children ways to help will only lead to them having a brighter and happier future.

Happy Reading,
The Queen


Book Title: Change The World Before Bedtime
Authors: Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good

Book Information:

Publisher and date: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. (July 28, 2012)
Reading level: pre-k to 2nd.
Book Info: Hardcover: 32 pages
ISBN: 978-0764342387

Book Theme:
Helping the environment, doing good deeds, making good choices, being helpful and kind

Book Summary

“Change the World Before Bedtime”

We all have the power to change the world - and it’s easier than you think! Meet kids of all ages as they explore ways to be kind, generous, good neighbors in their hometowns, their schools and around the glo

Atglen P.A. — Written in simple, engaging rhyme, this story takes an inspirational look into how the little things in life – a smile, a kind word, a simple deed – can help change the world in a big way. Through 18 stunning illustrations, children will read about eating right, cleaning up the Earth by recycling and conserving, helping the sick and those less fortunate, and working in a group to make bigger miracles. Even an ordinary kid can be a superhero before bedtime! For pre-k to 2nd.

Activity Adventures:

Find more ideas for doing good at Kiwi magazine.

Little kids with big hearts can make a difference one small action at a time, starting in their own backyards.
Brainstorm a list of helpful things you can do as a family, or classroom in your community. Take that list and decide on five or ten projects you are willing to do. Now, write them down on a poster board. Illustrate, or decorate your poster to make it special. Every time your family or classroom accomplishes one of the projects, mark the date beside the project. When the list is completed, celebrate with some kind of party or fun activity where you'll be able to talk about what you did and how it made you feel. 

Then, do it again. And again.

Authors Arena

About the Authors
    Once upon a time, coincidence, fate, and magic conspired to introduce three big dreamers – Mark, Karen, and Josh. And new friends became forever friends who, separately and together, use their creative talents to change the world a little bit at a time.