• Charlie Parker Played Be Bop

    Posted by Kathy Lappin on 2/25/2016

    Charlie Parker played be bop, Charlie Parker played saxophone, the music sounded like be bop, never leave your cat alone. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have read Charlie Parker Played Be Bop over 1,000 times. My daughter loved that story for about a year and she would have me read it over and over again and each time she asked I would oblige. I could recite the whole story from memory. Naturally, when you read a story that many times you just remember it after a while. Charlie Parker Played Be Bop is a fun story that uses rhythm and sing songy word choices to make it fun to listen to. Children love stories that have rhyme or rhythmic verses and as an adult they tend to be enjoyable to read. Another fun one that comes in a board book, therefore, many people buy it for babies is Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?. Yes, the book is certainly silly and it will have you buzzing, mooing and cock-a-doodling, but if you can't be goofy with little ones, then when can you? Another good one is Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins. This story adds a beat to make the words more memorable and fun. The story has monkeys using their hands to beat on various drums. All children will find themselves pounding on something to match the rhythm of the rhyme. "Rings on fingers. Rings on thumb. Drum drum, Drum drum, Drum drum drum."  That use of drumming adds a useful kinesthetic clue that will help children to remember it. Children start to learn to read by memorizing, and this book is well-written to assist in that process. My children and I will sometimes simply recite it together while putting on winter gear or while waiting in traffic. If your kids grow up having these fun, warm memories of literature, studies have found time and again that those children grow up to equate books with love. If you want your child to enjoy reading and to love books, these early fun books and family time with books will surely help with that. If you are reading this then you most likely have a child at our school. It is an important family activity to read together from tiny babies and all through elementary school -and even beyond. 



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  • Frog and Toad

    Posted by Kathy Lappin on 2/22/2016

    Frog and Toad have been around for decades, but these classic stories never grow old. The two friends have very simple adventures together, but Arnold Lobel realized a highly important aspect to children's literature. It is very entertaining to have one character who is kind of naive or gullible. In the case of Frog and Toad - Toad is such a character. Toad has funny and often times down right hilarious ways of looking at situations and the world. Children love to know more than a character in the book they are reading. Frog often provides answers for all of Toad's silliness. For example, in the story, "The List," Toad decides to write a list of all of the important things he has to do for the day. Then he loses his list. He thinks he can't do anything without his list telling him what to do. Frog talks Toad into carrying on with his day. I could never adequately relay the exchange between the two friends by summarizing or paraphrasing - the beauty of Frog and Toad books is in the simple truthfulness of the conversations between the two characters. I strongly recommend reading any and all of the Frog and Toad stories. I would read these to children from birth until your child is reading fluently and independently. When you have an independent reader (around 7 or 8 years old) then I would have my child read them to me. There is no age limit on enjoying these classic stories!

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  • Kate the Great

    Posted by Kathy Lappin on 1/28/2016

    I have to confess, I am slightly obsessed with my next recommendation. In my humble opinion Kate DiCamillo is the best children's author of our time. DiCamillo's stories are powerful, yet simple, and they always include excellent word choices. The first Kate DiCamillo story I ever read was, "The Tale of Despereuax." You might have heard of it, especially because they made a movie out of it, but I implore you - please do not waste your time on that film. They deviated so far from the original book that it shouldn't even have the same title. The book, on the other hand, is perfect. It won the Newberry Medal in 2004, which is right around the time I discovered it, at no other than the CM Scholastic Book Fair. The extended title of the book is actually, "The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread." I was so intrigued by the author's short description that I purchased it and started reading it that very evening. It was one of those stories that I continued reading long past the time I should be asleep. The next morning I immediately began reading it to my class. They loved it just as much as I did. The PTA moms that were running the book fair had to order many, many more copies, as all of the third graders wanted to have that book. Thereafter, I have read every story Ms. DiCamillo writes. I thought Despereaux would always remain my favorite story, but Kate wrote another amazing book several years later that ties for the top spot, "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane." If there was only one last book you could read, I would recommend 'Edward Tulane.' You know how people love Rocky movies because Rocky had heart, well this book has heart. It can tug at the heartstrings of the most jaded and cynical among us. Edward Tulane is about the unlikely journey of a rabbit made almost entirely of china. But like all of DiCamillo's books there is a theme of love and of being loved and our place in this world.

    I think any author needs to have a bit of variety in their books to keep it interesting. For Kate DiCamillo I think this break from the norm would be in her "Mercy Watson" series. Mercy Watson is a pig, more often called a porcine wonder by her human parents. Mercy is a pig that is treated like she is a child. She even has her own room. The Mercy Watson series is great for second and third grade readers. They are chapter books, but easy ones. She also is in the middle of writing a series of books called, "Bink and Gollie." Kind of like Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series, Bink and Gollie is written comic book style, with thought and speaking bubbles back and forth. Bink and Gollie are a fun pair. 

    Kate DiCamillo's latest book, "Flora and Ulysses" won the Newberry Award this past year. I guess I am not alone in noticing her amazing talent for the written word and for crafting memorable stories. Flora and Ulysses is about a squirrel with super powers and a vacuum cleaner. You will have to read it to see how those two things could be so closely related and important to the story as to be right there on the title. 

    Here is a list of DiCamillo books:

    ~The Tiger Rising
    ~Because of Winn Dixie
    ~The Tale of Despereaux 
    ~The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
    ~The Magician's Elephant 
    ~Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken
    ~The Mercy Watson series
    ~Bink and Gollie series
    ~Flora and Ulysses

    I think Kate DiCamillo's books make great stories for family reading time. Start with The Tale of Despereaux, as I did, and you are sure to be a quick fan of her work. Until next time, happy reading!




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  • The Marvelous Mo Willems

    Posted by Kathy Lappin on 1/4/2016

    As an educator, it is my job to know children's books and as a parent I see how valuable that information is in my life. I do not have to wander around the library wondering what is a good book or author to read. In fact, I have quite a list of favorites. Parents are often times encouraged to read to and with their children, but what to read can be daunting. I decided to tell our CM families some insider information from the literary world. So please come back to this section often to find out some great books to read. 

    My first recommendation is an author - Mo Willems. Mo Willems is an amazing writer. He really seems to get it when it comes to writing for children. He has several series of books that are all at the top of my favorite books list. The first is called the "Pigeon Series." The first in the series is entitled, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." The main character, a pigeon, pleads with the reader to please let him drive the bus. Children love the way the pigeon is talking directly to them and parents are sure to compare the way the pigeon begs to that of their own children. My own kids have asked me to read this and the rest of the books in this series many times! The series includes:

    The Pigeon Needs a Bath

    The Duckling Gets a Cookie

    The Pigeon Wants a Puppy

    Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late

    The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog

    Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

    The Pigeon has Feelings, Too


    If Mo Willems only wrote the Pigeon series he would be highly celebrated, but he has two other award-winning series of books. The trilogy of the Knuffle Bunny are three outstanding books about a little girl named Trixie and her prized possession - a stuffed bunny named Knuffle Bunny. And then there is the Elephant and Piggie series. I just cannot say enough about how great Gerald and Piggie books are. Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are best friends. Gerald is a boy and Piggie is a girl. The style of the series is conversational, in that it is written in comic book, word bubbles back and forth as the characters chat and have adventures together. The stories are sweet and funny and touching and at times super silly. They basically sum up what it is like to be a child. If I have to pick a quick book to read to a group of children, I pull an Elephant and Piggie book. If a new mom asks me for a book recommendation, I offer Elephant and Piggie as a sure winner. If my own children want just one more bedtime story, I will usually grab - you guessed it, a Gerald and Piggie book. They are not too long, they are all fun books to read, and children love to hear them over and over again. Another great aspect of this series is the fact that there are 24 and soon to be 25 books in this series so far. The titles are :

    • 1 Today I Will Fly! (Mar 2007)

    • 2 My Friend is Sad (Mar 2007)

    • 3 There Is a Bird on Your Head! (Jul 2007)

    • 4 I Am Invited to a Party! (Jul 2007)

    • 5 I Love My New Toy! (Jun 2008)

    • 6 I Will Surprise My Friend! (Jun 2008)

    • 7 Are You Ready To Play Outside? (Oct 2008)

    • 8 Watch Me Throw The Ball! (Mar 2009)

    • 9 Elephants Cannot Dance! (Jun 2009)

    • 10 Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (Oct 2009)

    • 11 I am Going! (Jan 2010)

    • 12 Can I Play Too? (Jun 2010)

    • 13 We Are In A Book! (Sept 2010)

    • 14 I Broke My Trunk! (Feb 2011)

    • 15 Should I Share My Ice Cream? (June 2011)

    • 16 Happy Pig Day! (Oct 2011)

    • 17 Listen To My Trumpet (Feb 2012)

    • 18 Let's Go for a Drive! (Oct 2012)

    • 19 A Big Guy Took My Ball (May 2013)

    • 20 I'm a Frog! (Oct 2013)

    • 21 My New Friend Is So Fun (June 2014)

    • 22 Waiting Is Not Easy! (November 2014)

    • 23 I Will Take a Nap! (June 2015)

    • 24 I Really Like Slop! (October 2015)

    • 25 The Thank You Book (May 2016)

    I definitely have favorites in this series. I recommend starting with Should I Share My Ice Cream. It is very entertaining. I also love Can I play Too?, I think it has a great message along with being fun to read. 

    Please read with your child every single day. I know that life is hectic. There are nights when I feel too tired to read a bedtime story, but children love being read to and it is really good for them. It is the one thing kids love that is actually healthy. Mo Willems books are great family stories to read over and over again. 


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