All things literacy — Authors, Books, Connections . . .

Thursday, October 01, 2020

READ - Pumpkin Books

READ - Pumpkin Books

  • From Seed to Pumpkin by Jan Kottle (Children's Book Press: ISBN 0516235095

  • Picking Apples & Pumpkins by Amy Hutchings and Richard Hutchings  (Cartwheel Books, 1994; ISBN: 0590484567)

  • Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington.  (William Morrow; ISBN: 8099300)

  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd  (HarperCollins, 1986; reissue2006  ISBN: 0061232173)

  • The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons.  (Holiday House, 1999; ISBN: 023414655)

    The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

  • The Pumpkin Patch  by Elizabeth King (Puffin; Reprint edition 1996;  ISBN: 014055968X)
    Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White

  • Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, illustrated by Megan Lloyd. (Holiday House, 1997; ISBN 0823413209)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

International Dogs Day

A few of my favorite dog books for young readers.
Henry and Mudge Series by Cynthia Rylant (Simon and Schuster)
The series about Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.
Peter the Cat books by Eric Litwin

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Monday, August 10, 2020

Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day

Any day can be a day to celebrate grandparents and Grandparents Day is a great day to get started.  We've put together some great books to share with young scholars who may want to talk about their own grandparents and perhaps make a card, write a letter, or just make a phone call to tell them how much they mean to them.

Grandparents Day is a national holiday or observance, celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, although it is not classified as a federal holiday.
2025 - September 7
2020 - September 13
2026 - September 13
2021 - September 12
2027 - September 12
2022 - September 11
2028 - September 10
2023 - September 10
2029 - September  9
2024 - September 8
2030 - September  8

Alma Flor Ada shares a story of a young grandchild who loves her visits with her European-American grandmother and grandfather on Saturdays; and her visits with her Mexican-American Abuelito y Abueltia on Los Domingos (Sunday).  A quiet story of favorite family days.

Based on an Yiddish folk story, Jim Aylesworth tells of a grandfather who is able to recycle his handsome blue coat to become a smart jacket, and as each item becomes worn and shabby, the jacket becomes a vest, then a tie, and finally the worn tie is made into a toy for grandfather's great-grandson's kittens, and when the kitten is finished, a mouse makes use of the remains for a cozy nest for her babies.  Grandfathers often have many talents - and making something from nothing is a talent.

Those familiar with "the House that Jack Built" will recognize the early cumulative refrains of this story of a family dinner.  From the sunflowers on the table to the diverse selection of dishes: squash, and potatoes, and tasty tamales, samosas, and homemade bread and pies (and faces) each family member contributes his/her own part of the meal to be shared around the table that Grandad built.  The final pages make this a great story to share around thanksgiving time - "For these hands we hold, for tasty good food, for family and friends ...for the grace that is given and love that is shared, we give thanks ...around this table that Grandad built."

Thursdays are special days.  Papa has a normal routine each day -- but Thursdays well that is the day he has a special routine.  And his granddaughter shares the quiet story of a grandfather and his granddaughter.
Joowon Oh's spare text and his watercolor and cut-paper illustrations are sure to delight even the youngest of readers and inspire stories of special days with grandparents - from readers of all ages.

The author, Mina Javaherbin, writes what seems like a personal story of a believed grandmother that was a constant presence during her childhood in Iran.  Where every grandma was - there was Mina.  Mina's friend and neighbor, Annette, had a grandmother too.  Their grandmother's were best friends too.  The grandmother's knit together, and while one went to the mosque the other went to church but each loved and prayed for the other.  Both were kind and good. A story that must be shared and shared again.  A lovely story of a grandchild's love and admiration for a grandparent, and a story that instills, subtly the idea that diversity in religion does not preclude shared fun, kindness, and friendship. 

At the end of this story readers may realize that Grandpa spends his days gardening because he is grieving for the "Granny who is dead." But Henry does not understand why his grandpa does not hear him.  "Give him time" says Henry's mother.  And Henry does "six and a half minutes."  Eventually Henry engages Grandpa with his challenge to name his top three - sandwiches, then jellyfish, and onto other favorites.  It is  those other favorites that readers will not only understand the love that Grandpa has for Henry, but also for Granny, and the love Granny had for Henry.  A beautiful tribute to a memory of love past and love that is still held dear.  And it just might be the next best book to share when someone loses someone they love dearly.  What are your top threes... might just be the way to remember that someone.

If you are interested in using the books on this list with other ideas for reading and sharing access this free resource at

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What's Not to Love - New Books for your book shelf

Scanning through my new book notes I have found a few more books too good not to love.  Will any of these garner recognition on the coveted Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, or other prestigious lists? I don't know - that's not why I was drawn to them.  Each one of these has so much potential for discussion with readers, for enjoyment, and for gaining new knowledge.  Simply put - I like them.  So here goes my list ... if you have others please feel free to post in the comments.  This is certainly not a definitive list but just a few that have made their appearance in my readings in the last few weeks.

Linda Skeers has authored a new look at Mary Anning - the story of a young girl who loved spending time looking for shells and fossils on the beaches of England.  She climbed cliffs and rocky peaks always looking for a new and different specimen.
Skeers, Linda.  Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist.  Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguéns (Sourcebooks, 2020).
Linda Skeers -
Marta Alvarez Miguéns -

Jennifer Black Reinhart has created a perfect foil for the shy or anxious child who finds fitting in a troublesome endeavor.  Meet Alfred (who plays dead) and Sophia (who rolls up in a ball) who teach all of us about patience, forgiveness, and friendship.  Along the way, we might discuss the meaning of the cliché "playing possum."
Reinhardt, Jennifer Black.  Playing Possum.  Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Clarion Books, 2020).
Jennifer Black Reinhart -

Check out the book's trailer on youtube at

Those who have loved the humor of Mac Barnett are in for more fun and laughter with these four early reader (2020) entries into the Jack Series.
Jack at the Bat made its appearance in February, along with Jack Goes West.  In May, Jack at the Zoo and Too Many Jacks brought Jack's hilarious adventures to readers.  Don't miss them.
Barnett, Mac. Jack at Bat; Jack Goes West; Jack at the Zoo; and Too Many Jacks.  Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli.   (Penguin Random House, 2020).
Mac Barnett --
Greg Pizzoli --


My grandson loves his hair cuts - how he has his hair cut (and sometimes dyed) tells him he is awesome;  “I am born to be awesome!”  That is true also of the boy in Cool Cuts by Mechael Renee Roe.  A celebration of diverse and hip hairstyles.  Happy Hair by Mechael Renee Roe shares similar pride accompanied by this book's chorus, "I love being me."
Roe, Mechal Renee. Cool Cuts. Illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe (Doubleday, 2020).
Roe, Mechal Renee. Happy Hair. Illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe (Doubleday, 2019).
Mechal Renee Roe --

I have an entire Beatrix Potter guest room in my home.  I love the Victorian illustrations of Potter.  Most of us know of Potter's life in relation to Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny - but in her later years she became a sheep rancher and very involved in saving the English Countryside.  Those efforts are part of her legacy and are all part of the story that Linda Marshall tells about the iconic author.  Don't miss this 2020 title about Beatrix Potter.
Marshall, Linda.  Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit. Illustrations by Ilaria Urbinati. Simon & Schuster, 2020.
Linda Marshall --
Ilaria Urbinati --
Beatrix Potter room -

Kathleen Krull is an author of many collective biographies, and fun books about people.  But this book, The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America introduced me to a woman that I never knew existed and I certainly did not realize the role she played in FDR's presidency.  She was definitely a groundbreaker and her story is more than worth a read.  Don't miss this one: Krull, Kathleen.  The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America.  Illustrated by Alexandra Bye.  (Atheneum, 2020).
Kathleen Krull --
Alexandria Bye --

I have always loved folklore and fables.  Lendler's title, The Fabled Life of Aesop tells the story of Aesop's life and includes a retelling of several of Aesop's fables.  The stories represent a perspective of Aesop's life and range from the well-known to the lesser known fables.  Zagarenski's illustrations are refreshing in that Zagarenski used a traditional watercolor style to illustrate the life of Aesop; but she used a different style for the fables.  The fables are richly illustrated with bright colors, texture, and very symbolic.  A great combination creating interest and freshness on every page.  This book is 64 pages long - a lengthy picture book but certainly worth a read - story by story. Lendler, Ian.  The Fabled Life of Aesop. Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. (HMH, 2020).
Ian Lendler --
Pamela Zagarenski --

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (Pen name of Arnold Munk who co-owned the book's first publishing firm, Platt & Munk) was originally published in 1930. Now, 90 years later the book is being reissued with all the original text but with new reimagined art work by Dan Santat, Caldecott Award winner.  The Little Engine That Could is ready for a new generation of readers.
Piper, Watty.  The Little Engine That Could. Illustrated by Dan Santat.  Penguin Random House, 2020.
Watty Piper -- pseud. of Arnold Munk (1888-1957)
Dan Santat --

2020 marks the 100th year of women achieving a goal here in the USA, the right to vote.  Elisa Boxer's The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman's Words Made History documents the final vote in Tennessee that put the right to vote in the constitution with the ratification of the 19th amendment.  The vote was made by a man (who were the only ones allowed to vote at the time), but he was spurred on by the words of his mother, Febb, who wrote the letter admonishing her son "Vote for suffrage and don't forget to be a good boy."  He did and the 19th amendment was ratified.   Boxer, Elisa.  The Voice That Won the Vote: how One Woman's Words Made History.  Illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger.  Sleeping Bear, 2020.
Elisa Boxer --
Vivien Mildenberger --

And don't miss Ruth Spiro's Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy.  This book was a singular focus in a previous post on this blog at  
Spiro, Ruth.  Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! Illustrated by Greg Paprocki (Charlesbridge, 2020).
Blog post -
Ruth Spiro --
Greg Paprocki --

Many of us loved Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Holiday, 2017).  Now Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James E. Ransome has brought us another enlightening look at that era.  Overground Railroad takes place during the great migration when many moved from the South to cities in the north, hoping for better opportunities and a better life. Ruth Ellen narrates her journey as it is  reflected in her reading of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  The pivotal point comes as the train crossed the Delaware River and the curtain that separates the colored car from others is pulled back.  A powerful story without being didactic.
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Overground Railroad.  Illustrated by James E. Ransome (Holiday, 2020).
Lesa Cline-Ransome --
James E. Ransome --

In a book for older readers, Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution, Christiane Doriori introduces readers to Alfred Russel Wallace, a friend of Darwin's and his rival as they both searched for evidence of the process of natural selection.  While this book is intended to help readers know of Wallace's scientific discoveries and his contributions to the body of work in the mid-to-late 1800s.  To me, however, the book is the embodiment of how one's life's events shapes that person's entire life.  A child from a privileged family may not be inspired to "make his own way in life" and their life may be much different than if they had to struggle through life's up and downs.  And Doriori acknowledges that aspect with a final quote from Wallace himself, that says, in part, "[had life been different] it seems very unlikely that I should have ever undertaken what at the time seemed rather a wile scheme..."  But he did undertake a life of travel and collecting and became a respected naturalist and scientist.  For younger readers - share just a few pages a day as an ongoing read.  Tennant's charts and illustrations (especially his butterfly page of Wallace's travels Throughout the Malay Islands) will be throughly inspected for the details Tennant is able to include for the reader.
Dorion, Christiane. Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution.  Illustrated by Harry Tennant.  Candlewick Studio, 2020. 
Christiane Dorion --
Harry Tennant --

And while Candace Fleming is on a roll in 2020 with several books Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, with illustrations by Eric Rohmann (Holiday House/Neal Porter, 2020), and her YA nonfiction The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh (Schwarz & Wade, 2020), I'm anxiously awaiting a third book, (August 2020) Cubs in the Tub.  This book tells the story of Fred and Helen Martini who longed for a baby but as luck would have it they ended up with baby lion and tiger cubs -- in their apartment, specially in their tub.  And eventually when the cubs returned to  the zoo's nursery Helen was along side of them.  Helen became the first woman zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo.  A charming, delightful story of a woman who not only persisted but loved and reveled in that love of animals.  Julie Downing created imaginative and accurate illustrations that are a delight to view.  Knowing the immense research she did to make sure the illustrations depicted life as it was make the book even more interesting.
Fleming, Candace. Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper.  Illustrated by Julie Downing.  (Penguin Random House, 2020).
Candance Fleming --
Julie Downing --
Blog post on J. Downing's site about backstory of research -

Tate, Don.  William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad. Illustrated by Don Tate (Peachtree, 2020).  

Not yet released but coming Nov. 2020, based on Tate's stellar releases in the past years this book will be a must have.
Don Tate --

And then don't miss these books from the last few months of 2019.
Perkins, Mitali. Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the BorderIllustrations by Sara Palacios. (Farrar, 2019).Meeting at the border fence dividing California and Mexico a family shares gifts with their grandmother at La Posada. 
Mitali Perkins --
Sara Palacios --

Macy, Sue.  The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come. Illustrations by Stacy Innerst. (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2019).  
Aaron Lansky wanted to save Yiddish literature.  After years of searching and rescuing books from dumpsters, and a myriad of sources, Lansky was able to open the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts.  An inspiring story of one person making a difference. Infor­ma­tion­al and inspir­ing.
Sue Macy -
Stacy Innerst -

Maillard, Kevin Noble.  Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. (Roaring Brook Press, 2019).  Family and friends and sharing food - this book affirms Native traditions and represents the role of generations in cultures.

Kevin Noble Maillard --
 Juana Martinez-Neal --

Please note that some of the books reviewed here were sent, for free, by the publisher in exchange for a non-partisan review.  I select review books based on my positive assessment; other books are not reviewed in my media space.

Cite this page as:

McElmeel, Sharron. (2020 June 16) What's not to love - New books for your book shelf.  McBookwords Blog.  Retrieved from

Now what books during this past year have you liked - we are not limited to picture books.  Early readers, chapter books, non-fiction, information books - all are fair game.  What suggestions do you have?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lessons My Mother Taught Me! - In a Round-About Way

My mother lived to be 88 and worked hard all of her life.  She earned a high school diploma when others in the family did not.  She sold seed corn when only men were allowed to do so (she used her husband’s name).  She wanted me to be prepared for life, too.  She said I would need to know how to “dress” a chicken and would have to know how to pick strawberries without stepping on the just emerging berries on other plants.  Both jobs were ones that I detested.

HarperCollins, 1963
Even though I could fry up a chicken dinner by the age of nine, I avoided learning how to dress a chicken.  I could scald a chicken and pluck its feathers off and deliver the bird to my mother’s cutting board – but she had to handle the knife.  I was having none of that part of preparing the chicken for the table.  By the time I had my own household, grocery stores were routinely selling dressed and cut-up chickens ready for the fryer or oven.  I neither had to pluck the feathers or cut up the chicken (more like undressing than dressing in any case).  The knowledge did serve me well though when my teaching colleagues seemed to share Amelia Bedelia’s (Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish, 1963) confusion about the meaning of the term “dress the chicken.”

Whenever Amelia Bedelia got into trouble – so to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Rogers she made a delicious pie or cake and softened the effect of her misdeeds.  She was well known for her Lemon Meringue Pie.  Now pies I could make without blinking an eye — when first married and beginning my own baking regiment however, I found out the recipe I had in my head was for 5-7 pies.  I soon figured out that I was not feeding threshers or hired men (or at that time a large family) so I quickly cut back on the quantities.  Check out a great Lemon Meringue Pie recipe and read someone Amelia Bedelia's book. 

Lesson #1:  Always let someone else "dress" your chicken, but bake your own pie.
~• ~• ~•
Listen and read along Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, with illustrations by Fritz Siebel.  (HarperCollins, 1963; Revised 1992).  Amelia Bedelia | Kids Books Read Aloud
Find out more about Amelia Bedelia and the new books about her on Herman Parish's website at: 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Amelia Bedelia's Lemon Meringue Pie

A delicious Lemon Meringue Pie – a' la Amelia Bedelia

This recipe makes 2 lemon filled pies
Make the pie crust, then the filling, then add the meringue.

Lemon Pie – in honor of Amelia Bedelia
Pie Crust
Ingredients – pie crust (two crusts)
·       2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
·       1/2  teaspoon
·       1 cup shortening chilled
·       6 tablespoons ice water


  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. 
  2. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is coarse crumbles.
  3. Sprinkle in the ice cold water and toss mixture with a fork to moisten.  Slowly add in the rest of the water until the dough begins to ball together.
  4. Divide the dough and form into two balls.
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from refrigerator and roll each ball into a circle to cover the bottom of the pie pan/glass dish.
  7. Put in a pie plate.
  8. Pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork.  Put a circle of baking paper (or waxed paper) on the bottom of the piecrust. Put dry beans, on top of the baking paper in the pie pan, to weight the crust down and keep it from bubbling up.
  9. Bake until lightly brown, in a pre-heated 375 degree oven.
Ingredients/Method – Filling

Whisk together in a 2-3 cup measuring cup :
·      8 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
Combine in a separate medium-sized saucepan
·      1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat and slowly pour in (and whisk as pouring) the egg yolks.  Return to the heat, this time on low, and heat up once again – stirring constantly.  Add in while whisking:
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pour lemon mixture into pie shell and top with meringue while filling is still hot. Make sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust.
May be made while pie shell is baking
8 egg whites
2 pinches of Cream of Tartar
4 Tablespoons of sugar
Beat together, with a whisk, until mixture is fluffy and firm.
Put Meringue on top as described above.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure pie is cooled completely before slicing.