Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Baker’s Dozen of Local Talent

HUSH! by Minfong HoThe first weekend of June ushers in better weather in Ithaca and roads less congested with student vehicles. It’s time to celebrate the beautiful place we call home with picnics, baseball games, gardening, and of course the Ithaca Festival.

We have many things to be proud of in our community, including top notch children’s book writers and illustrators. There isn’t space to list all the authors and illustrators here, but you can find more, including authors who write exclusively young adult (YA) books listed at at the bottom of the Great Ideas page.  Find out more about each of these local talents online and enjoy their wonderful books!

  1. Michael DeMunn: author of “Places of Power” and “The Earth is Good” both about the power of the earth and discovering our own inner strength.
  2. Rachel Dickinson: resident of Freeville and travel, science, and children’s book author. Her books include “Tools of Navigation” and “Tools of the Ancient Romans” about inventors and the way they changed history.
  3. Lisa Eisenberg: co-author with Katy Hall of many rib-tickling riddle books including “Buggy Riddles,” “Gobble, Gobble, Giggle,” and “Boo Who?”
  4. Minfong Ho: author of the children’s books “HUSH!: A Thai Lullaby,” “Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek,” “Maples in the Mist,” “Brother Rabbit,” and “The Two Brothers,” as well as author of four novels and many published short stories. Her books are often set in south east Asia.
  5. Gail Jarrow: author of many non-fiction books for young readers about animals or history including “Animal Babysitters,” “The Printer’s Trial,” “Lincoln’s Flying Spies,” and “The Amazing Harry Kellar, Great American Magician” as well as many novels
  6. Ruth Stiles Gannett (Kahn): Trumansburg resident and author of the “My Father’s Dragon” trilogy that is beloved by children across the globe. These stories are adventures starring the young boy Elmer with his backpack full of tricks helping him as he meets the animals and dragons of magical places.
  7. Alison Lurie: author of the fairytale collections “The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales,” “The Black Geese,” and “The Heavenly Zoo” and many YA books
  8. Anne Mazer: author of “The Salamander Room,” “The Fix-Its,” “The No-Nothings and Their Baby” and for young readers “The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes” series, “Sister Magic” series, and many moreThe Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
  9. Katrina Morse: author and illustrator of Family Reading Partnership’s books “At Home with Books” and “Love Those Letters!”
  10. Catharine O’Neill: illustrator of many books including “The Very Best Hanukkah Gift,” “Leprechaun Luck,” and “Mrs. Dunphy’s Dog,” and author/illustrator of “Annie and Simon” books for young readers
  11. Edward Ormondroyd: Trumansburg author of 12 books including the picture book “Theodore” and young adult books “Castaways On Long Ago,” “David and the Phoenix,” and “Time at the Top”
  12. Johanna van der Sterre: illustrator for Highlights magazine and many children’s books including “Mendel’s Accordion” and “Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?”
  13. Mitch Weiss and Martha Hamilton, storytellers, performers, and authors of 18 books including “Scared Witless,” “Hidden Feast,” and  “Noodlehead Stories”

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Hug a Teddy Bear and a Book!

Cuddly, snuggly, soft and friendly–teddy bears can be a child’s best friend and are often featured in children’s books.

Stuffed toy bears became popularly know as “teddy bears” after an incident more than 100 years ago when President Theodore Roosevelt was on a bear hunt. When the president showed compassion for an old bear found by his hunting dog, a cartoonist documented the event for newspapers. Soon toy bears named “Teddy,” after the president, were being made and sold. Find out more on the kids’ page of

Bears have been characters in children’s literature for just as long. Winnie the Pooh, Paddington and Corduroy are all beloved bears with unique personalities that have entertained generations of children.

Here are some favorite bear books that are each part of a series. When you find one book your family likes, you can read more about the same character. If you have a teddy bear at home, maybe he’d like to listen too!

“Bear at Home” by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Debbie Harter. Bear opens his house to readers and shows us each room, ending in his bedroom where he says good night. Illustrations are bold and use bright colors. There is a floor plan of the house in the back of book. The books in this series are just right for very young children and come in board book format.

“Ten Little Bears: A Counting Rhyme” by Kathleen Hague, illustrated by Michael Hague. This duo has created many bear books, all with rhyming text and illustrated in very detailed watercolor. In this one there is a count down of bears from ten to none then back to ten bears again. Lots of action and “I spy” opportunities make this book engaging.

“Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?” by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degen.  This bouncy, rhyming book is a tender and sweet story about a young child’s world. The playful, silly details show up in all of the many books about Jesse Bear.


“Little Bear’s New Friend” by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Heather Green. Little Bear goes camping and meets a “wild bear” who walks on all fours and has lost his parent. Little bear enlists all his friends, and finally they find the wild bear’s family. Many Little Bear books are “first readers” with large print and few words. The original books in this series were illustrated and the character developed by Maurice Sendak.

“Bear Wants More” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.  This book is a sequel to “Bear Snores On,” about Bear hibernating. When Bear wakes up in the next book, he is hungry after his long winter’s nap! The author/illustrator team has created three more books about this lovable bear and his woodland friends.

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Life Lessons in Children’s Books

Growing up isn’t easy; there are so many emotional lessons to face. A child has to learn how to make friends, try new things, and accept others while standing up for him or herself. There are times to be brave, angry, kind, sad, generous and forgiving.

For every life lesson your child encounters, there is a children’s book about that feeling that you can read aloud. When a character in a book is going through tough decisions, talk about the conflicts or messages in the story and the resolution. The stories you read can be a springboard for discussion and with your guidance can give your child the confidence to make good choices in life.

Try these children’s books about life lessons:

Accepting differences:


  • “Luka’s Quilt” by Georgia Guback. A Hawaiian grandmother and her granddaughter have a disagreement about the pattern in a quilt, but find a compromise together.
  • “Chester’s Way” by Kevin Henkes. Chester Mouse and his friend Wilson struggle to let newcomer Lilly into their everyday play.
  • “Tutus Aren’t My Style” by Linda Skeers, pictures by Anne Wilsdorf. Emma gets a package in the mail from Uncle Leo and is surprised to find a ballerina costume. She is more the jungle explorer type! Emma finds out that her uncle accepts her for being just the way she is.

Being brave:


  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman. The lovable bear Corduroy has to be very brave to wait in a toy store until someone finally chooses him to take home.
  • “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. A baby raccoon finds that going to school for the first time is much easier when you know you are loved.
  • “One Dark Night” by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Ivan Bates. A mouse and a mole meet up with a very large bear in this rhyming tale.
  • “Daisy and the Beastie” by Jane Simmons. When you don’t know what something is, it can be frightening! Two ducklings go on adventure to confront the beastie and are pleasantly surprised.


  • “Making the Team” by Nancy Carlson. Louanne Pig wants to be a cheerleader for the football team, but finds that she is better playing the game than being on the sidelines.
  • “Farmer Duck” by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. A barnyard full of animals decides to take over all the farm work and run the place on their own.
  • “Ruby in Her Own Time” by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Rebecca Harry. Ruby the young duck is slower in learning duck things than her siblings, but she catches up when she is ready.

Managing anger:

  • “Mean Soup” by Betsy Everitt. When everything goes wrong for the whole day, Horace’s mom helps him let off some steam by making Mean Soup.
  • “When Sofie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang. Sofie has a bad day, but cools off by taking a run, then a walk in the woods. When she comes back she is civil again.
  • “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Voirst, illustrated by Ray Cruz. A humorous telling of grumpy Alexander and his out-of-control life.

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Animals Star in Favorite Children’s Books

Have you ever wondered why animals are the main characters in many children’s books? Animals that talk, walk, wear clothing, and even drive cars often replace humans in stories. Why not just use people characters?

The choice to use animals instead of humans can come from the author or the illustrator. The illustrator may prefer to use creatures as a way to emphasize a character’s personality like an owl teacher that is wise or a mouse librarian that is quiet. Using the opposite of what is expected also works and adds surprise and humor to a story, such as a very loud mouse construction worker or a bashful lion accountant. 

When an author writes a story about sensitive subjects like being truthful or being scared to go to school for the first time, an animal character can help give the message in a way that isn’t so threatening to a young child. It’s not as emotional to see a raccoon child with tears in his eyes before the first day of kindergarten as it is to see a human child.

The personification of any non-human form, like animals, objects, and even the weather is described by the term “anthropomorphism,” and you’ll find that many, many children’s books use this technique. Here are just a few authors and illustrators that use animals to tell their story.

Rosemary Wells has written and illustrated dozens of books using cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals as her characters. Yoko is a kitten who is new to school and making friends. Max and Ruby are bunny brother and sister learning to get along and the Kindergators are alligators who are practicing their manners. 

Although Suzanne Bloom doesn’t always use animal characters in her books, her characters Goose and Bear have distinct personalities that make them endearingly predictable. Goose is always talkative and inquisitive. Bear is quiet and humble. Their interactions are entertaining, as you can imagine. Image

Marc Brown’s aardvark siblings Arthur and D.W. started off as characters in his books, and now also star on television. They have friends who are rabbits, monkeys, and a variety of other animals. Buster is a bunny with asthma that teaches by example that kids with asthma can still do everything!

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Books for Creative Kids

You may know of the author and researcher Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983.  His theory proposes that we all learn in different ways. Some of us remember better if we see something. Others always remember what they hear or what they can touch. Some learn better in social settings and some learn better alone.

Most of us are a combination of different learning styles. What ways do you and your children learn best? When you remember something is it because you heard it, saw it, or did it?

Visual learners are the artists among us. Here are some books that celebrate seeing the world creatively.

DogLovesDrawing“Dog Loves Drawing” by Louise Yates. Dog loves books. (And he also owns a bookstore!) One day Dog receives a strange book in the mail—it’s blank! Soon Dog realizes that this book is not for reading, but for drawing. Before long, Dog is doodling and drawing lines and colors making a new world, full of friends and surprises.

“Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw” by Kaethe Zemach. When Dudley has a hard time learning at school, he doodles. Dudley ends up doodling most of the time he’s in class, but his teacher Ms. McCaw never loses her patience. She supports and encourages Dudley’s desire to draw. Dudley thinks Ms. McCaw knows everything, until one day Ms. McCaw tries to draw–and finds she can’t. Can Dudley teach her something new?

“The Art of Miss Chew” by Patricia Polacco. This is an autobiographical account of how Polacco overcame her own learning difficulties in elementary school through artwork, with adults who believed in her.

“Lunchtime for a Purple Snake” by Harriet Ziefert, paintings by Todd McKie. When Jessica goes to visit her grandpa, who is an artist, she learns how to mix colors of paint and they paint a story together.

GetRed“Get Red! An Adventure in Color” by Tony Porto and 3CD. Big, bright photos, story text, and interspersed factoids give some interesting and entertaining information about the color red. The unique book format will inspire creative thinking. Porto and 3CD have also created a book in blue, “Blue Aliens! An Adventure in Color.”

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Filed under children's books, creativity