Category Archives: Great Books

Punching Authors

I recently got back from the Illinois Reading Conference, and was able to get a bunch of books signed for Bubba! I always store these signed books in our guest bedroom (so I can give them to Bubba as gifts when special occasions come along), but I’ve been adding so many signed books to this collection that I’m running out of places to store them all… I may need to get a bigger room!


Anyway, I thought I would just share a picture of some of the new books Bubba will have to look forward to in the future:


I also thought I’d share some of the pictures I took with authors while I was there:



I never tell them that I’m going to smile and point, but I may need to provide authors with some sort of a warning in the future… Jay Asher (author of 13 Reasons Why) thought I was going to punch him when went to point at him! I feel really bad that I startled him, but he had a great sense of humor about it. I Tweeted my apologies, and this was his response:



Needless to say, I had a good time… and I can’t wait to give Bubba these books at just the right time in the future!

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What’s Your Suggestion?

A few months back, I used all the “Bonus Points” (from my Scholastic Reading Clubs account) and purchased the Junie B. Jones Complete Collection and the Magic Tree House library.  Obviously, I won’t be reading these to Bubba anytime soon, but I figured I would start stocking up his shelves with some classic series books for when he’s reading on his own.


Does anybody have suggestions for other series books I should get for him?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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A Wonderful Surprise

Months ago, Bubba and I were reading through a bag of books when we came across a couple good ones by Jill Esbaum.  I always enjoy reading the back flap of dust jackets to learn more about the author and illustrator, so I was surprised to find that Mrs. Esbaum lives on a farm just minutes from where Bubba and I live!

I ended up going to Mrs. Esbaum’s website to learn more about her, and I was amazed to see how many books she’s had published!  There were both fiction and nonfiction, and they all looked interesting!  Of course, our little library didn’t have all of them, so I placed a “hold” online and within a week or two, they arrived at our library.  Bubba and I got started on them right away, and it wasn’t long before I was thinking, I need to see if she could come to my school and talk to my students!

Next thing you know, I was back on her website to see if she does author visits… and she does!  After emailing back and forth a few times, she agreed to come speak to my kids (at a very reasonable price) in early December!  For the next month or so, I spent 15-20 minutes each day after lunch reading her books to my class to prepare them for her visit.  The kids loved them so much that, not only did we read most of her books, we also looked at her website and found an interview she had given online to learn more about her.

The kids were really excited when the day finally came for her to visit the class (it was the first day in a LONG time that I didn’t have a single student absent)! Mrs. Esbaum told the kids some great “behind-the-scenes” stories about her books, read one of her new books that comes out in January, shared a copy of another book that comes out in May next year, and answered all the questions the kids could think to ask.  Not only that, she signed more than 60 books (one for each student in 1st grade at my school – and a few more for Bubba and my niece and nephew) before she left!

Needless to say, my students and I were thrilled to have such a kind and talented author visit us!  I’m already thinking about asking her to come back every year to speak to each of my new classes… and you can bet I’ll make sure Bubba’s teachers and classmates get the same experience!

It’s cool to think that it all happened because of this little journey Bubba and I started earlier this year… I wonder what other surprises are in store for us as we continue trying to read every picture book in our library!

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How Little I Know…

One of the best things about trying to read Bubba every book in our little library is that I’m constantly reading books by authors that I’ve never read before.  There have been a couple occasions where I went from never having heard of an author to a huge fan of their work!

Take, for example, author Emily Gravett.  Just the other day, I’d never heard of her, or read any of her books.  However, when we got to her section of the shelf, I was blown away by how many books she’d written – as well as the quality of each of those books!

From simple books, like Orange Pear Apple Bear, The Odd Egg, and Blue Chameleon (which Bubba really enjoyed) to Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears (which I thought was very interesting), the more I read, the more I wondered how I had never heard of Emily Gravett before!

I have a feeling that, as Bubba and I travel on our journey, we’ll continue to “discover” other great authors like Emily Gravett… and prove the old saying true, “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”

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My Bad Habit

I’ve got a bad habit that I need to come clean about… I’ve got a habit of buying Newbery Medal winning books whenever I get a chance.  I like to think that Bubba will appreciate having so many award winning books when he gets older, but in the back of my head I know he probably won’t read most of them.

I keep buying them, though.  I buy them at bookstores, garage sales, Goodwill stores, and book fairs.  I just can’t pass up on an opportunity to buy a copy of a Newbery that I don’t have yet!

As of right now, I’ve got every Newbery Medal winner from 1967 to the present (and a smattering of others between 1922 and 1967).

Is this normal?  Should my wife be taking me to a Twelve-Step program to break me of this addiction?  Hopefully when Bubba gets older he won’t look down on his father for this habit!

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McDonald’s or the Library

The other day I asked my class of 27 first graders a question that I’ve never asked any of my other classes before:  How many of them had been to any of the three libraries in our city.  I don’t know why I never thought about asking the question before, but what I learned shocked me!  Almost half of them (12) said they had never been to any of our libraries!

Take a guess how many of my students have been to McDonald’s (on multiple occasions), though… all but two.  Does this surprise anybody?

Don’t take this the wrong way… I’m in no way judging the parenting skills of the families in my classroom because I know Bubba and I will take our fair share of trips to McDonald’s together (when his mom isn’t there to tell us “No,” of course)  However, it got me thinking about an article I read online about how McDonald’s in the U.K. ran a promotion that gave away books in their Happy Meals earlier this year.

I wish McDonald’s would try the same thing here in the United States (even if it was just for a week or two)!  Think of how many kids (like my students) could benefit from a Happy Meal book!

Most likely it’ll never happen here in the U.S., and I guess I’m okay with that because I can take my class on a field trip to the library and Bubba doesn’t need a Happy Meal book when he gets to visit our library multiple times each week!

Of course, Bubba doesn’t get much of a choice when it comes to visiting our library (much like my students don’t really get a choice when or if they visit the library).  However, I’m pretty sure Bubba enjoys our visits.

This week when we arrived, he immediately ran to the librarian’s desk and started “talking” excitedly to her.  Of course, neither the librarian nor I could figure out what he was saying, but his joy and excitement about being in the library was very apparent.

I just wish all kids (especially my students) could have the same opportunity as Bubba and share in his love for the library.

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Imagination Library

When people think Dolly Parton, they usually think award-winning singer, songwriter, TV and movie star, amusement park owner, etc., but many people don’t even know about one of her ventures that I think is most impressive: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library!

Here’s what it says on the Imagination Library Website:


“In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, she wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could insure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.”

What started in just her home county in Tennessee became so popular that it was made available for replication in any community that was willing to partner with Dolly. Today, nearly 40,000,000 books have been mailed to children throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom!

It’s truly an amazing program that every parent should sign their child up for the day their child is born!  If you’re a parent of a birth to 5 year old and you haven’t signed up for the Imagination Library yet, you need to head over to the website ( ) right now!

Bubba was signed up before he even left the hospital, and the books that he’s received have been absolutely perfect for him so far – age appropriate, engaging, educational, and fun!  He has loved every single one of his “Dolly Books!” (and has had each one to him MANY times)

If you don’t have a child this age, I hope you’ll consider donating some money to keep this wonderful program going in your community, because it’s one of the greatest literacy programs I’ve ever seen… So great that I believe it will go down as one of Dolly Parton’s greatest accomplishments!

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An Inappropriate Book?

Bubba and I read a book the other day called Ron’s Big Mission (by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden), and I liked it well enough that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It’s about a nine-year-old boy in the 1950s who wanted to check out a book at the library, but wasn’t allowed to because of his skin color.  The boy’s mother and the police were called, but the boy refused to back down.  People told the boy to just let a white person check out the book for him, but he persisted. In the end, he walked out of the library with the book he wanted checked out in his name.

It was the last page that really got me, though.  On that page, it tells how the story is a fictionalized account of a real incident from Ron McNair’s life (for those who might not know, Ron McNair was one of the astronauts who perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion).

Needless to say, this is one of those stories I definitely want Bubba to hear again when he gets older… the courage McNair must have had to face this injustice head-on is absolutely inspiring!

I even thought about using it in my classroom, but then I read some of the reviews on Amazon.  More than 25% of the people who rated the book said it was one-star because they felt it was “inappropriate” for children! One even said:

“my child never saw people as a “color” before this book. people were just people until this book was read to him. i have now spent 3 weeks trying to undo what this book has done.” 

Seriously?!  Are parents really going that far to shelter their children from the realities of the past?  Should I be worried about what the parents will say/do if I read it to my first graders at school this year?  What do you think?  Let me know by leaving a comment.


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Five Stars

Apparently I have really high expectations when it comes to rating books on Goodreads.  Most of the time, I’ll rate books as three (out of five) stars, and if I really like a book, I’ll rate it as four stars.  Out of all the books Bubba and I have read so far, I’ve only rated one of them as five of five stars.  It’s called “One” by Katheryn Otoshi.


Here’s how Amazon describes it:

“Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other’s differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.” 

Obviously I’m not the only person who likes this book…  When I checked Amazon to get the description above, it had 81 ratings… and EVERY SINGLE PERSON gave it 5 of 5 stars!

I love this book because it has all the right things you would want a child Bubba’s age to learn (like colors and numbers), and the lesson of the story is one that can be (and should be) repeated over and over in childhood.

This is the first book on our journey that I feel is good enough to buy a copy to keep at our house, and I think you would agree if you read it, too!  Check it out and tell me what you think of it!

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Another Mini Book Tour

It’s so nice to be back home and reading to Bubba again!  We’ve already finished our bag of books that we picked up from the library before I left town, so we’re patiently waiting for 10:00am Monday morning (when our library opens) to head back to the library and pick up another bag of books.

On a different note, I found out that many of the books from the Illinois Reads program are not currently at our library, so I figured that while we wait for them to be delivered, we could start another “Mini Book Tour.”  Luckily, there’s no shortage of “mini tours” that we could take, so we’ll call the next one the “Monarch Award Mini Tour.”

Every year, the Illinois School Library Media Association administers the Monarch Award. It’s a K-3 Readers’ Choice Award in Illinois that’s presented annually to the author and/or illustrator of the book that’s voted by students in Kindergarten through Grade Three as their favorite from that year’s reading list. Click here to see this year’s reading list.

It looks like this will be a great mini tour to take, so I hope you’ll join us!  If you have any suggestions for other mini tours in the future, please leave your idea as a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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