Young Fredle grows up repeatedly hearing the rules about how mice behave. Sometimes it seems like life between the walls of the kitchen is nothing but rules. One of the most important rules is that mice don’t change. But that doesn’t dampen Fredle’s curiosity and sense of adventure. Finally, his mother’s predictions come true, and his curious nature and sweet tooth get Fredle in deep trouble. And so Fredle finds himself Outside.
Wahoo Cray’s yard is a zoo, literally. That’s where his dad, Mickey, keeps all of their animals, including pythons, monkeys, and an alligator named Alice. Mickey is the best animal wrangler in Florida...or he was until he got hit on the head by a frozen iguana. Since then he hasn’t been able to work. Money is so tight that Mickey accepts a job offer from the Expedition Survival TV series with Wahoo as his assistant. Things get off to a bad start when the show’s bumbling but egotistical star, Derek Badger, gets bitten by a snapping turtle and then an alligator. And that’s before he even leaves the safety of the Cray’s yard in Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
As the sun sets, the animals in the farmyard should be settling down for the night. But in Lindsey Craig’s Farmyard Beat:
“Chicks can’t sleep. Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep
‘cause they got that beat.”
And so begins a toe-tapping dance party where each animal’s noisy contribution to the beat wakes up another. The chicks go peep and wake up sheep. Cat’s purr and meow wake up cow. The racket grows until it is so loud that Farmer Sue comes to investigate the noise. Of course, she joins in and the entire farmyard dances to the beat until they “fall in a heap. Asleep.”
When it first appeared in 1963, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are didn’t look like or read like any other children’s book out there. It was full of mystery and wonder--and Wild Things with attitude, including the King of all Wild Things, our hero Max.
But Max of the wolf suit wasn’t originally supposed to voyage to the Land of the Wild Things. He was first scheduled to be visiting the Land of the Wild Horses--which was how the book was planned and given to Maurice Sendak to write and illustrate. The problem was, the author/illustrator did not know how to draw horses. So his editor let him change them to Wild Things, a take on the Yiddish phrase "Vilde chaya,” meaning boisterous children.* This changeover was magic.
It's true: most people would do just about anything to get out of having to speak in public, whether it's the standard "everyone in this class will give an oral report" situation or an acceptance speech for some nifty award you've just received. The knees knock, the heart pounds, and the words you've practiced and practiced and practiced fly right out of your mind. You find yourself resorting to reading from the index cards with your eyes down, your voice a droning monotone, and the sweat beading on your forehead. Yuck. Not a good situation. It's painful for you as the presenter and even more painful for your audience to watch. Here's a bit of advice for beginning public speakers.
Leo Lionni was born into a family that appreciated art, and, from a very young age, he knew he wanted to be an artist. He loved nature and started keeping small creatures--minnows, birds, fish, and more--in his attic room in Amsterdam. He also created terrariums, and many of these natural details found their way into his later work. Like so many successful children’s authors, Leo Lionni was able to remember and tap into the things that were important to him when he was a child.
What would you do if you discovered that you could read other people’s thoughts?
It’s not bad enough that Callie Anderson has to get glasses just before the start of middle school, but they are the ugliest glasses she has ever seen. Yet those huge, geeky lenses and fat black frames hide a secret. These glasses show Callie what other people are thinking. Maybe they will actually help her. And she can use all of the help she can get. She’s lost in math and Spanish classes. Her best friend seems to be drifting away. And her parents’ marriage is falling apart. But can Callie follow the eye doctor’s instructions and learn to use the glasses wisely?
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."
August Pullman has a face that only a mother could love, only his mother to be exact. The main character of R.J. Palacio's book Wonder has an extra large forehead. His eyes are much lower than they should be. His mouth always hangs open and his ears are underdeveloped and cauliflower-shaped. What people do not know when they look at August is that they are seeing a very smart, funny, and capable young man.
What is a bear’s favorite baseball team? Why the Cubs of course! In Grin and Bear It, by Leo Landry, Bear is becoming confident in telling his jokes on Woodland Stage in front of all his friends. The only foreseeable problem is that Bear suffers from stage fright. Whenever he tries to speak in front of people, his knees knock, his paws pause, his fur freezes while he stutters, barely being able to speak. Bear rehearses over and over again in front of his mirror while constantly writing new jokes. He feels ready.
Does anyone actually like writing thank-you notes? Of course, you are grateful and thankful for the thoughtful gifts from your loved ones, but what do you actually write in the thank-you note? And how long does the note have to be?
In Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, by Peggy Gifford, ten-year-old Moxy Maxwell, who is a master procrastinator, has promised her mother that she will have all of her holiday thank-you notes finished by the day after Christmas. Part of the rush is due to the fact that she and her brother, Mark, are going to visit their father in California and are going to a star-studded New Year’s Eve Hollywood bash. In order to go to California and attend the fun New Year’s Eve party Moxy MUST have her thank-you notes finished. In true Moxy fashion, she finds plenty of activities to distract her from her task. As time ticks by, Moxy develops many shortcut plans in order to have her thank-you notes done on time...one of which includes her stepfather’s brand-new copy machine and a can of gold spray paint.