Author Archive


September 15, 2015

waitingWaiting by Kevin Henkes

Five figurines sitting on a windowsill are waiting for different things.  The owl waits for the moon; the pig with the umbrella waits for the rain; and the puppy on a sled waits for snow.  Each in their turn is rewarded except for the rabbit:  “He just liked to look out the window and wait.”  Sometimes, the figurines receive gifts (such as an acorn or shell); sometimes they see interesting things (such as rainbows, icicles or lightning).

One day a cat with patches joins the group and they wonder if she’s waiting for something, too.  The reader will be as pleasantly surprised as the five figurine friends by the surprise

With its wonderfully gentle tone, cleanly-drawn illustrations with a pastel palette against an expansive cream background, Kevin Henkes has created another gem of a picture book.


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The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

July 16, 2015

calpurniaI do love Calpurnia Tate!  She is a bright and inquisitive young woman living in a small Texas town in 1899.  At a time when girls are expected to be interested in needlework, Calpurnia’s interests lie in the natural world, much to the consternation of her mother. 

In this second book about the character, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Callie Vee’s interest in the natural sciences, encouraged by the influence of her grandfather, continues as the pair dissect various creatures. The relationship between Callie and her grandfather, however, takes a back seat to the story of Callie and her younger brother, Travis. The majority of the book tells of the various escapades and adventures resulting from Travis’s unlikely animal adoptions and Callie helping to care for (and hide) the creatures. The author leaves the book open-ended enough that I suspect (and hope!) there will be another about this strong female character.

calpurnia 1You may also wish to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, the book that introduces the character, although this title can stand alone. 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy.


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App Time

June 27, 2015

will and kateWe explored a free book and activity app this week.

The book app was  Kate & William: A Royal Fairytale by Ink Robin (free for iPad and iPhone)

A fairytale romance app about Prince William and Kate Middleton that has background music, high quality illustrations, amusing and well-placed sound effects, along with a well-told story. There is no highlighted narration for this one. There is the option to “read to me” or “read it myself.” The bookmark icon in the top right allows you to quickly navigate through the pages.  There is also the option to shop for other book apps by the producer, Ink Robin, but it does require a specific swipe so that young ones won’t easily get to the App Store.  A very minimalist (book) app but highly recommended…and at the right price!

everyday grooves appThe activity app, Everyday Grooves by The Fred Rogers Center, pairs music with common routines such as Clean Up time, Get Dressed time, etc. You can set the alarms to go off once or multiple times a day. You can silence all alarms or just some of the alarms. I can see this being a fun way to remind children (and parents), and set routines. There’s even a Love You! and Let’s Read! alarm.

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June 10, 2015

trapped coverTrapped!  A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh and illustrations by Wendell Minor

As a humpback whale “spyhops, lobtails, flashes her flukes,” and feeds on krill, she encounters danger in the form of unseen nets.  Soon, the threads of the nets are entangled on her body and she begins to struggle.  She is TRAPPED.  Rescue divers come, but are they too late?

With rich vocabulary and many full-page spreads, the reader has a sense of the majesty and grand size of the whale.  There is tension as the reader hopes for a successful rescue.  Wendell Minor’s gouache illustrations are realistic and depict the beautiful, jewel-tone colors of the ocean.  This is the best kind of non-fiction picture book, with the final pages giving more information on the true story behind the book, whale rescue, and humpback whales, and where to look for more resources.

whale 2

In the final double-page spread with no text, the whale splashes back to the depths of the ocean by the light of the moon.  A truly beautiful picture book about a trapped (and saved) whale.

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Spring Storytime ends this week

May 6, 2015

spring storytimeReminder! Our spring session of storytime ends this week.

While we’ll be busy planning during May, we hope you’ll continue to make your visits to the library a weekly (or daily!) habit!  You’ll find puzzles, games and plenty of reading material at each library.

The summer storytime session will begin on June 8.  Join us for storytime and also sign up for Suburban Dare, our summer reading program.


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App Time Session 16

May 2, 2015

rocketThe book app we explored in App Time this week was How Rocket Learned to Read written by Tad Hills and produced by Random House ($4.99 on App Store for iPad), and based on the book of the same name.
Rocket the dog isn’t interested in reading, but a little yellow bird changes his mind and becomes his reading teacher. This app is well organized and easy to use. The app begins with a Word of the Day before the story begins. You can read it yourself or have it read aloud. Navigation is clear with arrows at the bottom of the page, a clear Home button and a Question button that gives page hints to prompt the reader where to tap or at times to shake the iPad (to make leaves fall). There is highlighted narration (the reader is a female with great verbal inflection) and verbal pronunciation of a word when tapped. Another nice feature is the “resume progress” option if reading is paused. rocket 2
The app also includes two games that build on the theme of learning to read: Bird’s Words and Alphabet Drop. Bird’s Words helps children learn sight words and there’s the option to hear the word again if children are unsure. If a wrong word is chosen the app moves on. In Alphabet Drop, there is clear instructions for how to play. A scene appears with Rocket looking up at the sky. As letters fall, the child tilts the iPad so that Rocket’s nose touches the letters in order. The letters then appear on a small chalkboard on the tree and a timer keeps track. Children can do the game over and over to improve their time.


abc appWe also looked at the activity app ABC Alphabet Phonics produced by Innovative Investments (free on App Store for iPad and iPhone)

This activity app provides a number of ways to for children to identify alphabet letters, from simple prompts to press a letter to additional phonics options. There are lots of options to expand upon letter recognition including uppercase and lowercase; animals next to letters to prompt identification of letter and animal name starting with the letter; professions to prompt identification of letter and profession. Game sounds include reinforcement when a correct answer is chosen.  With so much customization, this free app has many uses!


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Goatilocks and the Three Bears

April 9, 2015

goatilocksGoatilocks and the Three Bears by Erica S. Perl

A fractured version of Goldilocks featuring a “kid,” a young goat, as the main character. The goat is as audacious as Goldilocks but with a goat-like twist: she eats everything! How can she make it up to the bears? There’s a surprising and satisfying answer to round out the story. The comical, cartoon-style illustrations add to the humor in this pleasing fractured fairy tale.goatilocks 2

So what is a fractured fairy tale? Take a regular fairy tale, then change the gender(s) of some of the characters, mix up the setting, add a little humor, and you have a new version of an old favorite.

These titles are often great for reading aloud with children who know the traditional tale well and can enjoy the humor of a different version. We have a list of them here.

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App Time Session 12: Trucks and Peekaboo Barn

April 4, 2015

byron barton appsIn App Time this week, we used the book app Trucks from the Byron Barton Collection #1 produced by Oceanhouse Media ($4.99 on the App Store or $1.99 if purchased individually).

For young listeners who love vehicles, this app is a great companion for the books of the same name. It features bold colors and simple navigation with a bright orange triangle at the bottom right for page turns. Sentences appear in black and are highlighted as read aloud (you can turn this option off, too). Pressing on a word will pronounce and display the word again. Sound effects are minimal: Pressing on objects in the scene results in identification of the object, and sometimes prompts additional sound effects. I like the non-distracting format of this app, ideal for younger children. Pressing the orange arrow at bottom center gives the option to close, go to home, navigate to particular pages, record your voice for read-aloud option and turn on/off sound effects.

peekaboo barnWe also used the activity app, Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios ($1.99 on App Store and Google Play)

A wonderfully simple and pleasing app:  a red barn is front and center, and tapping on the wiggling doors opens them to reveal a farm animal. The animal noise is heard, and the word for the animal appears. Tapping again closes the barn doors, and the child can tap to open the doors and reveal another animal.

This one is great for interaction, animal identification and sounds.  Additionally, there are many language options, making this a good one for non-native English speakers or for those wanting their children to learn animal words in another language. 

peekaboo barn 1Parent options can be accessed by swiping, and allow play modes of regular or looped; voice on or off; voice in other languages; or the option to record a voice.



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App Time Session 8

March 7, 2015

monster appThis week in App Time, we looked at the book app There’s a Monster at the End of this Book!  It’s produced by Sesame Street and available for $4.99 on the App Store.  Based on the beloved book of the same name, Grover narrates the book, warning readers NOT to turn the pages because there’s a monster at the end of the book. The book’s interactivity comes into play as readers can “untie” the ropes and “break down” the brick wall that Grover builds, in hopes of preventing the reader from turning another page. It’s easy to navigate with the bottom corner of the page pulling up, and Grover acting as a guide with funny comments. Interactive parts glow so it’s obvious where to tap, and there’s highlighted narration.  There is also a parent tab with lots of extension activities, and ideas for using the app to calm a child’s fears.
ACPL appThe activity app this week is ACPL Family (free on the App Store) from the Allen County Public Library.  The app promotes early literacy and can be used with preschoolers up through elementary-grade children. There are booklists with helpful themed lists, with some common ones such as Great Books for Toddlers but also less common ones such as “Dentist” or “Clay Illustrations.” Keep in mind that the books link to the Allen County Library so you’ll want to use the Plano library app to check for the titles recommended here.

There’s a Tips & Facts section that gives early literacy tips by age group.  There’s also a Reading Timer (great for independent readers or adults who want to commit to read-aloud time with their child).

The READY on the Go section is impressive for its videos related to each of the 5 early literacy practices (Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing & Playing).  The videos, aimed at the child but modeling for the parent or caregiver, give ideas for how to reinforce that practice.


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Rain Reign

March 6, 2015

rain reign Rain Reign by Ann Martin

This was such a satisfying chapter book!

Rose needs predictability in her life (she’s on the Autism spectrum), but living with her dad is difficult. He’s distant and gruff. Her saving grace is her uncle who seems to understand Rose so well. She loves homonyms and these appear all through the text.  Rose collects them. Besides her uncle, a dog–a gift from her dad–are her anchors.

I so rooted for this little girl. There’s a bittersweet ending but one that seemed just right. As a reader, I practically ached to make things right for her.  I hope you enjoy this one!

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