Sunday, October 30, 2011


Popcorn (c. 1979) is just one of those books that you have to read and experience for yourself.  Written and illustrated by the beloved Frank Asch (of Happy Birthday Moon), it's a Halloween costume party sure to surprise.  Oh, and a quick word of warning, read it before you decide to pop your popcorn.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Spider and the Fly

As you all know, Halloween is quickly approaching.  Do you have any spooky stories to read to the kids?

If not, I highly recommend The Spider and the Fly (c. 2003) based on the cautionary tale by Mary Howitt and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.

First of all, Mary Howitt penned the original poem "The Spider and the Fly" in 1829.  And, truth be told, this spooky tale employs an educational purpose of teaching children about the webs that flattery casts.  Think of that age old Biblical proverb "charm is deceitful . . . "

Now, consider this same lesson set against the backdrop of a 1920s haunted mansion.  DiTerlizzi received the Caldecott Honor for his illustrations, which he describes as inspired by "classic Hollywood film noir."  The only warning I would submit is this: DiTerlizzi's mesmerizing illustrations threaten to entice its viewers into minutes, possibly hours, of study and sighs.  Like a magician, the spider pulls quite a hat trick.

Update 10/31/11: Hi, readers!  Just wanted to let you in on a brief update: Nana went to her school library to borrow their copy (since I had hers) to read to her class.  Problem was it was worn out!!!  Seriously!  The librarian is presently ordering a new copy for her little eager readers.  Check it out for yourselves, I'm convinced you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuttle's Red Barn

Tuttle's Red Barn: The Story of America's Oldest Family Farm 
by Richard Michelson
Illustrated by Mary Azarian
copyright 2007

We stumbled upon this dear book, and even the kids sat through the whole long family tree of a story.  I'd sit here and chatter on about it for hours, but really, the publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons did such a fabulous job with its jacket leaf write-up that I won't reinvent the wheel in saying anymore:

The story of Tuttle's Red Barn is the story of America.  John Tuttle arrived in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1632 with only his father's ax an the two pewter candleholders his mother had given him after they'd hugged good-bye.  But from that humble beginning he built the farm that, today, still stands on the same land.

Twelve generations have tilled this New England soil, taking part in many great milestones of American history along the way.  The Tuttle family fought in the Revolutionary War, protected slaves on the Underground Railroad, and helped pave the way for the Industrial Revolution.  A Tuttle was even there to offer maple syrup to Abraham Lincoln when he visited Dover!

A fascinating look at America as seen through the eyes of one family, Tuttle's Red Barn is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the story of our country.  Caldecott medalist Mary Azarian's vibrant woodcut illustrations accompany Richard Michelson's informative and remarkable account of one family that has stayed connected through the centuries by a love of family, and one big red barn.

And if you'd like to see Tuttle's present day red barn and surrounding landscapes, here are some links:

Here's a fascinating interview with the illustrator, Mary Azarian:


Here's another bear story that I was drawn to by the illustrations . . . that and the fact that it's about fall.  I'm telling you childrens' book illustrators beckon like sirens when their illustrations are stunningly executed!

In Leaves (c. 2007), David Ezra Stein creates his artwork with bamboo pen and watercolors giving the illustrations a unique personality.  This sweet book chronicles a bear's first year.  Imagine his surprise and bewilderment as he witnesses the first leaves fall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Oliver Finds His Way

Here's a sweet little book about loosing one's way and using one's intuition to figure out how to reunite with Daddy and Mama.  Phyllis Root wrote and Christopher Denise illustrated the cozy family read Oliver Finds His Way (c. 2002).  It's set against the heartwarming backdrop of fall foliage, perfected with pastels and charcoal on paper.  I hope to see more from this illustrator!  Be sure to look for the yellow Maple leaf in each spread.

 October 19, 2011
Dear friends,
The Mister just made me aware of more titles from this delightful illustrator Christopher Denise.  Be sure to check out this website: with that information.  I should have recognized him from my Redwall fans, with a shout-out to Hudson Lewis!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harvest Home


Harvest Home
by Arthur Guiterman

                   The maples flare among the spruces,
                   The bursting foxgrape spills its juices,
                   The gentians lift their sapphire fringes
                   On roadways rich with golden tenges,
                   The waddling woodchucks fill their hampers,
                   The deer mouse runs, the chipmunk scampers,
                   The squirrels scurry, never stopping,
                   For all they hear is apples dropping
                   And walnuts plumping fast and faster;
                   The bee weighs down the purple aster --
                   Yes, hive your honey, little hummer,
                   The woods are waving, "Farewell, Summer."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Apple Pie Tree

Some folks swear by The Apple Pie Tree (c. 1996) by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern.  We think it's a cute book, but we're not exactly turning cartwheels over it.  Two siblings watch the growth of an apple tree and its nesting robin family through the progression of the seasons.  Come fall, they pick the apples to bake an apple pie.  The younger set seems to particularly enjoy this simple sequencing story.  It's a good precursor to visiting the apple orchard or baking an apple pie with your toddler/preschooler.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Johnny Appleseed

Don't let this apple season pass by without reading the kids an edition about Johnny Appleseed.  There are many different editions out there, and I haven't seen a bad one . . . yet.  Our family favorite hails from 1967 as told by Solveig Paulson Russell and illustrated by Elfreda.  In fact, I'm rather sentimental about this edition . . . Nana found it in her collection with my name imprinted on the flyleaf . . . ah, the memories!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ox-Cart Man

Do you remember this book?  I think I first discovered it via Reading Rainbow as LeVar Burton read it to his audience.  Ox-Cart Man (c. 1979) by Donald Hall with Caldecott award winning illustrations by our beloved Barbara Cooney recalls the days of a 19th century New England family.  Take a journey back in time from the moment you open the first page:

                                           In October he backed his ox into his cart
                                           and he and his family filled it up
                                          with everything they made or grew all year long
                                          that was left over.

A beautiful depiction of early settler life throughout the seasons, Ox-Cart Man takes the ten day travel to town to trade his goods for the necessities for surviving the next year on his family farm.

Early reader chapter book list

I had a friend ask me today if there are any alternatives to Junie B. Jones books.  Actually, I'm asked this question frequently.  Yes, yes, and yes!  Don't let your child waste his or her time with the sass and attitude, not to mention poor grammar reinforcement, of Junie B. Jones when there are classic titles abounding.  In the future, I hope to feature more chapter books.  However, if you have a young reader especially, please don't overlook picture books.  Some of the best picture books are a challenge to read.  And they can provide quick satisfaction if your reader would like to complete a story over the course of 1-3 evenings.  In no particular order, here are some chapter book alternatives that line our shelves (or that we've checked out) here at Read Me A Story:

the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald, illustrations by the brilliant Hilary Knight
books by A. A. Milne
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
the Mary Poppins series by P. L. Travers
The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne
anything by Roald Dahl
books by E. B. White such as Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web
books by Beverly Cleary
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong, illustrations by none other than Maurice Sendak
books by Lois Lenski
Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
The Middle Moffat and other books by Elanor Estes
Five Little Peppers by Margaret Sidney
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

books that boys especially enjoy:
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Homer Price by Robert McClosky
The Mouse on the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Jo's Boys and Little Men by Louisa M. Alcott
the Redwall series by Brian Jacques
books by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens)
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Arabian Nights
books by Jules Vernebooks by Jack London
books by H. G. Wells
books by Alexander Dumas

books that girls especially enjoy:
The American Girl books
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Little Women and other books by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables and other books by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglass Wiggin
Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Over in the Meadow

I have another folk-song turned into book for you today.  John Langstaff's retelling of Over in the Meadow (c. 1957) begs to be checked out due to Feodor Rojankovsky's gorgeous, lifelike illustrations.   In fact, I was going to scan more illustrations to share with you.  However, here's the problem: I can't decide which ones to share.  So you'll have to content yourself with the cover jacket until you're able to check this beauty out of your local library.

Since you're familiar with this old counting song, I'll only include the first stanza to jog your memory:
              Over in the meadow in the sand in the sun
              Lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one.
              "Dig," said the mother, "I did," said the one;
              So he dug and was glad in the sand in the sun. 

Once you check out Over in the Meadow, you'll want to see more of Rojankovsky's illustrations.  I recommend the 1956 Caldecott Award Winning  Frog Went A-Courtin', a familiar Southern Appalachian ballad, originally written over four-hundred years ago in Scotland.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Fox went out on a chilly night

A perfect read for this time of year especially, Peter Spier brings this folk song to life in his Caldecott Honor book THE FOX went out on a chilly night (c. 1961).  It's a circle of life song not at all for the fainthearted.

After the lively, amusing reading, I recommend listening to Nickel Creek's adaption.  You won't at all be disappointed!

Debra and Jessica, this one is especially dedicated to your families, with love!  I can't listen to this song (or read this book) without thinking of "Mimi" singing it to her children and then her grandchildren, as well as her Shanghai and Horizon audiences.

The fox went out on a chilly night,
And he prayed to the moon to give him light,
For he'd many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,
For he'd many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town-o.

He ran 'til he came to the farmer's bin,
Where the ducks and the geese were kept therein
"A couple of you will grease my chin
Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o
A couple of you will grease my chin
Before I leave this town-o."

He grabbed a grey goose by the neck,
Then he swung a little one over his back
And he didn't mind their quack, quack, quack
Or their legs all dangling down-o, down-o, down-o
He didn't mind the quack, quack, quack
Or their legs all dangling down-o.

Old Mother Giggle-Gaggle jumped out of bed
Out of the window she popped her head
Crying, "John, John, the grey goose is gone
And the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o
Crying, "John, John the grey goose is gone
And the fox is on the town-o.

So John, he ran to the top of the hill,
Blew his horn both loud and shrill;
The fox, he said, "I better go on with my kill
Or they'll soon be on my tail-o, tail-o, tail-o."
The fox, he said, "I better go on with my kill
Or they'll soon be on my trail-o."

He ran till he came to his nice warm den
There were the little ones eight, nine, ten
Saying, "Daddy, Daddy, better go back again
For it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o."
Saying, "Daddy, Daddy, better go back again for it
Must be a mighty fine town-o."

Then the fox and his wife, without any strife
Cut-up the goose with a fork and a knife
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o.
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Find "October" in A Child's Calendar, a collection of twelve of John Updike's poems that describes a child's journey through the seasons from January through December  (c. 1965).  Caldecott award winning artist Trina Schart Hyman illustrated the collection (c. 1999).