Art Heroes : Why is Blue Dog Blue?

            Art Heroes 

In my second week with working with Miss Sarah on our Art Hero series, we decided to do an art story time over the artist George Rodrigue. 

You cannot talk about George Rodrigue without reading his book, but before we read his book we opened with an artist the kids were more familiar with. 

Ms. Sarah opened by reading the book, 

The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse by Eric Carle.  

The kids really enjoyed this book. I think it was something that they are used to, and it was a great way to show that many artists use nontraditional colors to paint ordinary things. 

After Ms. Sarah finished reading this book, we asked the kids why they thought Eric Carle painted his horse blue. The kids didn't really have a response to this, but it was a great transition  to read George Rodrigue's book. 


I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. It's interactive and introduces to kids to many different colors that they aren't typically used to hearing.  It was perfect for our group. 

Of course after we finished the book, we had to include a clip of Mr. Rodrigue at work. 

 Ms. Sarah also made an amazing connection! She asked the kids if they could think of another animal that was blue and was really popular. Can you think of one? 

No peeking 

It might be a cat. 

A blue cat.

Of course it is the very cool Pete the Cat! 

I think this really hit home that art can be anything & what makes art yours is by making it anything you want. 

We ended the program by inviting the kids to look at some of the artwork of George Rodrigue, and then we had the  kids paint their very own dog. 

You can access this great at activity from George Rodrigue website

For our activity we just had the kids use paint to practice mixing colors & shades.  

I enjoyed watching the kids try to make the dog different colors, and trying to remember what mixes what to make a certain color. 

One of our regulars came the first week and said he was not a good artist. but by the time he started painting his dog he told his grandma that was a great artist. I love how much art and stories can have an impact on people. 

Until next time, 


The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Throwback Tweens Read Thursdays

Goodreads Synopsis:

When orphaned young Maria Merryweather arrives at Moonacre Manor, she feels as if she’s entered Paradise. Her new guardian, her uncle Sir Benjamin, is kind and funny; the Manor itself feels like home right away; and every person and animal she meets is like an old friend. But there is something incredibly sad beneath all of this beauty and comfort—a tragedy that happened years ago, shadowing Moonacre Manor and the town around it—and Maria is determined to learn about it, change it, and give her own life story a happy ending. But what can one solitary girl do?

A new-fashioned story that is as wonderful as the best fairy tales.


After my post about the importance of old books, I decided it was high time we began reviewing them! Introducing: Throwback Tweens Read Thursdays! We'll start with this gem of a book. The Little White Horse has all the right components that comprise a good fairy tale: a struggle between good an evil, character growth, romance, and magic. Elizabeth Goudge is an excellent wordsmith and brings every moment to life in a deliciously lyrical manner.

The Little White Horse exudes a quirky brand of charm. The name of the characters in particular suggest a vivid imagination and love of words in the author. Indeed, these names suggest the personality of each character, before description is ever given. For example, give your imagination reign with these tasty confections: Loveday Minette, Marmaduke Scarlet, and Zachariah the Cat. Perhaps you imagined sweetness in Loveday, a temper in Marmaduke, and realized that Zachariah is no ordinary cat.

Maria, the primary protagonist, is a strong female character in possession of many of the qualities desirous in an effective leader. I particularly love Maria's tenacity. She has her faults, but each time she is confronted with them, she does not try to make excuses or pass blame on someone else. Rather, she faces them, immediately takes steps to change them, and perseveres in her improvement. This quality is what truly characterizes Maria as a mature thirteen year old who is "wise beyond her years."

I was a little frightened to reread this book, because occasionally some of the charm disappears from first read to second. Not so with The Little White Horse! Now, I must admit, as with most books, this is not a book for everyone. (In fact, I only know of one that fully fits that description.) However, if you or your tweens enjoy a good fairy tale with a strong portrayal of good and evil, this is the book for you!

What are some of your favorite "throwback" books? Let us know!


Music Heroes: Keith Richards

While Ms. Sarah was away at ALA, I got to do my very first story time all by myself for ages 4-8.

It was a story time tribute to the Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards.

To set the mood for this rockin' story time, I  opened with the song.

The song is called: Rock and Roll Rhythm Band by Greg and Steve. 

These are not my kids. It is just a YouTube video, but it is a nice representation of how the song goes, and how much fun it is! It was a wonderful opener & perfect to get even the youngest child's attention. I would highly recommend it for your story time needs. 

As I collected the instruments, I started to introduce who Keith Richards was. The biggest point I wanted to make was that he is not from the United States, and instead he is from Dartford, England. I wanted to make this point to explain why the book was a little different. I then talked about how even though Keith was not from the United States, he loved to listen to Jazz and Blues music. The week before we discussed Jazz & Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. So I wanted to make this point to have this series build on each other & show the progression of music. 

We then listened to a portion of the song Rolllin' Stone by Muddy Waters. 

If you don't know much about Rolling Stone history, this is the song that inspired Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to name the band the Rolling Stones. 

 I had the kids try to wiggle and sway to the beat of the music. They had a lot of fun with this, but I think we need to go over blues music on a later day. They did not know what to think about it. 

Finally, it was time to settle in to read our story of the day.  

I read the book Gus & Me by Keith Richards. 

If you haven't read this book, it is about how Keith's grandfather inspired him to play the guitar.

As I read the story, I looked out at my story time crowd and realized that my audience was all grandparents and grandkids.  I watched as they swayed together as I read the story, and I took in that moment when the grandparents got hugs at the end of the story.

It is a moment I think that will stay with me the rest of my life.

It was like a song in itself.

....& that is how my story time become an unintentional intergenerational story time.

This story was a wonderful way to bring these generations together in music. In fact, this might be one to repeat on grandparents day.

To end this music hero series, I invited my participants to do some activities.

Our first activity was to make paper plate guitars. I think the kids most enjoyed this activity.

I also had a station out for the kids to make thank you cards or pictures for a loved one. There were a lot of happy loved ones in the room.

It was very sweet. My favorite part was one of  participants said his middle name is Gus so he is going to become the next Keith Richards. He proceeded to rock out on his paper plate guitar & his grandmother joined in by singing the song "Paint it Black."

So look for them to go on tour in the future.

Overall it was a fantastic experience. In the words of the Rolling Stones, "

"You can't always get what you want, 
But if you try, sometimes well you just might find,
 You get what you need. "

This story time did not go as planned, but it turned out to be so much more. 

Until Next Time, 


Fabulous Fridays: Iron Chef

The Program 

For this program, we wanted to create an outlet for tweens to do something creative. 
Ms. S. and Ms. V. have done this program in the past, and it has been very successful. Alyssa & I decided to try our hand at it, and see if it would be as successful with the tweens. 

Before we started the program, we placed all of the food on a long table. Some of the items we used were:  Twinkies, sprinkles, icing, wafers, and candy. We made sure that they were products that did not require cooking. 

When the kids arrived, we divided them up into teams. We had five teams of  about 5-6 kids.

Alyssa started off the program with an introduction about allergies. We wanted to make sure we were aware of all allergies before we got started. Thankfully, we only had one! The rest of our participants were allergy free.

Next, we made sure each team washed their hands. While the teams were waiting to wash their hands, we instructed the teams to come up with a team name, a team captain, and a plan. My favorite part of the whole program was watching the team dynamics form.

As I was going around, one little boy told me, "I would not be a good team captain because I would go mad with power."

(This is why tweens are awesome!)

I was just blown away by what a great job they did with their team. I felt like each team chose great captains & they made an extra effort to include everyone in their team.It is incredible what kids can do with little instruction!

After everyone washed their hands, we invited the team captains to come up and get their food for their teams. We made it a rule for only team captains to get the food because we wanted make sure we had enough supplies & we also wanted to encourage that group interaction.  We found out later that this was also a good method to keep the area sanitary.

We tried very hard to make sure all the kids kept their hands washed, but both Alyssa & I noticed kids licking spoons, carrying things with their hands, dropping things on the floor & eating them, & taking bites out of food & putting it in their display......

I tried really hard not to make this face.

Even though tweens are amazing, I think it is important to remember that they are still learning about cleanliness. This made Alyssa and I realize one big thing:

The competition would be based off of looks & not taste! 

Our reference staff were the judges, and we did not want to be responsible for the great summer sickness of 2015.

Besides the sanitation issue, our tween boys wanted to create things just for the grossness factor.

For instance, I had some boys  mix together: coffee,  Runts candy, cookie crumbs, pineapple, and Lemon Head candy. After they mixed it together, they proceeded to offer it to me for a tasting.

I had to decline, but I think if we ever do this program in the future we will continue to base the competition off of display instead of taste for these reasons.

Even though we had some sanitary hiccups, the kids did make some pretty amazing creations. Here are the final products:

The Cookie Dough team made a flower out of Twinkie cupcakes.

One of my favorites was the Smart Cookie team. They made an assembly line with all of the members of their team & created this lovely structure. 

The Awesome Opossums carefully made this dish based on taste. It was a mixture of sweet and sour. 

Gum Drop Girls Team- layered cookies with icing. 

Finally, the Food Network team (of all boys and one girl) made this really creative driver & it was also the winner of our competition. 

How the Program Went 

The program was a smash hit. Since we were dealing with food, we did a sign up for this program. Within the first few days we started the sign up, we had about 30 kids sign up. What was even more shocking for us- was that everyone that had signed up came! We also had many parents that wanted to stay & take pictures and watch how the program progressed. I really liked that it turned into a family experience.

What We Learned 

This program made me realize that we need more programming that provide a creative outlet. It felt like they craved an opportunity to create things out without instruction. I think this might be something that they don't get to do at home or at school very much & it was part of the reason that this program was so successful. In the future, I want to offer more programs like this one. I would also like to offer it at a later time to help cater to working families.

One little girl for instance wanted to attend this program very badly, but her dad attended night classes and worked during the day. She told me she begged her dad to come & he  finally gave in. He ended up hiring a babysitter special for her to come, but told her it wasn't something they could do all time.

Hearing that story meant a lot to me. I want to be able to do what I can to find a time that would work for as many families as possible. I know many families are working  to support their families. I feel like we do need to offer something for this age group at a later time. We have been doing this program at about 4 pm and in the future I would like to try it at about 6 pm.

Hopefully in the future, I will be able to find the right rhythm to meet this age group's needs.

Until next time,


Art Heroes! A Story Time About Henri Matisse

          Art Heroes 

I have been working with the amazing Ms. Sarah on doing a story time with art and music heroes in history. 

I am really blessed to have a mom who studied to be an art teacher & brought art and books into my life at young age. So I was really excited when Ms. Sarah approached me for this series. 

For the month of July, we have started on our Art Heroes series. 

Last week, our first art hero was Henri Matisse. 

Ms. Sarah opened with  having the kids dance to the song Rainbow of Colors by The Wiggles with scarves. I find scarves a little intimidating. I was so glad Ms. Sarah was there for support. The kids really enjoyed this.

Next, I prepared a quick overview on Matisse. I was going to open with this but the kids were a little antsy so I just included some of these facts as we read the book.

Henri Matisse was a famous artist, but he wasn’t always an artist. He was a lawyer.

One day when he got very sick & was bed ridden, his mom bought him a paint set to help pass the time. It was then that Matisse realized that he wanted to become an artist!

He stopped being a lawyer and became an artist instead. He spent many years making beautiful art. The people of France referred to him as a “wild beast” because he used color & shapes that were not used before. When Matisse got older, he could not move around very well. He could not leave his house, but did that stop Matisse from doing art?  

He came up with a technique he called “painting with scissors” this allowed him to bring color to his room.

The Book 

Once we finished up with the book, we watched a Youtube video of  Matisse at work.  

The kids really enjoyed having a chance to see Matisse at work. 

 Following this video, Ms. Sarah read a portion of this book. 

This book is little long, but it shows different shapes and how those shapes could make a picture. 

This was a great introduction to our craft which was having the kids "paint with scissors" to create their own art piece. 

The Craft 

Using Pinterest, I found this idea from Children's Art School & I was really inspired by it. 

To have the kids paint with scissors, Ms. Sarah set out scrape paper from our accucut machine and allowed the kids to find shapes for their picture. Since we have been having some toddlers show up, I also cut out some paper for them to glue. 

  To have additional activities, we also set out Matisse Coloring Sheet for the younger kids. 
(The 4-8 age group is a tricky one, but many kids took this sheet home with them). 

With these stations, I  also had a Museum of Matisse where I displayed some of Matisse's artwork. I wanted the kids to see how his artwork progressed and get a sense of his work. 

The kids really enjoyed these crafts. I loved watching the kids turn their heads back and forth trying to make out a picture with their scrape paper. One little girl made a horse and castle with her paper. It is always impressive to watch what the kids can come up with. 

Finally to end this program, I invited the kids to take home some books on Matisse. Here are  some more great books on him and his work. 

I hope you were as inspired by this as I was. 

Until next time, 


Dorko the Magnificent By Andrea Beaty

Dorko the Magnificent 

By: Andrea Beaty 

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Published: April 1, 2013

The Story 

*Based off of the Summary From BookPage*

Robbie Darko, dubbed “Dorko” by the class bully, sets out to perform the greatest magic trick his town has ever seen at the upcoming school talent show. Much to his parents’ and teachers’ dismay (and his classmates’ delight), Robbie uses every possible opportunity to practice his craft, but the arrival of Grandma Melvyn threatens to make Robbie’s grand plan disappear into thin air.
Until she moves into his room, Grandma Melvyn has just been that ill-tempered, smelly, distant elderly relative with the “Wicked Wobble Eye” who isn’t even anyone’s actual grandmother.  Little does Robbie know what tricks Grandma Melvyn, literally, has up her sleeves. 
When the classic tablecloth trick Dorko performs in front of his whole family goes hilariously wrong, Robbie is stunned when Grandma Melvyn explodes with laughter and congratulates him on a job well done. It is then that Robbie learns that Grandma Melvyn was a famous magician. After this, Grandma Melyn starts teaching Robbie her incredible magician’s secrets. 

Robbie, his friend Cat, and Grandma Melyn start to spend weeks working on a disappearing act for the school talent show that is sure to have the whole town talking for years to come, but it is Grandma Melyn who ends up disappearing. Robbie now must make the show go on without her, and learn the true meaning of magic. 

Book Trailer 

Notes for Reader's Advisory & Review

This book was filled with clever humor and relatable situations that make this book a entertaining read.  I think readers will enjoy its wit and its sweet story regarding Grandma Melyn. 

Even though I did enjoy this book , I did feel like it was not memorable to me. 

In the words of Despicable Me: 

....and very predictable, but maybe I am being too harsh. I just found it to be very similar to many other middle grade novels. 

I do think that readers who enjoy realistic fiction may enjoy this book. As I have mentioned earlier, it is relatable. For instance, the family struggles financially, and Robbie's mom has to take on a job to help support his family. Robbie must adjust to not having his mom stay at home all the time, and adjust to his dad being away a majority of the time to support the family. I think many readers will also relate to an elderly relative moving in as well. The author addresses these situations with a great deal of humor that I appreciated. 

So in that regard, I think this book does a great job & I think there is an audience for it. 

I might also recommend this book to readers who enjoy doing magic tricks.  

You could also easily pair this book with a non fiction book on how to do magic too. 

Overall, I thought this was pretty good book, and I think as educators and parents you could do a lot with it. 

Since it was not memorable to me, however, I will have to give this book three stars.

For more, here are some discussion questions

Discussion Questions

Do you like that Dorko talks to the reader? At one point  Dorko suggests that his life be made into a movie. Do you think this story would make a good movie? If your life was a movie, who would play you? Would it be a comedy, drama, or action?

Is magic real?  What is magic? Dorko says that the stage is the most important part of a magical act & that details matter. He also goes onto say that timing is everything. What does this mean? Do you agree or disagree with Dorko?

What is a stereotypical grandma like? What makes Dorko’s grandma different? Why does she call everyone “trixie?”

Dorko’s mom often gets busy and forgets to tell Dorko important things (like how his grandma is staying with them). How do you think his mom should have approached this differently?

Dorko is upset that his parents didn’t have enough to pay for cable & he had to go to the library for movies. What things does your library offer?

When Grandma Melvin visits Dorko’s class, she makes it look like he stole from her. Why does she do this? What would you have done if your grandma did this to you?

Grandma Melvin stopped doing magic due to a tragic event.
Why did this stop  her from doing magic?

Over the course of the book, Dorko’s relationship with his Grandmother changes. How does it change? Cat also has a special relationship with Grandma Melvin.
What does Cat think of her? Are Cat and Grandma Melvin alike? *Bonus* What is   your grandmother like?

Dorko’s is passionate about magic. What are some of your interests or talents?

Dorko got his nickname from a class bully. Do you have any nicknames?  If  you do, how did you get your nickname? 

Books Like This One

What did you think of it?

Until next time,


We Need OLD Books!

I recently read a very thought provoking article that draws attention to the differences between what middle schoolers were required to read 100 years ago and what they are required to read today. The differences in language, structure, and overall literary quality are astonishing. Before continuing this post, please read the article.

I cannot stress to you enough the need for balance in a student’s literary education. Modern literature is fine, (although in my humble opinion, most of it is sub-par in comparison to much of the literature of yesteryear.) Certainly, I agree that students should be reading modern novels and that the reading of such tomes should be encouraged and even required (to an extent) in a child’s education. However, the current list of books presented in the article today contained almost no antiquated or even remotely aged books! 

It is imperative that tweens are given exposure to the old as well as the new to give them a more well-rounded perspective of life through the lens of history. In view of this, I will be starting a new series called “Throwback Tweens Read Thursdays.” It will be identical to our current “Tweens Read Thursdays” with this exception: all books reviewed will be at least 30 years old. My vintage soul is exceedingly excited about this! 

Check back with us, because our first “Throwback Tweens Read Thursdays” will be a delicious middle grade fairy tale. (And incidentally, a favorite of mine…)

Until then,


The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel

The Great Trouble : A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel 

By: Deborah Hopkinson

Age Range- 10 & up 
Pages- 272 
Published - January 1, 2013
Genre- Historical Fiction 

The Story

Eel is an orphaned mudlark. He works several jobs to help support his younger brother.

A historical picture of Mudlarkers in London 

When he gets a regular job at a brewery, things are starting to look up for Eel. He finally has a place to stay and he has regular food to eat.

One day, just as things look are looking up, Eel is accused of stealing from his boss at the brewery.

 Eel is on the verge of loosing his livelihood and a place to live. His only hope is to find a kind tailor who Eel has been working odd jobs for to vouch that he did not steal from his boss.

As Eel goes to look for the tailor,  Eel comes upon something much more & it is something that will change his life forever. He finds that the tailor is dying of the terrible Blue Death. It is the beginning of an outbreak that will change history & Eel's life.

Without the tailors word, Eel can no longer live at the brewery. So Eel turns a local Dr. for help. The Dr. gives Eel a place to live in exchange for his help is solving and stopping the rapid Blue Death from spreading. It is up to the Dr. & Eel to find out what is causing this epidemic before it harms the people that Eel cares for most.

Book Trailer 

The Review 

I was not expecting much from this book. I thought it would be a flat story line that would not offer much, but I was pleasantly surprised. This book was action packed  had many different layers to the story. The main three layers of the story are:

1. Eel's survival & need to support his brother- Eel struggles to work different jobs to stay alive & to keep from living on the streets.

2. Eel vs. evil street man- I will not give away who this evil enemy is, but it is a big twist in the story

3. Mystery of the epidemic- This layer is the main component that drives the story, but it is a compelling one. What I like best about this, is that it is based off a true story. Dr. Snow was a real person who wrote a book about this epidemic that hit London.

This Day in ‪Water History‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ 6/16/1858-Death of Dr. John Snow of Broad Street pump fame; Father of Modern Epidemiology. If the discoveries of Dr. John Snow had been accepted and followed by engineers, sewer planners and drinking water providers beginning in 1854, millions of deaths would have been avoided.  Snow was only one person trying to overcome the juggernaut of the miasma theory.  He was far ahead of his time.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Dr. Snow 

If you do read this book, be sure to read the true facts at the end of the book. It is a great point to spark a discussion.

I know after I read this book, all I could think about were ways we could use it with the STEM & history curriculum, I thought this book was fantastic for that! My education mind started to think of some curriculum ideas that educators could use with this book. Here are some of the links that I found to be useful.

Resources about Dr. Snow from Department of Epidemiology

Background Information for Educators

Lesson Plan

Overall I would have to give this book three stars.

I think this book will be used in the curriculum & its story line makes it easy to do so.  I look forward to including it into my Missouri Mark Twain Nominee discussion.

If you are not an educator, I think this book would be a great story for anyone who enjoys mystery, historical fiction, and plot driven novel.

Discussion Questions 

Why do you think Dr. Snow trusts Eel so much? What are some ways that Eel shows that he responsible?

Throughout the book, Eel overcomes a lot of hardships. What keeps him hopeful & keeps him moving forward?

Why wouldn’t the people believe Mr. Snow’s theory about the pump being the culprit for the spread of the Blue Death?

What is Dr. Snow’s hypothesis and how does he try to go about trying to prove it? Do you use the same method?

There were many villains in this story.  Who posed the biggest threat to Eel?

Was Eel afraid of getting Cholera? How did he avoid or expose himself to the disease?

Why did people think that Cholera was spread in the air? Are there times that people believe things just from what they have heard?

If you lived on Broad street during this epidemic, what would you have done?

Why did the people trust Reverend Whitehead more than Dr. Snow?

Dr. Snow is an exceptional scientist. What makes him a great scientist? Dr. Snow wanted to stop the spread of disease and ease pain. If you could make any scientific discovery, what would it be? What kind of new discoveries and new technologies do you think will exist in the future?

Books Like This One

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Until next time,