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The Neighborhood Mother Goose
Written and photographed by Nina Crews

Greenwillow Books

In this collection, more than 40 centuries-old nursery rhymes and verses spring to life in new and exciting ways. Each rhyme is accompanied by bold photographs featuring multicultural children and parents in neighborhood homes, parks and stores. Some of the photographic illustrations are quite realistic – two girls playing pat-a-cake in a bakery, a little boy staring out of a window wishing the rain away. Others are more artistic in their representation – a little boy jumping over a candle set in what appears to be a giant cupcake, multiple children frolicking in and around an old woman's shoe. This fresh and innovative approach is simply delightful and certain to bring the joy of Mother Goose to a whole new generation.

Potluck of Fun:
Whenever you are reading aloud nursery rhymes that double as songs, try singing the words and incorporating simple sound-makers (like claps and snaps) or gestures that complement the words.

For more enjoyable books that put a modern twist on classic nursery rhymes, read the books in the Baby Fun series (DK Publishing). Titles include: Humpty Dumpty, Five in the Bed and Twinkle, Twinkle.

In Mary Had a Little Jam and Other Silly Rhymes (Meadowbrook), Bruce Lansky creates contemporary, silly and joyful versions of more than 40 Mother Goose classics. This book is the revised edition of Lansky's The New Adventures of Mother Goose.

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Tomie's Three Bears and Other Tales
Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Adapted from
Tomie dePaola's Favorite Nursery Tales, this book contains three classic storie: The Three Bears, The Little Red Hen and The Three Little Pigs. Enhanced by whimsical and colorful artwork, these retellings are perfect for the youngest listeners and readers. The simple, short texts are engaging and charming and sure to become a fast favorite. Since this is a board book, it will stand up to years of wear and tear.

Potluck of Fun:
Tomie dePaola has compiled three rhyme and poem board books specifically for little ones: Tomie's Baa, Baa, Black Sheep and Other Rhymes, Tomie's Little Book of Poems and Tomie's Little Mother Goose (Putnam).

Tomie dePaola has illustrated more than 200 children's books and is also the author of more than one-quarter of them. Among his most acclaimed works are Strega Nona (Little Simon), a Caldecott Honor Book, and 26 Fairmount Avenue (Puffin), a Newbery Honor Book.


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Bunny Mail
Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Max desperately wants a red Sand-Spitter motorcycle, and when his sister Ruby mails out invitations to a picnic, Max gets a brilliant idea. He writes to Santa in letters containing tire tracks, the color red and sand. The letter carrier can't figure out who the letters are for, so he delivers them to Max's grandma. Will she be able to decipher the clues?

Potluck of Fun:
Encourage your children to write letters to family and friends. If necessary, you can be the scribe, writing what your child dictates, or you could try writing interactively, taking turns writing, or your children can write all on their own. You may want to check with a designated relative or friend ahead of time to make sure he is willing to write back in a timely manner. You and your child can also write letters to each other, using actual envelopes and even making mailboxes for these special deliveries. Be sure to save such correspondence to share with your child in the future.

Nick Jr., the Nickelodeon network for preschoolers, televises a show based on the characters of Max and Ruby. Of the show, Rosemary Wells says, “Max & Ruby celebrates the relationship between Ruby and her younger brother, Max, and the universal nature of sibling relationships.” For more information on the show, as well as pages of Printables, Games, E-Cards and more, visit Click on Shows and then select Max & Ruby.

For other lift-the-flap books, try reading those in the Maisy series by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick Press) or those by Karen Katz (Little Simon).

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Dear Mr. Blueberry
Written and illustrated by Simon James
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Emily is convinced a whale has taken up residence in her pond. Since she is on vacation from school, she must write to her teacher, Mr. Blueberry, to get his advice. Mr. Blueberry tells Emily that a whale could not possibly live in her fresh pond. Still, she believes and continues to exchange letters with her teacher until her whale disappears. While Emily is sad about the whale's departure, she has one last happy surprise to share with Mr. Blueberry.

Potluck of Fun:
If your child seems intrigued by the whale featured in this book, ask your children's librarian for suggestions for good nonfiction and fiction books about whales. When your child reaches an appropriate age and if you live near an ocean, you might want to take her on a whale-watching outing.

Originally published more than 15 years ago, The Jolly Postman (Little, Brown and Co.) by Allan Ahlberg stands as one of the first books to feature actual envelopes with letters tucked inside. This book allows children to read letters sent from one fairy tale or Mother Goose character to another. All of the correspondence is quite amusing, and the book is cleverly illustrated by Janet Ahlberg, Allan's wife.

Alma Flor Ada has authored three books reminiscent of The Jolly Postman that relay tales through letter-writing among classic storybook characters: Dear Peter Rabbit; Yours Truly, Goldilocks and With Love, Little Red Hen (Aladdin).

In Hot Topics at the Parent Center section of, parents can find valuable and informative articles about imagination and childhood under the heading Imagination: At Risk?.


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The Day Eddie Met the Author
Written by Louise Borden
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Eddie's school is about to get a visit from an author. Everyone is abuzz with anticipation, especially Eddie. He has an important question to ask, one that will surely affect his future. At the assembly, so many children have questions that the author runs out of time before calling on Eddie. Can he still find the answer he so desperately wants?

Potluck of Fun:
If your child is interested in writing, enjoys books in general and/or likes a particular author, consider taking her to
author readings and book signings in your area. Libraries and bookstores often host such events.

At The Children's Literature Web Guide (, you will find a link for Authors on the Web. This leads to a listing of Web sites connected to a number of children's book authors and illustrators. Often, these Web sites provide a glimpse into the lives of authors and/or illustrators and answer the question of how they find ideas and inspiration.

For some terrific online writing workshops for kids, visit and click on
Online Activities. Under Writing in the Language Arts areas for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8, you will find Writing with Writers links covering a range of genres, such as Biography, Mystery and Myth. The Writing with Writers workshops are “led” by accomplished and respected children's literature authors, including Virginia Hamilton, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack and Jane Yolen.

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Even More Parts: Idioms from Head to Toe
Written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
Dial Books for Young Readers

As the back jacket of this book warns, “Be careful: You just might laugh your head off!” And it's true. In this, the third in a series of body-part idiom books, Chip is determined to protect himself against all of the crazy expressions he hears, like “I lost my head” and “I sang my heart out.” Zany drawings depict Chip and his toys engulfed by literal interpretations of idioms, but this little boy develops an ingenious plan to hold onto all of his parts. This book is sure to trigger lots of laughs and provoke young minds to think more deeply about words and language.

Potluck of Fun:
Tedd Arnold's Web site (, you and your children can learn a lot more about this intriguing author/illustrator. Click on the link for A Step-by-Step Look at How I Illustrate to see how Arnold creates his unique drawings. Arnold's first book in this series, Parts, was inspired when his son, Walter had his first loose tooth. If you and your child enjoyed Even More Parts, be sure to pick up Parts and More Parts, too.

At, the Web site of Speech-Language Pathologist Tracy Boyd, you will find a variety of online language games. Scroll towards the bottom of the list to the Figurative Language activities that involve Animal Idioms, Body Part Idioms and Color Idioms.

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Speak to Me (And I Will Listen Between the Lines)
Written by Karen English
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In this unique book,
Karen English captures six distinct voices on one day in the lives of six child characters of her own creation: Malcolm, Brianna, Lamont, Rica, Tyrell and Neecy. As readers, you and your children get to slip into the mindset of each character as you read his or her poems or journal entries. The emotions behind the writings come through and range from caring to jealous, from satisfaction to frustration. Set in a San Francisco Bay Area school, most of the third-grade characters are African American. Each child has his own perception or her own opinion, and whether the children's words are lush and masterful or plain and honest, their voices matter and their messages are important. This book could be a wonderful catalyst for encouraging children to write.

Potluck of Fun:
Encourage your children to express themselves in writing. Journaling allows children the freedom to set down their innermost thoughts and feelings. Journals like the
Judy Moody Mood Journal (Candlewick Press) by Megan McDonald can be terrific inspirational tools that get children thinking, laughing and writing.

If you currently keep a journal or still have journals from your childhood, consider sharing excerpts with your child. Set aside time every day, or at least once a week, to sit down with your child and do journaling. Have on hand photos, stickers, crayons, watercolors, etc. – whatever art supplies your child enjoys and can incorporate into his journaling.

Visit Here you and your child can read Poetry by Children, explore Inspiring Ideas that give practical tips for children to begin writing poems, get to know a Featured Poet or laugh it up with some Silly Jokes.


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Written by Sharon Creech
Joanna Cotler Books

These exquisite and insightful poems expose the many changes in 12-year-old Annie as she tries to find her own rhythm and understand how it fits with the rhythm of life. Through her eyes and her voice, readers get to know Annie's family and friends as well as her struggles with the sport of running, a new baby in the family, friendship, secrets and the art of drawing apples. These enduring characters and themes along with the repeated use of the onomatopoeic phrase “thump-thump, thump-thump” and Annie's adventures in language (including footnotes and synonyms) will keep you constantly engrossed. Annie is a compelling and endearing character who makes readers care and feel with her. This book truly demonstrates the power of writing.

Potluck of Fun:
If your child enjoys Heartbeat, you'll want to check out other Sharon Creech books that deal with the challenges and struggles of girls in adolescence. These include Walk Two Moons (a Newbery Medal winner), Absolutely Normal Chaos and Chasing Redbird (HarperTrophy).

Check out RIF Reading Planet at Within the Game Station you will find Writers' Blocks, which lets children write stories with other kids; Poetry Splatter, which splashes words on screen for your child to choose to fit into a poem and Story Maker, which asks your child to choose a setting and answer some questions that are then turned into a story starter. At this site there are three additional areas with reading and writing related activities: Activity Lab, Book Zone and Express Yourself.


The Anti-Coloring Book series (Owl Books) by Susan Striker is devoted to helping children find their own sense of artistry. Settings, backgrounds and ideas are presented on the pages but require your child's imagination to become complete, unique works of art. One example is a garden area with the question, “If you had your very own secret garden, how would it look?” Everything inside the garden area is left blank, just waiting to be filled.

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In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems
Written by Eloise Greenfield
Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

In the “land of words,” thoughts, memories and dreams conspire to generate the language of delightful poems. This book is separated into two parts: “The Poet/The Poem” and “In the Land.” In Part I,
Eloise Greenfield introduces each poem by sharing her inspiration for it. By doing this, she demonstrates the many forms that poetic inspiration can take and ways to work with the resulting ideas. In Part II, the verses celebrate the pure wonder and joy of books, words, stories, jokes and poetry itself. This collection is a sheer salute to, and a tremendous tool for, helping children connect with the vitality of language.

Potluck of Fun:
Eloise Greenfield is a celebrated poet and the author of more than 40 books for children that explore and celebrate the African American experience. Among her most distinguished works are Africa Dream (HarperTrophy), Me and Neesie (Amistad) and Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (HarperTrophy). The title poem, Honey, I Love, was also illustrated as a picture book in honor of the collection's 25th anniversary.

At, your child will find a world of inspiration open to her. With features like 15 Poems You Can Write Now and Try E-Muse, your child is sure to find something that clicks with the poet inside her.

For more books of African American poetry for children, read The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf) by Langston Hughes and I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin) a collection complied by Catherine Clinton.

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Sky Tree: Seeing Science through Art
Written and illustrated by Thomas Locker
With questions and answers by Candace Christiansen

In this unique perspective on the changing seasons, art and science come together in a moving and impressive way. Lavish and brilliant oil paintings appear alongside gentle, simple text describing the changes in the tree, the sky and some of the surrounding creatures. The images behind the text carry over a piece of the sky from the opposite page. In smaller print along the bottom of the pages, you will find questions that prompt you and your children to notice and talk about differences, colors, feelings and more. The closing pages of the book revisit each of the stages of the tree and the related questions with more details about the method and colors used in the paintings as well as the science behind the changes.

Potluck of Fun:
Forests: A Fact-Filled Coloring Book (Running Press) by Elizabeth Dudley and Helen Driggs provides intricate, detailed drawings of a variety of types of forests, including the appropriate plant life and animals that thrive there. Alongside the drawings to be colored or painted, your child will find fascinating scientific information about theses forest environments.

In Trees Are Terrifc! (Ranger Rick NatureScope Series) [Chelsea House Publications] by Sandra Stotsky, your child can learn all about trees - how they grow and change, their role in forests and their importance to the survival of our planet. This book is chock full of information and activities.

At The National Arbor Day Foundation Web site (, your child can learn about trees and forests in enjoyable and interactive ways. Click on the following links in this order: Programs, Youth Education, Carly's Kids' Corner. Hover your mouse over the schoolhouse and click on the Other Great Materials Available link in the Great Education Activities for Youth pop-up window. There are activities and guides, such as Life of a Tree and What Tree Is That?, games like Treevial Pursuit and ConcenTREEtion and information on how Kids Make a Difference.


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Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the
Elementary Classroom

Written by Kate Wood Ray
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

As described by the author, this is a “loud” book filled with the voices of writers of all ages and levels of experience. With classrooms stories, examples of student writing and illustrations, academic theories are translated into accessible and practical terms, tackling essential issues like prewriting and reading aloud. The author invites readers into her personal library and provides ideas for using books by authors such as
Cynthia Rylant, Eve Bunting and Gary Paulsen to help teach writing. Wondrous Words intertwines process and premise together to convey vital knowledge about the teaching of writing to teachers and parents.

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Interactive Writing: How Language and Literacy
Come Together, K-2

Written by Andrea McCarrier, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas


This book focuses on the early phases of writing that are especially relevant to working with children in Pre-Kindergarten through grade 2. In a straightforward, step-by-step approach, the authors show how interactive writing can be used to teach a range of basic literacy skills by sharing the pen (and the pride) with young writers. With real world examples of children's writing, photographs of classrooms and children's work, concrete tips and advice for incorporating children's books and art into writing education and a look at applying interactive writing across all subject areas, the authors provide teachers and parents with substantial valuable and understandable information for using a new approach to the writing process.


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Katie Lyslo spoke of her passion for series books like those in:

The Baby-Sitters Club series
Written by Ann M. Martin

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Adrienne Ross authored the juvenile fiction book:

In the Quiet


2006 Words That Cook   All rights reserved  Box 411, Natick, MA  01760  USA

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