Category Archives: classics

Keep them on the shelves!

This week is Banned Books Week here in the US.  It is an opportunity to bring to light the books, and the messages, that have been challenged, primarily over the past 4 decades, for a variety of reasons.  I’ve thought a lot about this issue, started and re-started, written and re-written this post, trying to get a handle on exactly what it means to both sides when a book is challenged or banned. But in the end I will  help carry the torch against the  banning of books. Does that mean I agree with everything I read? Nope. But I believe in the power of literature to inspire, comfort, motivate, encourage, expose and interest readers.

I have a hard time processing the banning of books.  Free speech, one of the strongest ideals held in the Bill of Rights, established in the First Amendment, is a cornerstone value on which our society was established.  Banning books means removing access to ideas, thereby limiting free speech. Regardless of personal opinions, the societal ideals we uphold need to be applied universally – we can’t pick and choose which amendments should be adhered to.  I’ll never own a gun, and I most definitely do not want my children in a home with a firearm. But I can’t stop others from owning one. Just because someone doesn’t want their child to read The Hunger Games doesn’t mean they can take away that opportunity from my child.

Equal opportunity aside, what is it about banned books that gets everyone so riled up? And why are these books, or any books, so important?  Often the banning of books is a way to protect our children from what we have deemed as scary, unfamiliar, or shocking. Reading is way to experience the world, without having to actually experience it. Learning through literature enables readers to branch out, safely. Books help us to think differently, sometimes that makes us uncomfortable, but it is a necessary challenge pushing us to grow.  Allowing your child to read banned books gives you the chance to comment and weigh in, imparting your values either in reinforcement or opposition.

I’ve put together 5 reasons that books, all books, should be kept on the shelves.

1.) Literature is a reflection of our society. Reading about someone like you eases isolation and validates your feelings and existence.

thefamily bookThe Family Book by Todd Parr (PB) has been challenged because it represents families of all types, some with only one parent, some with two parents of the same sex. How painful and unfair for children in these family groups to never see their life represented – for diverse families make up much of our population. The moral of the book is that all families are special and filled with love – an experience everyone should see validated.

AreYouThereGodmodernAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume (MR) is one of the top 100 most challenged books of the 90’s and 00’s. Just like any other 12 year old girl, Margaret struggles with buying her first bra, getting her period, and establishing her identity. What an honest heroine for pre-teen girls to know – and to help them realize that what they are going through is normal. Unless they don’t get to read it.

2.) Books open our eyes to existences different from our own, which increases understanding. Exposure to differing beliefs, lifestyles, and experiences breeds empathy and tolerance.

betternatethaneverBetter Nate Than Ever  by Tim Federle (MR) follows the story of Nate, a Broadway show loving misfit, from his small hometown in Pennsylvania to New York City to realize his dream of auditioning for a role on-stage. I’ve read this one cover to cover and what stuck with me the most was the idea of pursuing your dreams, and realizing you aren’t alone. Nate encounters some interesting characters on his journey who validate his uniqueness. There is also an “appreciate your family” piece that I like, too. Nate, along with his show-biz troubles, also has a minor sub-plot that addresses his current confusion about his budding sexuality. Ending unresolved, is he gay or isn’t he?, the book promotes a compassionate character who can help young readers not feel so alone. But it also creates empathy and understanding for those who, tempted to bully or belittle what they don’t understand, will reconsider in favor of tolerance or even friendship. Click HERE to read author Tim Federle’s thoughts on banning his book.

olivesoceanOlive’s Ocean  by Kevin Henkes (MR)  is #59 on the ALA list of challenged books for the 00’s primarily because it deals with mortality. Olive and Martha could have been friends, but they never knew it, and now it’s too late. Olive was killed in a car accident and, when her mother gives Martha pages of Olive’s journal that reveal how Olive really thought of Martha, it causes her to rethink who she is an who she wants to be. At it’s heart Olive’s Ocean is a coming-of age story about the loss of innocence and realization of our own mortality. It also examines the idea that we never truly know how we are perceived by others, or what our impact may be on their lives. (Newbery Honor Book)

3.) Imagination and fantasy encourage creativity and originality. They also require us to take a hard look at our own world.

wrinkleintimeA Wrinkle in Time  by Madeline L’Engel (MR) is a fantasy story with a female protagonist who travels through time and space searching for her father. It’s mystery and adventure in a fantasy world. Since it’s publication in 1962 it has been criticized for being too adult, too Christian, not Christian enough, and frankly addressing the battle between good and evil. Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book as a child. It was confusing and I didn’t get it. And that is one of the biggest complaints about it. However, banning something because you don’t understand is prejudice, fear bred of ignorance. I put it down and didn’t read the rest of the series. No harm done. But my sister-in-law loved this series as a girl, and I’m glad she was given the chance to read it. (Newbery Medal Winner)

harrypottersorcerersstoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (MR) is one of the most popular, and most challenged, books of the 00’s. Primary concerns are the use of witchcraft and its direct opposition with religious teachings. I’m going to fall back on the Bill of Rights for this one, #1 in fact not only has the freedom of speech, but freedom of religion, too. Banning access to these books based on religious reasons violates the freedom to believe and practice as we wish. Another opposition – the scary nature of the stories and the characters frequent experiences with death. Dealing with death- of a pet, grand-parent or other loved one- is sadly, a part of life. Reading about it can help children to process loss, before they have to encounter it in real life.

hungergamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA) is violent, graphic, and emotionally draining. In another Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book. Yep. So why should it be on shelves? Clearly it is a created fantasy world, a dystopian society, far fictionalized from our own. Yet, it provokes a lot of thought about our current society. I especially like the idea of the voyeuristic sensibilities of watching the Hunger Games via satellite in all the districts. How does that correlate to our current fascination with reality TV? How far will we go for entertainment? In the insular fictional word of Panem readers see an exaggerated reality, and determine how far it really is from our society.

4.) Historical novels, when taught in context, provide a window to the past. Just as modern literature reflects the values of our current society, classic literature was at one time contemporary – they reflect the world in which they were written.

tokillamockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (YA) is one of the most banned books of the 20th century, and is still on the list of banned books today. Why? Because it’s deals with racism. Of course it’s about racism – and tolerance, and understanding the weaknesses of the human condition and societal influence on morality. It’s about doing what is right, and just, against adversity. Using literature to teach about the inequity and injustice of racism, means that racism will have to be examined, addressed, and refuted. Not ignored. Set in 1936, published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird, when read in historical context, opens minds to how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.  (Pulitzer Prize 1961)

diaryofayounggirlAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (YA) has been banned for its open and honest portrayal of teenage adolescence. First, it should be open and honest – it was her diary after all. Secondly, when placed in historical context, that is what makes it so compelling and important. Anne is just another pre-teen girl (see Margaret, #1 above) so she is identifiable to readers. Yet what she is experiencing at the hands of the Nazi regime is unimaginable. This book has humanized and personified the Jewish experience during World War II for young readers since it as first published in 1947 (English version 1952).

5.) Early readers don’t come to the table with an understanding of societal constraints. Adults teach those, often too early and unnecessarily.

inthenightkitchenIn the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (PB) is banned primarily because the main character, in a dream sequence, is illustrated naked. I’ve read this book to many preschool aged kids and they don’t ever seem to dwell on this. “He’s dreaming so he doesn’t have clothes” or “Isn’t he cold?” Older kids and adults are the ones uncomfortable with this because society has taught us that our bodies should be covered (and, yes, I highly encourage wearing pants to the grocery store), but by placing those constraints on a preschool age group, and book, we deny children the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful story.

andtangomakesthreeAnd Tango Makes Three  by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson (PB) is probably the most challenged book of the late 00’s. It’s based on the true story of a male penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo who were given an egg to raise. Although a great story for children of same-sex couples to see their situation mirrored in literature (see #1 above), it can also help other children gain understanding and empathy for differing family groups (see #2 above). Many children just want to read about penguins. Sometimes grown-ups think too much.

I strongly encourage handling topics in an age-appropriate manner, reading and discussing along with your child, or pre-reading middle-reader/young-adult book choices so that you can be ready to openly answers questions or concerns. Even though it requires work, effort and time, and sometimes saying no, it all comes down to parents being responsible for guiding their children’s literature choices. Just don’t try to guide my children’s choices. You can leave that up to me.

• For a list of banned books check out the American Library Association.
• Check out the Paperback Pigeon pinterest page on banned books:
• Concerned about what your kids are reading? Common Sense Media provides reviews and age suggestions– compare their reviews with books you’ve read so you can decide if you agree or disagree with their ratings. Then you can refer to their reviews to help guide your child appropriately.
• Or visit your local library – many have displays up this week for Banned Books Week!

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Filed under Banned Books, classics, History, travel

E is for…

There is something magical, mysterious, and exciting about staying in a hotel.  But what if you lived there?  With the entire hotel to explore, your every whim taken care of, and room service just a phone call away it is sure to be an adventure every day!

Eloise by Kay Thompson

There is no more glamorous hotel residence than the classic Plaza hotel, right on Central Park in New York City.  Eloise, the Plaza’s most famous resident,  is at once endearing and terrorizing, ignored and adored, and full of confidence as she engages a cast of characters who work and reside with her.  With her pug Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee, and her champion and companion Nanny, Eloise takes charge!  Things don’t always go as planned for, as Eloise says, “After all I am only six”.    For a real life Eloise adventure check out the Plaza’s Family page to learn about the Eloise events or to stay in the Eloise Suite!  PB

eloiseEloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups is the original tale of the little girl at the top of the Plaza.  With distinctly darling drawings by Hilary Knight adults will delight in sharing this classic tale with their children during any hotel stay.

eloisechristmasEloise at Christmastime It’s the holidays at the Plaza and Eloise is determined to make sure everyone celebrates in true Eloise style.  A lovely complement to a trip to New York City at Christmastime.


eloisebawthEloise Takes a BawthWith Eloise nothing goes as planned, especially when you are taking a bath in the Plaza Hotel.  Enjoy this darling tale of a little girl who keeps everyone at the hotel on their toes and just one little drop out of the bath causes more trouble than you’d ever imagine.

eloiseparisEloise in Paris Bon Jour!  Eloise is leaving the Plaza and is ready to discover the City of Lights!  With Nanny by her side she is ready to do positively everything in Paris, with predictable Eloise results.



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Filed under A to Z, classics, New York City, Picture Book, travel

Patriotic Pigeon

This 4th of July head out to your local parade to watch boy scout troops, little leaguers and firetrucks make their way through town.  Toss a couple hot dogs on the grill, throw together a quick pasta salad, and slice up a watermelon. Enjoy an ice cream cone and when dusk falls load up on bug spray and watch a fireworks show.  Celebrate America’s birthday by checking out different perspectives on the founding of our nation in these patriotic reads. Or plan a trip where history happened by visiting the recommended sites beneath the booklist.

storyofamericasbirthdayThe Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia A. Pingry –  From the Declaration of Independence through the Revolutionary War, the basic text in this board book introduces the youngest readers to the reason for the 4th of July. PB

storyofgeorgewashingtonThe Story of George Washington  by Patricia A. Pingry- A simple board-book story that introduces the life of George Washington to the littlest readers. PB


georgewashingtongeneralsdogGeorge Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy – When General George Washington discovers a lost dog on the battlefield he works to return him to his owner.  This little known tale of George Washington’s love of animals will delight beginning readers.  ER-1


mthrevolutionarywaronwednesdayMagic Tree House #22: Revolutionary War on Wednesday  by Mary Pope Osbourne – Jack and Annie find themselves in General Washington’s Army during the turning point in the Revolutionarymthrgamericanrevolution War.  But will bad weather ruin the attack?  Find out how Jack and Annie keep history on track!  Also check out the American Revolution: A Nonfiction Companion to Revolutionary War on Wednesday (Magic Tree House Research Guide Series) for more cool facts about the Revolutionary War.  ER-1/2

justintimerescueindelawareThe Rescue Begins in Delaware by Cheri Pray Earl – It’s 1776 in Delaware and George and Gracie, who’ve traveled back in time to rescue their parents, become important players in the quest to get the Declaration of Independence signed.  ER-3/4



jmoodydeclaresindependenceJudy Moody Declares Independence by Megan McDonald – On a trip to Boston Judy gets Revolutionary fever and decides to declare her own independence!  By staging her own rebellion, as only Judy can, will she gain more rights and respect?  Or will her plan backfire? ER-3/4

georgewashingtonssocksGeorge Washington’s Socks  by Elvira Woodruff – Five friends travel back in time to the Battle of georgewashingtonsspyTrenton where they get a first hand lesson in the struggle for American independence and witness the true cost of freedom. Continue the adventure with the sequel George Washington’s Spy MR-4

mrrevereandiMr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horse by Robert Lawson – Get a first hand account of Paul Reveres’ Midnight Ride from someone who was there!  Told from the perspective of Scheherazade, the pony that made the infamous ride, this story gives new insight into one of the most iconic moments in our nation’s history. MR-4

sophiaswarSophia’s War: A Tale of the Revolution by Avi – Sophia, a patriot girl, witnesses the defeat of the Continental Army, the hanging of Nathan Hale, and must endure the occupation of her home, New York City by the British Army.  When she befriends a British soldier she almost loses sight of her dream of American independence, but tragic events bring his true nature to light.   With renewed dedication Sophia takes on the risky role of  patriot spy and finds herself an integral part of of the biggest betrayal in the new country’s history.  The occupation of New York City during the Revolution is brought to life through the unique perspective of a young girl.  MR-5

mybrothersamisdeadMy Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier –  Tim’s brother Sam joins the Revolutionary Army, but their father supports the British.  In this coming of age classic, Tim struggles with his political beliefs, personal loyalty, and what truly defines his character.  Set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War Tim embarks on a journey filled with tragedy and heartbreak. Newbery Honor Book  MR-6

chainsChains by Laurie Halse Anderson – Isabel is a slave in British occupied New York City during the American Revolution.  When her Tory owners sell her sister, Ruth, and she befriends a fellow slave with ties to the patriots,forge Isabel realizes she will do whatever it takes to help the side that will give her the best chance at freedom.  A riveting perspective on the American fight for independence.  Scott O’Dell Award Winner for Historical Fiction, National Book Award Finalist.  Continue Isabel’s story with Forge. MR-6


Trip It:  Visit these locations and see the Revolutionary War come to life.

The Freedom Trail, Boston, MA – Walk the 2.5 mile route to see 16 historically significant sites from Revolutionary era Boston including the site of the Boston Massacre, Old North Church, Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall, USS Constitution, and the Granary Burying Ground with the graves of John Hancock, Sam Adams and other notable Patriots.

Minute Man National Park, Lexington and Concord Battlefield, Lincoln, MA – Visit the site of the first battle of the Revolution.

Fraunces Tavern Museum, New York City, NY – Located in lower Manhattan this museum, housed in a building from 1719,  preserves and educates about New York City during Colonial and Revolutionary War times.

Valley Forge National Park, King of Prussia, PA – Site of the winter encampment of the Continental Army in 1777-1778.

Independence Hall National Park, Philadelphia, PA – The birthplace of America, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed.

National Archives, Washington, DC – Visit the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.

Click It:

National Park Service American Revolution Website – Get information on all the National Park Sites.  Click on Revolutionary Parks  and Tour the Revolution to take a virtual tour of the Revolutionary era historic sites from Florida to Maine.


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Filed under 4th of July, American Revolution, classics, George Washington, History, Holiday, United States

Of Mice and 4th Graders

Make no mistake, HuskyGirl is the animal lover in our household.   She is passionate, and compassionate, for any living thing – a quality that I encourage wholeheartedly (even when I get yelled at for moving the stone markers in the “slug cemetery”).    But last week, when we went to the pet supply store to pick out a harness for our foster dog, I mistakenly allotted enough time for us to visit the animal residents.  And HuskyGirl fell in love.  With the little white mice.whitemice

Let me step back a moment and clarify my standing on pets.  I love having a dog and appreciate that now my girls are older they are learning some caregiving responsibility.   That is where my relationship with anything else living in our house ends.  I had several traumatic attempts to own fish in college.  Nope, not tropical or exotic- just goldfish and betafish.  They usually lasted 2-3 days and then I’d find them floating, and cry, and call my boyfriend to come over and dispose of them for me as I couldn’t bear it.  After the third time he did this I decided I should marry him.  Which I did for many reasons, but this was one of the his top selling points.  I also don’t do plants.  I compulsively buy cut flowers as I simply can’t keep anything green alive.  Yep, I’ve even killed bamboo.

Regardless of my ability, or rather inability, to keep another creature alive I also will not have anything my house that eats live food, that I also have to keep alive.  That rules out lizards –  I am not making a salad for the crickets, just to feed them to the bearded dragon.   In addition, I refuse to have anything that requires frozen food that was once alive – knocking snakes off the list.  Ferrets?  Too smelly.   Turtles? Unless someone is digging a pond in our backyard that isn’t happening.  Nope on nocturnal animals either – we tried that with hermit crabs (may they rest in peace) and found that nocturnal pets are A)boring because they sleep when we are awake and B)annoying because they make noise at night.  This is how the previously mentioned hermit crabs wound up in my dining room.  I was less than thrilled.

And so we come to the little white mice.  I’ve said “No”.   My husband has said “No”.  Still she persists. HuskyGirl has taken to joining me when we walk the dog, only to talk about how much she wants mice the entire time.  She’s offered to pay for them. She’ll keep them in her own room.  She wants to visit them at least once a week.  Talk about committed!  However, I am holding firm. Mice are one of those animals that people try to get rid of from their home, not intentionally bring into it!  At this point I just can’t see it happening.  For one thing summer is almost upon us and we do have a couple trips planned.  You can board a dog, or have a neighbor feed your cat.   The fish get week-long dissolving pellets. Who is going to take our mice?   So right now we are doing our best to ignore her pleading requests.   Don’t worry, I won’t be offended if you take bets against me.

What is it about mice that fascinate young readers?  When mice are anthropomorphized they become these remarkable creatures that live life in secret.  They are mysterious, mischievous and quite marvelous. Although we haven’t traveled this week, check out books where the adventures are far and wide and the mice do the traveling!

mousecookieIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give…) by Laura Joffe Numeroff – The original that started the whole series!  This book is just plain fun! If you give a mouse a cookie what will happen next?  It all leads back to the cookie in the end, after an exhausting afternoon of adventure.  Check out the rest of the Mouse stories: If You Take a Mouse to School, The Best Mouse Cookie (If You Give…), and If You Take a Mouse to the Movies. Or you could branch out and Give A Pig A Pancake, Dog a Donut or Moose a Muffin!  Then take time to bake the delicious treat that started the story off, and create your own story.   If You Give A Kid A…..PB

angelinaballerinaAngelina Ballerina 25th Anniversary Edition by Katherine Holabird – Angelina is a darling little mouse who wants to dance!  And do nothing else.  Her parents are fed up with her constant dancing, and finally decide to help channel this passion by sending her to ballet school.  Will her love of ballet and determination pay off?  PB

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse lillypurpleplasticpurseby Kevin Henkes – Lilly loves school and  just adores her teacher, Mr. Slinger. When Lilly wants to show the class her new purple plastic purse  she and her teacher don’t see eye to eye.  Lilly learns a hard, but important lesson, about following rules, kindness and forgiveness. PB

alexanderwindupmouseAlexander and the Wind-Up Mouse: (Caldecott Honor Book) by Leo Lionni – This classic tells the story of a real mouse, Alexander, who befriends a toy mouse, Willy.   Alexander wants to be just like Willy so he searches for the magic pebble to give the garden lizard who will grant his wish at the full moon.  But Willy has found himself in the discard box of old toys!  Will Alexander still wish to be a toy, or will he wish for something else?  PB

mousepaintMouse Paint  by Ellen Stoll Walsh – The three mice are trying to escape the cat!  Luckily they find white paper to hide in, but soon they begin playing in the paint and make some wonderful discoveries!  This is a perfect introduction to color mixing.  When your are done reading make sure you get out the finger-paint and try mixing up some colorful fun.  Also check out Mouse Count and Mouse Shapes for more stories of how the mice avoid capture! PB

mousetalesMouse Tales (I Can Read Book 2) by Arnold Lobel – A father mouse has seven little mice who all want a story at bedtime.  So he tells a story for each mouse!  This book is the classic collection of the seven stories and is perfect for beginning readers.  Check out more of Arnold Lobel’s mouse stories in Mouse SoupER-1

gstilton1Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye (Geronimo Stilton, No. 1)– Geronimo Stilton is the editor of the newspaper  The Rodent’s Gazette and always searching for the next scoop!  This series is eye-catching for readers trying to tackle more in-depth chapter books, as the type changes color & font to emphasize certain phrases.  Geronimo lives in a world of mice and there are many mouse-centered word changes and cheese puns to keep you in the rodent mood.  There is an adventure for every area of interest.  Many of these books contain cool information within the text that provide a great knowledge base while keeping readers interested.  There are several spin-off series to keep readers turning the pages!  ER-3

tstilton1Thea Stilton #1: The Secret of Whale Island – Geronimo’s sister has been teaching journalism at Mouseford Academy where she’s become a mentor to five mouseling friends.  Nicky, Colette, Pamela, Paulina and Violet travel the world and work together to solve mysteries.  The Thea Sisters, as they call themselves, find out cool information about the locations they visit and check in to see if you are following the clues along with them.  Fantastic information presented in the same style as the Geronimo Stilton books. For more on Thea Stilton check out Amazon’s Thea Stilton Page ER-3

mouseandmotorcycleThe Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – When Ralph discovers a toy motorcycle under the bed in the hotel room he can’t help himself and just has to try it.   Unexpected adventure awaits, but there is also danger, as Ralph get himself into some sticky situations.  A classic tale that is a perfect read-aloud. Keep the adventure going with follow-up books Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. MouseMR/RA

tumtum&nutmegTumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn – Tumtum and Nutmeg live a quiet life in Rose Cottage, looking after the human children that live there.  However, things aren’t going to stay quiet for long!  A string of visitors threaten the peaceful existence of the mice in Rose Cottage and Tumtum and Nutmeg will use their daring and wit to make sure that everything works out.  This collection of three stories is a wonderful read-aloud for Early Readers.  Check out the second volume, Tumtum & Nutmeg The Rose Cottage TalesMR/RA

secretsatseaSecrets at Sea by Richard Peck – Mice sisters Helena, Louise, and Beatrice live with their little brother Lamont in the Cranston home in Victorian England.  When the Cranstons decide to voyage to America in hopes of finding a husband for their daughter the mice join them!  The ensuing adventure is full of intriguing characters, romance and excitement.  Also check another of Richard Peck’s mouse themed stories, The Mouse with the Question Mark TailMR/RA

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Filed under animals, classics, pets, series, Uncategorized

Zoo Crew

  This past week I had the opportunity to chaperone Weezy-Jean’s field trip to the zoo.  As I was corralling six very active seven year-olds I realized that our local zoo, which we have been visiting since the girls were infants, is one of the first places that my children began to see the diversity of the world around them, and to appreciate it.  Taking a trip to the zoo shows us animals that are definitely not native to our area – like rhinos and baboons – and it leads to great discussions.  Learning about these animals helps us learn about the world; climates, cultures, and environmental concerns.

However, I admit that I am not always comfortable watching orangutans through bars and seeing elephants in an enclosure instead of roaming the savanna makes me, well, just sad.  It would feel negligent if I failed to address that many people have very strong emotional and valid reactions to animals removed from their natural habitat and raised in enclosures.  But, my experience in Museum  Education (which includes zoos) has shown me the great benefit of using zoos as educational resources.  In a world where habitat loss threatens so many species, the ability to teach future generations about them is an important piece of the puzzle to ensuring their survival.  And I have never met anyone who works at a zoo because it is just their job.  People who work in zoos are there because they absolutely love animals, it is a passion, not just a profession.

HuskyGirl’s favorite animals at our zoo are the Mexican gray wolves (most likely due to their visual similarity to Siberian Husky dogs).   We’ve readLorenzo the signs many times, and know that these wolves are severely threatened due to the fact that the region they live in, Southwestern US and Mexico, was overrun by ranchers in the early 1900’s.  The ranchers didn’t like that the wolves attacked their livestock, so the ranchers “protected” their operations by eliminating the wolves.  There are only about 83 Mexican gray wolves living in the wild right now.  In 1977 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.  Components of this include the Species Survival Plan which is managed by the American Zoological Association.  Long story short, zoos raise, breed and hopefully reintroduce wolves into the wild!  We saw this plan in action when we visited the Lehigh Valley Zoo in Schnecksville, PA.  Their Mexican gray wolf area is designated RL – real life –  where the wolves natural behaviors and feeding habits are preserved to make them eligible for reintroduction.  It was awesome! This is one example of how zoos help promote animal preservation and public awareness.

Ideally zoos will continue to expose and educate visitors about the incredible diversity of species that share this planet with us, and give an appreciation that will make animal lovers, and protectors of us all.  Going to the zoo can be really fun – check out these zoo books; they’ll complement a zoo trip or help you continue learning and loving animals after you get home.  Making a visit to the zoo on any vacation can be fun, but some zoos are destinations on their own – check out the list of a few “destination zoos” after the booklist!

Gogoodnightgorillaod Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann- This classic boardbook is a children and parent’s favorite. As the Zookeeper makes the rounds saying goodnight to all the animals, the Gorilla takes his keys and quietly lets all the animals out.  Following him home, they settle down to bed, but the Zookeepers wife is quite surprised when she gets more than one “goodnight”.  This book has very few words, and the repetition makes it a perfect book for your favorite toddler to tell the story with you.  It also allows for great narrative extensions as you make up your own story about the animals. PB

Ddearzooear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Ron Campbell – Another classic boardbook!  A zookeeper sends an animal as a pet, but it is never quite right (giraffes are too tall!) so each time they need to be sent back.  Each pet is presented as a package that is “opened” with lift-the-flap excitement.  Will the perfect pet ever arrive? Wonderful introduction to the diversity of animal life, and the unique characteristics of the animal families. PB

polarbearpolarbearPolar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle – This classic follow-up to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? introduces a variety of unusual animals and concludes with the Zookeeper who takes care of them all.   A familiar formula and the repetitive text make this a favorite of toddlers and preschoolers and kids love making the animal sounds!  Great extension activities include making your own version of the story using photographs from your latest trip to the zoo! PB

zoointheskyZoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations by Jacqueline Mitton – Combine a love of animals with Astronomy in this picture book that explores the constellations.  Learn the legends of the night through wonderful stories in this National Geographic book. PB

putmeinthezooPut Me in the Zoo (I can read it all by myself’ Beginner Books) by Robert Lopshire – How can Spot prove he belongs in the zoo?  In this fun story he shows all he can do with his spots – from juggling to changing colors – that make him perfect for the zoo.  But is that really where he belongs?  Celebrating uniqueness and discovering that there is a “spot” for everyone is at the heart of this story.  ER-1

abgoeswild Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild! (Chapter Book #4)  by Herman Parish – Amelia Bedelia takes everything completely literally, which leads to all kinds of confusion and hilarity.  And she’s always been this way as this series about her childhood tells us.  Amelia and her friends create their own backyard zoo and give tours to neighbors, but as always with Amelia things are always as simple as they could be.  In this illustrated early reader you’ll find fun, humor, and Amelia’s positive can-do spirit. ER-2/3

secretzooThe Secret Zoo  by Brian Chick – Noah and his sister Megan live next door to the zoo.  The animals are behaving strangely, and then Megan disappears!  Noah and his friends realize that they need to figure out what is really going on at the Clarksville Zoo!  Following mysterious clues and sneaking into the zoo they find adventure and camaraderie, but can they find Megan? MR/RA

This is book 1 in a series, for information on the other titles check out Brian Chick’s webpage.

*PBP note:  HuskyGirl, at age 9, loved this as a read aloud with Dad.  My husband however was a bit taken aback at the fact that sections portray the parents experience with a missing child.  One of the key plot points in many kid- centered adventures are the “absentee parents” .  However, in this book, the parents aren’t absent, they are frantically meeting with the authorities who are searching to find Megan.  Although – spoiler alert – everything does turn out just fine, and HuskyGirl didn’t seem at all bothered by it, Dad was definitely moved by reading about the parental perspective of missing a child.

 oneandonlyivanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Ivan, a captive gorilla, is content to spend his days watching television and painting.  When he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to rethink his world and his art.  This tale of hope and friendship is narrated by Ivan himself, giving a unique perspective.  Hailed as the best book of the year by Kirkus, School Library Journal and Amazon, and the winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, The One and Only Ivan is destined to become a classic. MR/RA


trialbyjournalTrial by Journal by Kate Klise – Due to a new law that states if a jury trial involves a child there must be a child juror, Lily finds herself missing school to serve on trial of Bob White, a zoo employee accused of killing a young man Perry Keet, who also worked at the zoo.  Although there are perks to being on the jury – including a stay at the Menagerie Hotel and a private tour of the zoo – there are some things that aren’t quite what they seem, like the mysterious reptile house!  At the end of this trial Lily wants two things: to find out what really happened to Perry, and avoid summer school by turning in her jury journal as a report.  Uniquely told through journal entries, newspaper clippings, and court documents this is a cool mystery and an inside look at a jury trial. MR

Trip It: Check out these great Zoo destinations

National Zoo, Washington, DC – As part of the Smithsonian this zoo is free to the general public and has some unique animals, like pandas.

Central Park Zoo, New York, NY – In the heart of Manhattan this is a great stop.  Or head to another borough and visit the Bronx Zoo.

Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh, PA – Over 100 years in the Highland Park neighborhood make this a Pittsburgh institution.

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA – Also check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL – Part of the Walt Disney World Resort, this theme park has rides, shows, and animals everywhere!

Looking for a zoo in your area? Check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Zoofinder!



Filed under classics, mystery, Uncategorized, zoo


photo(8) I walked into the grocery store today and was met with the most beautiful sight – a display of tulips.  If we are going to be accurate, it really wasn’t the most beautiful sight. In fact it was a bit picked over, and several of the holding containers were completely empty. The bunches left were a tad pathetic and wilted.  Clearly I’m not the only one that needs a breath of Spring at this point. I quickly picked up the most promising bunch and added it to my basket.

You see, where I live we have many meteorological advantages –no hurricanes, no earthquakes, no tsunami risks or volcanoes, tornado free and low wildfire risk, non-existent mudslides and minimal river flooding.  We know how to handle snow, and it takes a defined blizzard to cancel school. But we also don’t get Spring until late May.  Some years we don’t get it at all.  I mean, yes it’s “Spring”, but we have a tendency to skip over the actual season.  Which means Winter goes on forever.  Entering the grocery store this morning I trudged through a cold, hard rain that was making little progress on the snow piles still lingering.  Last Sunday, the final weekend of March, we woke to 6 inches of snow.  Not a dusting, not flurries in the air, 6 whopping inches that required the snow-blower to clear the plow pile blocking the driveway.

I make no attempt to hide the fact that I openly dislike Winter, but at this point even my skiing, snowboarding and hockey loving friends have had enough.  So for someone like me this is getting to be unbearable.  On Monday I wore a baseball shirt, to celebrate opening-day, in hopes of lifting my spirits.  This is a sure sign of Spring as the “boys of summer” take the field, right?  I painted my toenails – gearing up for flip-flop season, and found the ensuing dry-time unbearable as my toes froze.  Regardless of my attempts to usher in this new season the world outside my window is definitely dreary.  Everything, from sky to trees to grass, is dull brown monotone misery.

Which brings me to the tulips.   I brought them home, and they really brighten things up.  It is amazing how a simple cut flower can turn the spirits.  They are a bright purple-pink spark of what is to come.   Soon I’ll see flowers outside my window, I just know it.  Until then I plan to check out these books about the home of tulips since the 1600’s, the Netherlands.


knufllebunnyfreeKnuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion by Mo Willems is the third tale in the endearing Knuffle Bunny series.  This time Trixie takes Knuffle Bunny to visit her grandparents, Oma and Opa, in Holland, but Knuffle Bunny has different travel plans in mind. PB


hansbrinkerHans Brinker by Bruce Coville is a retelling of the classic 1865 story by Mary Mapes Dodge and its transition to picture book is enhanced by the illustrations by Laurel Long.   Hans quest to win a skating competition on the canals of Holland is woven with love and caring and a moral tale of generosity. PB



tsgreattulipheistThea Stilton and the Great Tulip Heist is part of the series that features the Thea Sisters, students of Thea Stilton who travel the world and solve mysteries together.  This time they are off to Holland to help new friend Jan find his missing father, a world famous botanist and his most recent discovery.  Their best clue is linked to the famous Black Tulip! ER-3



blacktulipThe Black Tulip is a classic novel by Alexandre Dumas.  Although not as full of jam-packed adventure like Dumas’ other books, the Black Tulip tells the story of Cornelius von Baerle who seeks to cultivate the elusive black tulip.  Murder, politics and treason land Cornelius in prison, but the jailers daughter helps him continue his quest.  Written in 1850, and set in 1672 Holland, The Black Tulip is full of historical detail and intrigue.  This classic is definitely for older readers, willing to tackle the language and content, but a worthy read. YA

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Filed under classics, europe, flowers, spring