279. “Gator” by Randy Cecil

Gator was a happy carousel alligator in an amusement park.  Children loved riding on Gator and he loved the crowds and the laughter. But with time, the people stopped coming and the laughter turned into silence, which created a hole in Gator’s heart. The determined carousel animal decided to leave the park, which was no longer a happy place, in order to find… whatever was missing.  During his journey he learned a lot of new things about the world, for example, that the zoo alligators are better to be avoided. And as he wondered around, someone recognized Gator from the amusement park. Once again, the carousel alligator made someone laugh. Gator’s mission was accomplished. He could lead the crowd back to the amusement park. The amusement park revived and Gator’s hole in the heart was healed.

An inspiring and uplifting story about the determination and the pursuit of happiness. Gator found the happiness back, because… he went to look for it. In other words, if the good stuff doesn’t come to us, why don’t we simply put on our most comfortable shoes and start walking towards it. We might be amazed at what we can find.


278. “I Wanna New Room” by Karen Kaufman Orloff

Do you remember the resolute Alex with his superbly developed negotiation skills? He was able to convince his mother that having an iguana pet was a good idea. Well, he is trying his luck again with regards to a new room.

This time he is exchanging messages with his dad, as his mom wouldn’t even  engage in the tricky discussion with her eloquent son. He tries to talk his dad into building him a new room. Sharing one with Ethan, the younger brother, is apparently unbearable.  Dad tries to remind Alex about his behavior at that age, but Alex doesn’t give up. In his mind, Stinky’s dog, Lurch, is living a better life than himself, who is the oldest, hence the most important child in the family. ( nice thinking, right?)

The debate was getting emotional, but luckily, dad came up with a compromise: Alex would be getting a tree house. Just for himself.  Both parties were pleased. And even Ethan profited from the deal. 

Once again, a great piece of writing and wild illustrations by David Catrow. I love the innovative letter format. Not only is it witty and amusing, but it promotes the parent-child communication, as well as identifying feelings and verbalizing them.

277. “Pigsty” by Mark Teague

Yesterday was a little cleaning day in our home. I covered most of it when my son was at school, but I purposely left his room for our cleaning-up-together-is-fun experience. We did have fun indeed. He rediscovered some toys, and I was happy to engage him in the process.

Wendell Fultz was too big to clean his room together with his mom. he was solely responsible for keeping it clean. He chose not to clean it at all. He didn’t mind the mess. Neither did he mind when he got a pig as a roommate. A few days later another pig moved in, and then two more. The mess just grew and grew, but so did fun with the easygoing companions. Until, Wendell had no place to sleep… and his comic books got stamped with hoofprints… and his baseball cards got chewed on… It was high time to do some cleaning! “Many hooves make light work” after all.

Greatly entertaining and original.  Wit and  dry humor on every page,  plus, the most hilarious pigs in the pictures. No child will steer away from the broom after reading this amusing story.

276. “Now It is Summer” by Eileen Spinelli

Even though I appreciate changing seasons, I wouldn’t mind if the summer lasted the longest. Moderate climate summer of course. The sun provides me with some unusual energy and enhances my good mood dramatically. You know what I am talking about, don’t you?  Likewise, most of the children can’t wait for playing outside all the days, swimming, camping and other fun activities that come along with this colorful season.

Most of the children, but for one young mouse, who doesn’t care about summer picnics, splashing in the water or cold lemonade. He can’t wait for the autumn to begin. He can’t wait for Halloween, going to school by the yellow bus, the smell of cinnamon muffins, apples and pumpkin… “Will it be autumn soon?” The little mouse asked his mom. “Yes, yes, dear child, (…) But now it is summer.” Answered his wise mom and took her son for a walk. Barefoot. 

I love the message, which basically boils down to one phrase: Seize the moment! Instead of waiting for the blissful future, or reminiscing about the glorious past, let’s make the most out of the present. Even a rainy March can have its charm.

A cute and uplifting little story, as well as warm illustrations by Mary Newell DePalma.



275. “Late for School” by Stephanie Calmenson

Don’t you love those days when your alarm clock just forgets to ring? I know, those days should belong mostly to the past, considering all the cell phones and other smart devices we own. One can set an army of alarm clocks if need be.  Yet, regardless of the technology, we do happen to oversleep, don’t we? And then, to make the matters even more frustrating, everything else starts to go wrong. As a result we are late for work.  It is not a big deal if you are on a flexi-time, but what if you are a teacher?

Even worse, what if you are the teacher who has always preached and practiced a simple come-on-time-rule?  “Never, Ever, Ever be late for school!” , the teacher told his students. Until the day when he woke up late. Then his car wouldn’t starts, He missed a bus and a train. He tried to get to school in a hot air balloon but birds started to peck on it… Finally he reached the school on foot, five minutes late. The teacher broke his own rule. It was time for a new one: “Please try your best to be on time for school!”

A superbly entertaining rhyme, with a new surprise on every page. Bright and humorous pictures by Sachiko Yoshikawa.

This story makes me think about  one quote I once read. It is valid for parents, teachers and anyone who works with children. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” (Robert Fulghum)
Children are our Big Brothers indeed. They make us better people.

274. “I WANNA IGUANA” by Karen Kaufman Orloff

Alex wanted to have a very unusual pet: a baby iguana. In a series of letters, he tries to make his mom agree on his idea. He makes all kinds of pledges, promises and commitments to prove his sensitivity (if he doesn’t take the iguana, his friend’s dog will eat her), responsibility (he will pay for iguana’s lettuce from his allowance), maturity (he’s learned his lessons in the past), and even loneliness ( he needs a companion!!!!). Will Alex’s mom agree on a reptile, that can grow six-foot long? Was Alex’s negotiating technique successful?

You might want to find out as you read this witty and superbly amusing story to your children. What enhances the humor is the original format: Alex and mom talk to each other through a series of very official, written messages, with a title, signature and all. Hilarious! And so are the madly colorful illustrations by David Catrow. The only one thing I am not totally digging is the visual of Alex.  A bit too eery for me. What do you think?

273. “A Suitcase Surprise for Mommy” by Cat Cora

Zoran’s mom is going on a business trip. The boy knows that his mom has to travel for work, but he doesn’t like that. Clever mom tries to find a way Zoran could better put up with the separation. How about a little something special that belongs to Zoran, which she could take with her to New york? A red truck would be too big for mom’s suitcase, but Zoran found a better gift…

To find out what the little boy decided to give his mom, you need to read the book. I am just going to say it was quite a cool idea. And so is the whole story and pictures by Joy Allen. Warm, reassuring and I believe, quite relevant. Looking at SF Bay Area families, many parents travel quite extensively. In our case, it is only my husband earning the mile points, and he is the one who is missed by our little boy. Perhaps we could use Zoran’s idea next time my husband is going to pack his suitcase?

But last night, to our son’s delight, we ALL packed our suitcases. Time for a little family road trip. Have a good weekend!

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