La Mariposa by Francisco Jimenez Illustrated by Simon Silva

I first heard of this book when our local library advertised a presentation by Book-It Repertory Theatre. We love library activities, so we made sure to note the date and make plans to attend. The day of the presentation we arrived to find that the library wasn’t big enough to hold all the people who wanted to participate, so they had arranged to move it next door to the City Hall. My children were excited- how can you blame them after a summer of no story times? They did participate in summer reading which was rewarding in its own way, but due to numerous out-of-town adventures and swimming lessons, we missed story time and my kids love story time.

The three actors introduced themselves and explained that the presentation would be presented bilingually- which didn’t phase any of the children present la mariposa(our schools are upwards of 90% migrant/immigrant Latino children and everyone is used to hearing both languages). The curtains were pulled aside and we were transported to a Mexican migrant camp in California where Francisco is preparing for his first day of school. So many of the ‘1st day of school’ concerns that were mentioned transcend all boundaries as well as the excitement of riding the bus to school for the very first time! We were all empathetic when the actors portrayed the very real and disconcerting experience it was for Francisco to enter a world where the only word he understood was his own name. The actors communicated this superbly when slipping easily from ‘Fransisco’ into Charlie Brown phone speak (blah, blah, blah) to ‘Francisco’ and back again. I was especially pleased to have my children get a glimpse into what it is like for many of their class-mates who start sometimes in the middle of the year, having just arrived or returned from Mexico (or somewhere else south of the border) and who know very little, if any, English.

La Mariposa will give anyone who is open to learning, a glance into a common American immersion experience that teaches children to transcend the boundaries of race and status and find a common beauty that pulls us all together. In this case, the beauty that pulls Francisco’s class together is a butterfly- a thread that is woven throughout the book and play. My highest praise goes to the wonderful actors who piqued my interest in this autobiographical children’s story. The book, wonderful on its own merits, became even better when transferred to the stage.

As a side note, my middle child came home from school today having colored pictures of friends in school. To my surprise, all the children in the picture were brown- including mine! As one of only two or three non-latino anglo children in that class, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there is no perceived difference- children really are immune to prejudice until they are taught!

If you want to help promote literacy, please consider making a donation to the Quincy Public Library new building fund. For more information, call 509-787-2359 or email Schiree Ybarra, the librarian supervisor, at


Franklin’s Halloween by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark

Franklin and his friends prepare for a Halloween costume party as most typical children do- trying on different outfits and changing their minds until they are ‘just right’.  Franklin makes the perfect little Franklinstein and has fun scaring his family members. At the party, everyone soon realizes that the ghost is not Bear as they had assumed- he’s home sick. So, who is the ghost that’s flying around? Franklin solves the mystery and everyone chips in to share treats with Bear, while still keeping enough sugar to make themselves sick for at least a week.

Do you let your kids eat Halloween candy until they are sick/sick of it or do you believe in rationing?

What is Halloween? By Harriet Ziefert illustrated by Claire Schumacher

Everyone loves the lift-the-flap story format (until the flaps get torn off). My children and I delved into this one tonight for bedtime stories and enjoyed hearing a simplified version of what Halloween is all about. I know there are some parents who don’t ascribe to the whole history of Halloween. However, I know there are also a lot of parents who find that celebrating our power over scariness is a great idea.

 A simple explanation of Halloween: it’s for carving pumpkins, going trick-or-treating, dressing up as whatever you imagine, finding out that there are lots more good people than bad in the world and having fun as a family. Happy Halloween!


The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is like a breath of fresh air. Part funny, part tragic and part hope. It’s a lovely coming of age story for a Chicana girl growing up in Chicago surrounded by messages  telling her not to succeed. Somewhat biographical it details what life is like in the barrio. I read it for the first time in Spanish and since Spanish is my second language it became clear that I missed some of the nuances when I re-read it in English. It was excellent and a quick read.  I highly recommend this book.

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet by Diane deGroat

This story cracked me up!  A little boy plans to be a Martian Space Pilot for Halloween confident that he is the only one in his whole school who will think of that idea. When sent to change for the costume parade in the boy’s bathroom he discovers that nearly everyone was on the same wave-length with him. As he pulls out his costume, he nearly faints when he discovers that a mix-up left him with his sister’s pink ballerina costume. How he handles the situation is typical of those who like to be the ‘only’ ones with a good idea. I highly recommend this one as a fun Halloween story and a good lesson in making lemonade out of lemons.

Gallop! A Scanimation Picture Book by Rufus Butler Seder

What a fun way to bring life to pictures through patented scanimation technology. The animals literally move across the page encouraging parent-child interaction and adding to any child’s wonder of the world.


Ours was a gift from generous ‘Uncle Charles’ who purchased it at Costco for my little horse-lover. Can we say brown noser? Needless to say it was and continues to be a hit in our house! With it’s sturdy board-book type pages, I expect that it will be in use for many years to come.

The Candy Witch by Steven Kroll

I think I was in the second grade when I first read this book. I was excited to see it at my local library and so of course I had to read it. I loved the story of the little witch who is feeling neglected (something I could relate to as a child and what child doesn’t?) and so she stirs up some Halloween trouble by taking all the Halloween candy among other things in order to get some attention. I enjoyed re-reading this book as an adult. It’s a fun read and my four year old likes it. It was a good opportunity to talk about communication and what to do and particularly what not to do when you need a little bit of love. Pictures are okay, pretty typical for a book from this time period the 70s. My favorite then and now is pictures of all the yummy in the town square including the chocolate fountain. Yum!!!

Happy Reading!


Hope is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson

A book filled with beautiful, serenity inducing photographs written by Lauren Thompson. This book was inspired by the tragedy that unfolded on September 11th and else where. Thompson reminds me that hope is always there. After reading this book I felt very calm and believe in the humanity of all people. It is so easy to turn on the news and think this world is full of despair. Thompson gives me hope. She writes at the end of her book about the people in photographs demonstrating hope including victims of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami of 2004 where thousands lost their lives and homes. Also if you buy a hardback copy of this book Scholastic, Inc. will donate $1.00 to Volunteers of America up to $30,000. I think I may need to go book shopping.

I want to say thank you to Karen Thompson for reminding me to look for hope in everyday things. I find hope in watching my 6 month old sleep and hope in watching the neighbor kids play with each other on our swingset.

What gives you hope?

Reading with Hope!


Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

After much reluctance and foot dragging, I finally gave in and read the ‘Mormon Vampire’ book. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t gory and disgusting and terribly frightening- which were the main reasons I couldn’t bring myself to read a book about vampires- I don’t like creepy things. It was interesting and fun with just the right amount of creepiness. I will probably read the rest of the series eventually, even though (cringe) I’m not over-the-top obsessed with them as so many are. Thanks to my good friend, Becky for giving me the book to read, knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist it once I had it at my house (which I admit, was kind of embarrassing- especially when my husband saw it- he thinks it’s some teeny-bopper heart-throb thing). Anyway, I do recommend it, although I personally would not let my children read it until at least 16. It’s really not that creepy after all!


Happy reading! Holly