I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems


It’s finally here, our Doublescoop for June (yeah we know how close it is to July). We are big fans of Mo Willems and our children right along with us, as you will see. Willems has won several awards for his work including a Caldecott Honor and the Theodor Seuss Geisel medal in 2008 and 2009 for the Elephant and Piggie early readers. Cari was first introduced to the brilliant, zany, fun-loving world of Mo Willems by Britt from Confessions of a Book Habitue, a fellow book blogger and friend of Cari. Holly was introduced to his world through a parenting magazine and the pidgeon books.

Mo Willem’s Website and Blog

Cari: So did you have as much fun reading I Will Surprise My Friend as we did?

Holly: I had a great time reading this book, my youngest son loves this book!

(Child #3 in the background): I love dis book!

Holly: I think Gerald is my favorite character because he is so much like me. I tend to worry a lot. Which character did you identify with more?

Cari: I think as an adult definitely Gerald, but as a child I was more like Piggie.

Cari: My five year old really liked the book – She laughed, laughed and then laughed some more, she even read this book to Elliot – the dog as part of our library’s R.E.A.D. program, where kids read to dogs.

Holly: All of my kids liked the book, but particularly my toddler and 6 year old – They all wanted  a turn with it by themselves (even the 8 year old). I read it to my toddler and his cousin (2). We then went to the park and they played hide ‘n seek on the playground.  It was really cute. Basically they acted out what they saw in the book, two friends trying to surprise each other by hiding behind a rock only they used the play structure’s tunnels and hideouts.

Cari: I really like the colors Mo Willems uses. When Piggie, who is pink, talks the text bubble is pink and when Gerald, who is gray, talks the text bubble is gray. I just love that kind of scaffolding in a text. It helps kids to understand who is talking. It makes it easy to follow. As far as an easy reader – it’s wonderful especially how Willems uses the words and pictures together. Sometimes the words are really big to emphasize emotion and other times they are small. I love it! Yet the book is  simple enough that a beginner reader can read and it is entertaining even for the adults (a huge bonus) at the same time. Children will want to read this one and the whole series. My daughter doesn’t have to be convinced to read Mo Willems at all. She just loves his books.

Holly: I liked how the book shows how children imitate what they see. Piggie and Gerald saw the squirrels playing surprise games, so Piggie and Gerald tried it out, and then my son and his cousin did it too. By the way, what does scaffolding mean?

Cari: Oh yeah, that’s the teacher part in me, scaffolding is when you do something to help children accomplish something they might not be able to do on their own. Such as helping them identify who is speaking in the book, by using the colors for the text boxes that match with the color of the character. I am pretty sure he didn’t write the book and then say oh let me scaffold this for young readers, I think he is a natural at creating books for children that motivate and help them read.

Trip down memory Lane

In Western Idaho, the sun doesn’t set in the summer until about 10pm at night. Cari and Holly shared a bedroom and a queen sized bed. When bedtime is at 8pm and the sun doesn’t set for two more hours, there’s a lot of time to burn, before it’s dark enough to sleep. Besides reading, we would invent games to play to entertain ourselves. One of our frequent favorites was the pillowcase game. And just in case you decide you want to play our fun game we will give instructions at the end so you too can experience the fun-filled game of our childhood.

One hot stuffy summer night, a new game is born in Cari and Holly’s bedroom:

Cari: I have an idea

Holly: What is it?

Cari: Let’s play a game

Holly: What kind of game?

Cari: This is going to be really fun. Stand up here in the middle of the bed. Put this pillow case on. Can you see anything?

Holly: Yes. It’s totally see through. (Oh, come on, must I really be so honest?)

Cari: Turn it around so the pillow’s in front.

Holly: Okay. I can’t see anything. It’s hot in here. I can barely breathe.

Cari: Okay, now count to ten while I spin you in circles.

Holly: 1, 2, 3 . . .

Cari: 10! Okay, we’re ready.

Holly: I can’t stand up! I’m too dizzy!


Cari: Are you ready yet?

Holly: I’m ready.

Cari: Now, start walking around the bed slowly. If you get too close to the edge I will tell you.

Holly: (walking right into the wall) Uh Oh! (begins to giggle)

Cari: (giggling) Cold, you are very cold. (Holly changes directions)

Cari: Getting warmer, getting warmer, almost hot . . .(laughing)

Holly: I don’t know where I am, I must be close to the edge. I will go this way instead. (laughing, changes directions again)

Cari: Warm, you’re warm. Cold you’re getting colder. You’re really cold!

Holly: Puts arms in front to block the wall. Relief floods her as she feels nothing.

Cari: Go left!

Holly: Okay. AAAHHHH! (Thud as she hits the floor.) HAHAHAHAHA! I thought I was in the middle of the bed! Hahahahahah

Cari: That was so funny! Ha ha hahahahaha! Didn’t you know one of the rules is you can lie? Hahahahah! Lets do it again!

Holly: Okay, but I have to go the bathroom.

Cari: Did you pee your pants?

Holly: Maybe.

Cari: You peed your pants, I can’t believe you peed your pants. Hurry and change before Mom hears you!

Holly: Okay, I’ll hurry but next time I get to give the directions!

Instructions for the Pillowcase game

Players required:


Items required:

One big bed

One pillowcase with a pillow inside.

Warning: This game teaches lying skills to children and may be hazardous to your health.

Objective: Get the other person to fall off the bed.

Player 1 is ‘it’. Player 2 is the victim. First, player 2  must assume position standing in the middle of the bed with the pillowcase over their head, the pillow in front so that there is no chance of peeking. Player 1 helps to turn player 2  in a circle ten times until Person 2 is so dizzy they can hardly stand up. Let the game begin! Player 1 now gives directions verbally to Player 2 as Player 2 walks cautiously around the bed. “Hot means close to the edge, Cold means by the wall or in the middle, Warm means almost to the edge” The goal for player 2 is to stay safely on the bed.  The goal for player 1 is to get Player 2 to fall off the bed. The best way to do this is to get Player 2 so mixed up they can’t tell where they are going. Player 1 can lie and Player 2 will believe them and fall off the edge of the bed without realizing they’ve been tricked until they feel nothing but air under their feet.

This game occupied many hot summer nights and often ended with Holly running off to the bathroom to change clothes because she laughed so hard she couldn’t help what happened next. (She doesn’t have that problem anymore, thank goodness)


Cari has a Grandma Dowdel Moment or She Kills A Gopher With a Shovel

iwillsurprisemyfriendOkay, now that I have your attention. I should explain a few items of business at Bookscoops (and I really did kill a gopher with a shovel). For one – I accepted a position as a literacy specialist at a local middle school, which I am very excited about- and two, we are reeeaalllyyyy far behind on our Double Scoop for this month, but it is coming. . . we promise – the author is none other than the brilliant Mo Willems and the book is I Will Surprise My Friend – an easy reader. My sister is in the process of moving (again) to a more permanent home than our mom’s basement with less spiders (she hopes). But until then I thought I would share with you what I have been doing (besides getting ready for the next school year and taking care of my kids).

yeardownyonderIn April, Holly and I reviewed A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck and the main character – Grandma Dowdel is amazing, from trapping foxes for needed money to keeping the town gossips in line; but what I really wanted was for her to come to my house and take care of my underground rodent problem. As some of you may or may not know I have a serious gopher (possible vole) problem in my yard – I have mentioned in a few posts, the angst it has caused me, I have lost countless bulbs of the crocus, iris, and tulip variety, several rose bushes, my lavender plants (although they are making a nice come back) and some lovely evergreen bushes. Not to mention the random piles of dirt strewn about the lawn and the numerous methods and even more failures we have used to eradicate them. I was seriously concerned about our vegetable/fruit garden and the damage these little bite sized herbivores could do. I mean really I want to do my part in the green movement – grow my own food, composting, reduce waste, etc, but these rodents are putting a chink in my garden plans (actually it’s more like a bulldozer).

My raspberry patch - yummy!!!

I’ve tried a variety of methods including traps, smoke bombs and I have called exterminators, which won’t (or can’t) guarantee they will get rid of the buggers.

So what works?

A hose down their tunnel with water to chase them out and then I hit them on the head with a shovel – a hand shovel, no less. If your reminiscing about the game Whac-A-Mole it’s very similar. . . except for the side affects.  I immediately started shaking all over. . . . I just kept thinking – It was them or my garden and I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home as I might lose my chance. I called him right after, and I could hardly speak I was so shaking so bad (I could not be a hunter for sport) and he thought something was seriously wrong and then he was shocked to learn that his wife – me, had killed a gopher (I waited until he got home so he could get rid of the body). I proceeded to tell my daughter who was playing with a friend. Her friend said, that when her brothers kill one they act all happy, why was I shaking so bad?

Orange Miniature Rose, gopher hole and shovel
Orange Miniature Rose, gopher hole and shovel

Since then I have killed three more . . .and we still have more to go (we live next to a large open field and close to a large section of undeveloped land), but at least Grandma Dowdel would be proud of me! Oh and I did tell my Grandpa B on the phone, that I have some of his blood in me (he is the one who trapped skunks for furs as a kid see the post on A Year Down Yonder to read his story).

So be forewarned the rest of you underground living, plant loving rodents – don’t get between me and my plants because I carry a mean hand shovel. Thanks for the inspiration Grandpa B and Grandma Dowdel!!!

I know this is not your typical experience you glean from reading an excellent novel, in fact I’m willing to bet it’s on the unusual side, so my question is what is your most unusual experience you have had with a book in real life?

One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn, Illustrated by Susan Detwiler


One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn is a book to be read outloud – even if you are the only one in the room because otherwise you might not like it as much. I wasn’t sure I liked the book until I read it outloud (note to self. . .always read poetry outloud) because I didn’t like how the first line to each stanza was repeated as the third when I was reading it to myself, but after reading it outloud I liked the book much more.  Some books work to read to yourself, but this one not so much.

We are huge animal fans in our house and I have watched many of a documentary on wolves. I find them fascinating creatures and love their close cousins – dogs. My daughter and I enjoyed reading One Wolf Howls. A unique blend of poetry and factual information that helps students learn about the months of the year, numbers 1-12 and wolves.  The first beginning with “One whole howls in the January moonlight” and the book ends with “Twelve Wolves singing a December chorus.” We liked the repetition and rhythm throughout the book, but one of my favorite parts of the book is Susan Detwiler’s illustrations – and how well her beautiful illustrations correlate with the text. For example January looks like I would imagine January in the wolf’s habitat. And later on in the spring their are wolf puppies in May. Of course this is made easy because Scotti has written the text to match the life cycle and seasons the wolf actually experiences and really who knew you could pack so much factual information into poetry book.

I have to say I have been impressed with Sylvan Dell Publishing, their purpose is to provide children with high quality literature that teaches math and science concepts – think PBS kids shows in book form. With the books I have seen so far they really deliver what they say they are going to do, “to create picture books that excite children’s imaginations, are artistically spectacular, and have educational value.”

One Wolf Howls is no exception, there are lots education activities and the end of the book, which my daughter loves, loves, loves. Did I mention she loves the activities at the end of the book? Especially the one with the Wolf Communications Matching Activity, which about how wolves use body language to communicate.  In addition there are many resources including eBooks and Spanish materials.

I would recommend One Wolf Howls or other books from Sylvan Dell to any teacher or parent who is interested in quality picture books that can be used to teach Math or Science and am seriously considering giving a copy to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher next year.

What are your favorite books about wolves? Or favorite books that include math and science (not a textbook. . .unless your into that kind of reading)?

Scotti Cohn’s website and blog

Susan Detwiler’s website

Sylvan Dell’s Website and Resources for One Wolf Howls

Hasta Luego Bloggiesta

blogiestaYou know how life throws you a few curve balls (maybe your life is not like mine and always runs smoothly). Well I had great plans to get lots done on our blog this weekend, but then my baby got sick and since I was flying solo most of this weekend I held her most of the weekend – being a mom is more important than blogging. Gratefully this curve ball wasn’t to bad, her illness was nothing serious (special thanks to my newly graduated MD brother who indulged me by checking her ears, which were fine) and as of early this morning we are fever free!!!

Here is what I got done

  1. Reviews of One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn and Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
  2. Participated in Blogging Buddies at My Friend Amy (wasn’t planning on this, but an excellent article) and Britt at Confessions of a Book Habitue brought it to  my attention by inviting me to be her blogging buddy.
  3. Started re-doing our theme and fixing our sidebars
  4. Natasha would like those who participated to tell how many hours we spend on Bloggiesta and how many comments, etc,  4 hours (I had planned on six) and well my comments are not what I would have liked, but here it is a big whooping 4, but I will do more.

Overall, despite my inability to participate in the way I wanted, this was an excellent way to light the fire under myself so to speak and I plan on checking out some of the other mini-challenges as they have some excellent articles and advice later on this week and making several more comments. I hope Bloggiesta comes around next year or even sooner (if anyone is interested).

Thanks to Natasha at Maw Books Blog and all her amigos, bloggers and publishers who sponsored an excellent challenge this weekend!

PS. Let us know what you think of the new theme in our comments.

Bloggiesta – A Party to improve your blog!

blogiestaSo Natasha over at Maw Books Blog is doing a fantastic book blogging challenge called Bloggiesta and it’s all about improving your book blog. And as some of you may or may not have noticed I have been a little absent lately, and I am back in full force (or at least in some force). I recently accepted a dream position at a local middle school as the reading coach – and I have been bogged down with getting ready for the next school year. Now school is out and so I this is a perfect way for me to dive in. Holly and I have been getting ready to make some changes at Bookscoops – nothing major, but here are the goals for this weekend.

  • I can’t commit to the 24 hours of working on my blog, but I can commit to six hours and if I do more great as I have other commitments
  • Write at least three reviews (I am hoping for 7) of the books in my to be reviewed pile
    1. One Wolf Howls by Scottie Cohn
    2. Peace, Locomotion Jacquelyn Woodson
    3. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
    4. Milagros by Meg Medina
    5. Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier
    6. Way out West With Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe by Ann Cannon
    7. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  • Re-do our about us/ page
  • And if I have time I will change our theme and work on the side bar

My husband will have the laptop this weekend as he has school, so we will see how much I can actually get done.

The goatnappers by Rosa Jordan

the goatnappersThe sequel to Lost Goat Lane focuses on Justin, the oldest of the Martin children. Justin decides to sell his goat, a Christmas present from his sister, to get the money for a bike so he can ride back and forth to baseball tryouts. At first Justin is overjoyed because he made the baseball team as a freshman- the only person to ever do that before was Booker Wilson, his neighbor who became a famous ball player. Unfortunately, Justin discovers that the man who bought his goat is mistreating him and Justin can’t concentrate on anything, including baseball, until he comes up with a plan- along with all the other Lost Goat Lane kids. When the group kidnaps the goat, life gets more complicated and they turn to their hero, Booker, to save them from themselves.

Justin gets even more distracted when his absent father appears out of nowhere and wants to have an influence on his life. Full of complicated morals and ethics that children really do face in their every day lives. This book will challenge young readers to question assumptions about adults (like ‘grown-ups just don’t understand’), and learn to think responsibly for themselves. Justin makes decisions that help him remain true to the person he is inside- no matter what the people around him think.

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss

“Save the Worms! Save the Worms!”diary of a worm

We’ve had a lot of rain this spring, and each time it rains, the worms come out for air. Our walks to school then take twice as long and are filled with worm rescues- but usually only for the biggest and the best. I’m warned to be careful multiple times, and chastised every time a stroller wheel rolls over an unfortunate one. But, when there are so many out there, it’s amazing I miss as many as I do. It reminded me of junior high and our (Cari and my) half-mile walk to the bus stop. We almost missed the bus one day in the spring because we were stepping so carefully (and screaming like girls about gross worms) to avoid all the worms. We had to run for the last 300 yards pell mell and stepped on tons of worms in our mad dash to catch the bus.

On the way home a few weeks ago, after a down pour, my toddler spotted a big juicy one right in the middle of the road. And he insisted that I save it. “What?” I did not sign up to be a worm rescuer when I became a Mom. But, I couldn’t turn him down, he would have been heart broken. So, I found a piece of paper in my pocket and tried to pick the worm up with it. It didn’t work very well, and I got slimed when the worm contracted and writhed as all worms do. Eventually, after much dropping and sliming, I got the worm moved over to the gutter, which was ‘safe enough’ to make us all happy.

Living in the country as we have these past five years, we didn’t often see the worms come out and party every time it rained- apparently its more of a city worm thing to do, either that or our soil drained remarkably well in Washington. Anyway, all of this worm business got me thinking about a cute book we read awhile ago called Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin (author of Click, Clack, Moo and other family favorites) and excellently illustrated by cartoonist Harry Bliss. The book has that Sunday Comics pleasure read feel- and yet is also filled with facts that make it a useful teaching tool.You can even follow it up with a worm count walk after the next downpour. Today, my little one and I took an extra long walk home so he could count worms. “1, 2, 3 . . . 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, uh-yeven.” It was fun and educational and preoccupied him from sending me to the rescue of every worm we saw. (phew!)

So, if you’ve been coming across lots of worms this spring, give this book a good read and you will come away more appreciative of the great work worms do for our earth- especially our gardens! Maybe you’ll even be brave enough to rescue one or two. I like worms, even if I don’t like to touch them. Do you like worms?

Lost Goat Lane by Rosa Jordan

lost goat laneThe Martin kids are bored in the hot summer sun, so they play with fire, er alligators. Kate and her brothers have promised their mom that they’d stay away from the dangerous creatures, but boredom does something to child minds. It isn’t until Chip (the youngest) loses his beloved dog, Go Boy, to the alligators, that the older kids wise up and steer clear.

The Martin family is struggling to make ends meet a few years after their dad left for the race car mechanic circuit and never came back. One day a bank man comes to look at the house and ask a few questions, so Kate and her brothers become afraid that they are going to lose the farm, and all their beloved animals with it. The family can’t afford new school clothes, so they start school with their old clothes. I particularly felt bad for Kate because she is at the stage of rapid female changes, and her clothes don’t fit at all. How do you get by unnoticed when everything about you is noticeable?

One day Kate can’t find her goat, Sugar, and when Justin and Chip help her look, they all find something amazing in the Wilson family who lives at the end of Lost Goat Lane.

I enjoyed reading about the interactions of the Wilson and Martin families, as they work through the issues of race and prejudice in a small town. The Wilson family is black and the Martin family is considered ‘white trash’ by the Wilson’s daughter, Ruby,  who has moved back home with her son. As Chip and Luther become friends Ruby must question her assumptions about this wonderful family that is just down on their luck. Ruby also questions her presumption that blacks interact with blacks and whites with whites and it becomes clear that you don’t have to judge someone by their color. I like that Ruby helps out Kate when Kate’s only pair of jeans rip clean through. Their relationship proves that we all have something to offer and than we can make a difference if we work together. I love that Ruby teaches Kate important life lessons like:

“See? you look okay. Not perfect– nobody’s that– but okay. When somebody starts in on you, you just give them a look like, ‘What are you, crazy? It’s me that decides how good I look. And I say I look okay.'”

Justin, Kate’s older brother is also influenced for good by the Wilson family- especially when their son Booker Wilson comes home for holiday. He is a famous baseball player- only he lost his legs to a land mine. This provides another good discussion topic for prejudice against people with disabilities. Justin learns because his family is down on luck, that doesn’t mean he can give up on his dreams.

This fantastic book was adapted as a movie called The Sweetest Gift and was broadcast on Showtime in 1998. It received 3 emmy nominations. I haven’t seen it yet, but I sure would like to!