Book Giveaway for Purple Day: The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors By Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tony Persiani

Woohoo!!!  The Bookscoop’s sisters managed to pull off two Doublescoops in one month. Our review of The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand- New Colors by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani is part of our Purple Day challenge to raise public awareness about epilepsy and seizures. One in ten people will have a seizure in their life-time and one in a hundred will have epilepsy. We want people who have epilepsy to not feel so alone and this happens to be a favorite book of Cari’s daughter. If you comment on this post and/or participate in our Purple Day Challenge we will enter your name in a drawing for The Day-Glo Brothers. Please see our Purple Day post for eligibility requirements.

Cari: I love biographies like The Day-Glo Brothers – nonfiction picture books that tell a compelling human story, which doesn’t typically make the history books.

Holly: When I picked it up, the librarian was just putting it on the request shelf for us. She turned around and said, “That book has great pictures!” and I agree. The colors are very illuminating. Tony Persiani does an excellent job.

Cari: The pictures really, really add to what you’re reading. Which is what a picture book is supposed to do, but not all of them actually do. It helps that you are talking about colors that you can only see in the dark with certain lights. So the illustrations are black and white in the beginning with a few select colors. It helps you realize what the world is like before those eye popping colors. I liked the story too, did you?

Holly: Yes. I liked that the Switzer brothers had goals early in life, but their lives didn’t necessarily turn out how they planned them.

Cari: That’s a lot how life is. They weren’t always interested in the same things, either- Joe was an entertainer and Bob wanted to go to medical school.

Holly: And Bob had an accident that resulted in a head injury that left him with seizures & double vision so he wasn’t able to go to medical school anymore. The two brothers experiment while he’s trying to recover in the basement.

Cari: Yes, light would bother him. They started working together out of boredom. I’m very interested in these two because of my daughter’s seizures. I was curious to know how he dealt with seizures the rest of his life or if the seizures eventually stopped. During Bob and Joe’s era people with epilepsy did not talk about it. In fact a neurologist today has been doing research on Franklin Delono Roosevelt and there is a lot of evidence to suggest he had epilepsy. I wondered if he couldn’t complete medical school because of prejudice about seizures.

Holly: Medical school is very intense. Without specific allowances for a disability, it may be impossible to complete medical school due to lack of sleep, which I hear contributes to seizure activity.

Cari: Yes, we have to be very careful to make sure our daughter gets adequate rest. We’ve also had to put in place protocol with the school for the special allowances this sometimes requires. Like for instance, the recent time change that throws our sleep/wake cycle off triggered a seizure in my daughter last year. So this year, we took extra precautions and had to take her to school late a few times.

Holly: I’m glad that you take such good care of her! I liked that this is the author’s first book  and that he was inspired to write it when he heard the Day Glo brothers’ amazing story.

Cari: Despite Bob having a what sounds like seizure disorder, I can’t say that he did have epilepsy although to be diagnosed you have seizures that do not have an underlying problem that can be corrected. Bob still did a lot of great stuff & both brothers had a lot of fun. If you suffer a traumatic head injury you have a 50% chance of developing epilepsy and it can develop years later. It’s so important to protect your head and that is why helmets are critical in prevention of post-traumatic epilepsy

Holly: The book makes it clear at the end that even though they didn’t become what they thought they would as kids, they still achieved their goals and I think that’s a great example.

Cari: Their paints were used in WWII to help pilots land and also to avoid problems with friendly fire. Their paints made it easier to identify the enemy from an ally.

Holly: Yeah, I wonder if there were spies trying to figure out how they made those glowing colors- or was that world wide knowledge by then?

Cair: Who knows?

Holly: So, how did you find out about the book?

Cari: It was a Cybils book we read in my book club. It was one of the ones I liked the most. My daughter also enjoyed reading it. I think she liked knowing that there were lots of cool things you could still do even if you have seizures.

Holly: I remember when ‘neon’ colors were all the rage.

Cari: I do too. Now we know who to thank. Some of them are coming back.

Holly: Yes, I’ve noticed. I’m wishing I’d kept my neon Golden Gate Bridge t-shirt and maybe my neon green striped t-shirt. But, I don’t need the neon spandex. I think we’ll pass on those.

Cari:  You know I bet those brothers didn’t think that they would actually work together. You know a magician and a medical doctor don’t seem like they would go well together.

Holly: I beg to differ. Isn’t that what we expect from medical professionals? Magic?

Cari: Hah! That’s true.

Holly: I think the book is fascinating for kids – even if they can’t read it on their own, the pictures will appeal to them.

In lieu of a trip down memory lane, we thought we’d share some insight into our real personalities…

Cari: Growing up I was more of the idea person and tended to be in trouble more than Holly.

Holly: So far this isn’t any different than our stories.

Cari: How are you different from how we represent you in the stories?

Holly: I don’t let people walk all over me- you especially. I actually do have a back bone and opinions about things. I do tend to work in the background, so that much is true. How about you?

Cari: Well, I was not really a devious child. Yes, I did get in more trouble than Holly and have an overactive imagination. But, I wasn’t generally mean. I think I still come up with lots of good ideas for stuff.

Holly: Yes. You do. Like creating a book blog.

Cari: Thanks!

Holly: As always, I thought you were crazy when you brought up the idea, but did anyone ever tell you that you are convincing?

Cari: I’m known for my powers of persuasion. Speaking of which, isn’t it time we shared that one story?

Holly: Not unless you want to share the other one.

Cari: Blackmail. Did anyone ever tell you that you were good at blackmail?

Holly: Nope! It goes both ways, though. If you want to share my story, I’ll share yours.

Cari: You know, I think some stories are better left untold.

Holly: Now you’re talking!

Cari: You’re not so bad with those persuasion powers yourself. Maybe you should thank me.

Holly: For what?

Cari: For teaching you all my skills, of course!

Holly: I think we’re off track here. Aren’t we supposed to be telling them what we’re really like? I think we’re back to our paper personalities now.

Cari: Oh, yes. I guess it’s time to put out the lights on this doublescoop.

Holly: I think it might glo in the dark.

Cari: Yes, there is still a light on.

Holly: It’s your computer screen. Push the little circle button and it will turn off.

Cari: I’m not stupid.

Holly: I never said you were.



Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we bring to you a new Double Scoop! A wonderful book written by an Irish author about an Irish kid in, you guessed it, Ireland!

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer, is a kid-detective book that we are sure we would have loved when we were young. Actually, we love it now too, so hopefully that means we’re still young! Just in case the author’s name is ringing a bell, we will save you a trip to yahoo or google’s search engine and just tell you: Yes, this is by the same author as all the Artemis Fowl books.

Holly: My favorite part of Half Moon is that Fletcher was a real detective – he passed an online course for people over 18. So he was officially qualified even though nobody would believe him.

Cari: I thought you picked the book because Fletcher was short and you wanted a chance to poke at my shortness. Fletcher Moon is called Half Moon because he’s short. I do think the book is a good transition for kids who have outgrown Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew – it’s more complicated than the formulaic plots of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Holly: Honestly, I only picked the book for other reasons. First off I picked it because it’s set in Ireland, and we are Irish. Secondly, we love good detective stories and last of all, because it refers to Irish Dancing which we both did for many years.

Cari: Are you sure it’s not because I’m short?

Holly: No Cari, that thought didn’t even enter my head. Thinking of thoughts I never had, I don’t remember any parts in the book that I didn’t like.

Cari: I’ve read the Artemis Fowl books. Half Moon is similar to Artemis in that he is very bright and can get around adults when he wants information. Like hacking computers, getting information. Although Artemis is a juvenile genius delinquent (boy that’s a mouthful) with a lot of money in a fantasy setting. I thought Half Moon was a little bit more believable.

Holly: I appreciated the glimpse into the criminal world. Particularly interesting was the network of connections. I liked the example of the one ‘good’ kid, Red Sharkey, in the crime family trying to break the mold and be different. He wanted to be a model citizen, but because of his family people didn’t want to let him.

Cari: Yeah, definitely.

Holly: He tended to get in trouble when he was trying to help out.

Cari: I did not like the head mistress of the school and how she kept a list of good kids and bad kids with pictures. The good kids were angels and the bad kids devils.

Holly: I thought a lot about how often we take people and label them and sometimes it’s really difficult to let them escape that label.

Cari: Let’s talk about the girls’ gang, Le Fountanin. Basically, pink-loving or obsessed 10-year-old girls with a leader who is so ‘brilliant’ she is almost crazy. She appears to be all fufu and fluff on the outside, but she’s really made of ruthless steel. Whereas the Sharkey crime family is the opposite. On the outside they appear like steel, but they can really be generous when you know them.

Holly: Let’s talk about crime in Ireland. How much of it is related to the whole protestants vs. catholics ages old disputes?

Cari: I think this book is set in Ireland vs. Northern Ireland because the terrorist group IRA is in Northern, which is part of the United Kingdom. When I talk to people from there they talk about shopping. Just to go grocery shopping there are metal detectors. I’m not sure how much is Ireland and how much Northern Ireland spills over.

Holly: I’m just wondering if the level of violence and crime the girls were willing to go to was influenced by the community.

Cari: Or it could just be the author trying to break stereotypes. Criminals are often not the worst bad guys sometimes the worst criminals are people you wouldn’t think of. The Sharkey family did crime, but they weren’t cruel generally. Whereas this April girl is Miss Junior Criminal Mastermind in the making.

Holly: What do you think about they way Half-moon is attacked?

Cari: I thought it was scary and I think he was being stupid.  But, he is 12-years-old and they don’t always make the best choices. I think a lot of kids like Half-Moon might try it.

Holly: I thought it was extreme battery for a middle grade, in fantasy it wouldn’t phase you, but it kind of threw me off here.

Cari: It did put him in the hospital. On the other hand, I think there are teens that see that level of violence all the time. you can turn on the news and see violence all over the world.

Holly: One of the main points of the book seems to be that life isn’t always black and white. Half Moon likes that in detective ‘training’ all the rules are listed and it benefits you to follow the rules. Real life is a little different.

Cari: Half Moon has to cross a lot of lines to get at the truth. Half-Moon by the book wants to follow the detecting manual, and go to the police, but he suddenly finds himself accused of a crime he didn’t commit.  Out of necessity, he starts to change and becomes good friends with another kid that is from a crime family.

Holly: Isn’t there a saying: necessity is the mother of invention? In this case, I think necessity was the seed of friendship.

Cari: We need to be careful how we judge and stereotype people even as adults.

A fun fact about the Irish Bookscoops sisters, Cari and Holly:

Every St. Patrick’s Day from about age 9 and 10, we spent the entire day dancing, often until way past bed-time, all around the Treasure Valley as part of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance. We each have 9+ years of Irish Step Dancing under our belts. We’d like to pay tribute to our wonderful teacher, Bella Yerina of the O’Connor School of Irish Dance in Thousand Oaks, California, who flew up to the Boise, Idaho area about once a month to teach us. We also would like to pay tribute to Terry Jung (check out the 3rd picture on this site to see her perpetual trophy!), who supervised our weekly practices, managed all of our public performances, and also taught us many dance steps.

*If you click on the link above to check out the Irish Dance site, please note that we were a part of the school back in simpler days, before River Dance took the world by storm. The costumes we wore were the white ones with green and gold embroidery, and we didn’t use curly wigs back then- we did things the hard way sleeping in curlers all night and loading on lots of hair spray!

**The BBC did a series of thirteen episodes called Half Moon Investigations on the BBC in 2009. It would be fun to check these episodes out!

The Twelve Days of Christmas Books

For Christmas this year, we thought we would revisit our post from last year’s virtual advent tour. It’s kind of like getting your decorations out year after year, dusting them off and using them again. These books are treasures that bring joy and happiness to us each Christmas season, we hope you will enjoy them as well!


We are thrilled to participate in the Virtual Advent Tour hosted by Marg from Reading Adventures and Kailana from the Written World. We loved participating last year with our Caroling for Christmas post. This year we are combining our feature from last year with the 12 days of Christmas Reads with the Virtual Advent Tour  and making this our Doublescoop feature for December. Caroling for Christmas was a family tradition growing up as well as doing the 12 Days of Christmas. Sometimes we participated in giving gifts as part of the 12 days of Christmas, but what we remember the most was our Great Grandma Whitman, the same one who arranged for all the children at a family reunion to spend time at the local library. For all her great grandchildren, starting on their first Christmas she would give a 12 days of Christmas Ornament, beginning with a partridge in a pear tree and concluding with 12 Drummers Drumming for our 12th Christmas. Miraculously, Cari actually had a few of the ornaments survive her childhood. Holly had more, but it looks like they might not all survive her boys.

So without further delay here are our 12 days of Christmas  Reads for 2009 in honor of Great Grandma Whitman, who loved literacy, The Twelve Days of Christmas and her family. Holly’s are the one’s in green and Cari’s are in red.

Cari's First 12 Days of Christmas Ornament

On the First Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

Grandma Dowdel is back in a new and fun addition that rounds out Peck’s  two ‘Grandma Dowdel’ books A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. Which are two of our favorite reads of the year, and A Season of Giving was the icing on the cake. A few tantalizing tidbits about Grandma Dowdel’s life after the grandkids are grown and a story of love and hope for a poor minister’s family who happen to be her new neighbors. Grandma Dowdel helps out with her unique flair for stating the obvious and performing the devious. I enjoyed this glimpse of Grandma Dowdel’s lifelong pursuit of dishing out much needed anonymous ‘help’.



On the Second Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

A Special Place for Santa: A Legend for Our Time by Jeanne Pieper

If you’re looking for a way to combine Santa with Christian beliefs this is the book you want to read. I initially heard this book when I attended the Children’s Literature Book Club last year and was fascinated with the story behind Santa or more specifically St. Nicholas the patron saint of Russia and children.  This wonderfully crafted story  chronicles the history of a man who was born in Turkey who would later become St. Nicholas. Known for his kind deeds and rescuing children. I used this book this year as part of my church’s Christmas party and while not everything in the book matches with our faith tradition it does a beautiful job focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. I highly recommend the book to anyone with a wish.

 On the Third Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me. . .

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by John Rox, illustrated by Bruce Whatley

A cute pajama clad girl, with hippos in her eyes, gallavants through this charming Christmas tale. If you’ve ever wanted something unusual and hoped and prayed or wished on Christmas stars to try to move the mysterious Santa to deliver the undeliverable, this is the book for you. I grew up claiming this song as my favorite Christmas carol, and have been extremely happy with the results of rendering it in print with adorable illustrations! I recommended it last year in our Giving Books for Christmas post, but it is my family’s absolute favorite to read so I couldn’t pass up promoting it once again.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Deck the Halls with Holly Angel with Ruth J. Morehead’s Holly Babes

I couldn’t resist buying this board book because of the adorable angels, reference to Holly (my favorite and only sister), and of course the song. I love music themed Christmas books and after our Caroling for Christmas advent post last year, I have kept my eye open for books like this. Basically it’s the whole song with angels illustrated doing all sorts of adorable angel things such as cutting out Christmas stars, putting up lights and of course, caroling. A great way to introduce a fun Christmas Carol to your toddler.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Truce by Jim Murphy

Shh! Don’t tell! This book is a surprise for my WWI & II history buff husband and his three little protégés (my army-guy loving boys). Published October 2009, I knew it would be something he hasn’t seen before. During WWI, an amazing Christmas miracle occurred when both sides, often in direct defiance of orders, declared a truce in honor of Christmas. My favorite quote in the book?  

“What would happen, I wonder, if the Armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and said some other method must be found of settling the dispute?” –Winston Churchill. Truly a thought, and book, worthy of ‘five golden rings’!


On the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen and Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I read this book. Elijah’s angel is based on a true story about an unlikely friendship between Michael (9) and Elijah the son of former slaves in his eighties. You would think the unlikely part of their friendship is the age difference, but that’s not all that separates these two friends – Michael is a Jewish boy and Elijah is a Christian. Elijah is a barber and carves wood figures and stories from the bible and Michael attends Hebrew School. I really enjoyed reading how these two friends were able to respect and share in each other’s faith traditions by giving each other a gift. Elijah gave an angel and Michael gave a menorah, which they both displayed in their respective homes. The illustrations add a lot to this book as they really remind me of wood carvings. I recommend this book for anyone looking for books that cross faith traditions in a wonderful way.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

The Berenstain Bear’s Christmas Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Papa Bear’s knack for making things as difficult as possible lends charm to this endearing, timeless Christmas tale about what really matters at Christmas time. Now, if I could just convince my husband to let the Bear’s House decorations rub off on him a little bit. Of course, he would be sure to point out that they live in a tree and we don’t, therefore the justification for their decorating outside. I guess when you grow up in California, you don’t use electricity for such superfluous things as outside house decorations. And Papa Bear would probably generously point out that Christmas isn’t about decorations, it’s a time to think about others. Point well taken.


On the Eighth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

What is Christmas by Michelle Medlock Adams and Illustrated by Amy Wummer


 A lovely little rhyming board book that explains in simple terms the reason for celebrating Christmas – the birth of Christ. It begins by asking questions such as “Is it about the Christmas tree, with all the twinkling lights?” or my favorite “Is it about the mistle-toe, where Mom and Daddy Kiss?”. Towards the end of the book it explains about the birth of Jesus and that while those other things around Christmas time are nice, the best thing about Christmas is Jesus Christ. So if you’re looking for a way to explain the meaning behind Christmas to young children I recommend this book.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

The Backyardigans Jingle Bell Christmas

This is a recent family acquisition that gets lots of love and attention from our young ones. Alternate lyrics to the most sung-by-children-carol, make this book a catchy, sing-songy read. All the characters are heading to a gift exchange and lift-the-flap windows allow you to peak inside the wrapping paper to see what they are giving. The flaps also offer peaks at many other ‘hidden’ Christmas things. Perfect for occupying those little fingers that can hardly wait to open presents.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my True love Read to me . . .

The Night Before Christmas: A Soft to Touch Story

I truly was on the lookout for Christmas books with songs as part of the theme Caroling for Christmas and this adorable book uses the famous song “The Night Before Christmas.” This was one of the first Christmas songs I remember learning as a child and the song has a special place in my memory. It was this poem, later turned into a song that gives us the current round jolly version of Santa that I love so much. My daughters really liked this version as it is a Soft to Touch book meaning  there are soft pieces of fabric to touch on each page.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider, illustrated by Elizabeth J. Miles

I love the illustrations in this thought-provoking story about a tree called Small Pine who is trying to grow up to be the perfect Christmas tree. He doesn’t have the heart to turn away any of the many animals in need of shelter, food, etc.  Consequently, Small Pine almost gets chopped down and thrown away because of his uneven, scruffy branches that displease the Queen. Before it’s too late, though, the Queen notices the evidence all around Small Pine and decides he is the most worthy tree to represent Christmas in her kingdom.


On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my True Love Read to me . . .

O Holy Night Christmas with the Boys Choir of Harlem pictures by Faith Ringgold


My favorite part besides the illustrations is the accompanying CD of the Harlem’s Boys Choir. My family and I enjoyed listening to their music and each song is also looking at Faith Ringgold’s beautiful illustrations in the book. While listening to the CD and looking at the illustrations I thought that they reminded me a little bit of appliques you might see on a quilt. Come to find out Ms. Ringgold is known internationally for her painted story quilts. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that the pictures depicted the nativity story with Africans as opposed to European looking people. I really liked that and would recommend this book not only for the excellent music, but for it’s multi-cultural value as well.

Please take the time to visit the other people who are participating today – Cat @ Beyond Books, Amy @ My Friend Amy, Cheryl @ The Book Connection and Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies.

What is Christmas? by Michelle Medlock Adams, Illustrated by Amy Wummer

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

After taking a hiatus for a bit, our Double Scoops are back!!!! And we have several more in the works and can’t wait to get them up. So without further delay we bring you . . .

Many of our readers are on Summer vacation right now, and we here at Bookscoops think that A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee is the perfect  book to inspire you to enjoy one of summer’s many adventures- camping! Okay, so we sympathize with those of you who may not completely enjoy this form of vacationing, but it is one of America’s favorite past times, as it is the primary way our great nation was populated- you know those pioneers, who decided to walk all day and camp every night all summer long, until they found a new home to put down their roots? Just be glad that’s not the kind of camping we do today.

Holly: We found this adorable book a few years ago at our local school book fair. The illustrations just sucked us in. Especially since Mr. Magee is the spitting image of my father-in-law, who just so happens to have done a lot of camping in his days.

Cari: The illustrations are very detailed, I really like them.

Holly: There is actually another book starring Mr. Magee called Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee. It looks just as fun and full of magnificent gouache (sounds like squash) illustrations.

Cari: As I read this book I kept thinking that this is a style of art I wouldn’t mind in my own home.

Holly: You want your walls to be illustrated? That might be fun to feel like you were living in a book. . .

Cari: Yes, I would love for my walls to be illustrated! I actually looked on Chris Van Dusen’s website and he has prints for sale. It’s really great children’s art and I think it would be fun to have in a family room or in my dream home with a fabulous library.

Holly: Hmmm . . . or, if you can’t afford the actual prints, maybe you could buy an extra copy of the book to frame your favorite scenes. Am I going to get in trouble for this suggestion? I know people like big, beautiful art on their walls, but sometimes a big frame with a fun mat and a couple of coordinating scenes, is actually more attainable than an expensive print. I think that art in children’s literature is vastly underappreciated as well as underused. How often do you go to the library and see wonderful artwork framed on the walls in the children’s section of the library? You are lucky to have a mural, but for the most part, no art. I think we should start a movement to change this.

Cari: That is an interesting idea.

Holly: Yes, for many years illustrating children’s books has been overlooked as a quality art form. I think the emphasis has been on the author and the illustrator hasoften been an afterthought.

Cari: Don’t forget that there is the Caldecott award.

Holly: Yes, but that is for art in literature circles. I’m talking about art in art circles. I think illustrators deserve more credit- it takes a lot of hard work and talent to bring to life a picture book.

Cari: I think you’re right. I’ll have to give it some more thought. This art is very different from Mo Willems which is very minimalist in its nature. Van Dusen actually chooses to work in gouache so that he can be very detailed in his work. But, back to the story, are you and your family big campers?

Holly: We are not, but I am sure my husband would like us to become big campers. We occasionally go camping, and actually the first family reunion of my husband’s family (just think of me as Mr Magee’s new daughter-in-law) we ever had was a huge camping trip to the Redwoods of California. We had a lot of fun.

Cari: I first thought that this was an old book- you know the old library binding style threw me off and then with the camper actually looking like it came from the 50s, not to mention Mr. Magee and his converse shoes. . .

Holly: That’s what I like about it, because it seemed like it’s set in a simpler happy-go-lucky time.

Cari: I also like the rhyming in it. It introduces new vocabulary like ‘brook’ and trailer ‘hitch’- a great way to teach kids the definitions of words.  To write a whole book in rhyme is a lot of work. It reminded me of Doctor Seuss. Except that people might really consider putting Van Dusen’s illustrations on the wall. I probably wouldn’t with Dr. Seuss.

Holly: Yes, I remember when we reviewed Hiccupotomas and talked to Aaron Zenz- the rhyming text seems to be very difficult to pull off successfully. I really enjoyed the fun rhythm in this book. It almost seems like a talented song writer could put it to lyrics and we could all sing the story around a camp fire.

Cari: It’s a good lesson in why you don’t leave out food for bears. We have had family members encounter bears while camping and the root of it is food that is not properly stored. Bear encounters have been increasing, but I do like how the bear in the book rescues them because he thinks their hitch is a marshmallow.

Holly: Although that’s what got them into trouble in the first place- who would have thought that a nearsighted bear with a penchant for marshmallows could cause such trouble?

Cari: Yes. Reading it aloud is so much fun.

Holly: This book has a dream like quality and those of our readers who actually don’t like camping will be inwardly pleased at the conclusion of the book.

And now for our Trip Down Memory Lane:

As the oldest two in a family of nine children, we have many experiences camping. One summer we actually drove in a big 12 seater Red Ford Club Wagon through as many states as feasible, stopping at KOA camp grounds each night on our way to a family reunion in Missouri. KOA, for those of you who may not know is an international group of full-service campgrounds and an affordable way to vacation. Our first stop was in Wyoming, where our tent was blown over in the middle of the night by a really bad windstorm sweeping across the plains. Legend has it that it was actually a twister that went unreported.

The worst part of our trip was that we camped in Missouri when it looked like a thunder storm was coming. Our tent was an old fashioned canvas monster, and we only had a tarp big enough to cover one side. Our Dad, anticipating the direction of the rain, covered the most important side and we all went to sleep. Unfortunately, the storm circled around and poured on us from the other direction and we woke up to six inches of water in our tent. Our parents were on an air mattress and remained relatively dry along with the baby in the play pen. One brother slept through the whole thing in his wet sleeping bag. But, the rest of us were soaked from head to toe and decided to sleep in the van.

We spent most of the next day drying our sleeping bags out in the camp laundry facilities. All of us kids were thrilled that the KOA supervisor provided us with complimentary donuts in the morning (kids can be so easy to please). But from then on, if there was a cloud in the sky, we skipped the KOA and went straight for the Motel 6 where we jumped all over the beds and fought over the cable television instead of experiencing the great outdoors.

Top 10 Lessons we Learned Camping from Idaho to Missouri:

10. Have everyone sleep on air mattresses not just mom & dad. So if it does flood, everybody has a raft!

9. Check to make sure your tarp covers your tent BEFORE leaving on a camping trip.

8. You can not bring enough mosquite repellent for the mosquitos in Missouri.

7. Rain storms in the mid-west are NOT like rain storms in Western Idaho.

6. 50 States license bingo will only entertain your kids for so long. Bribing your children to be quiet by offering to pay them a penny per windmill they see might empty you of gas money, but at least they will be quiet for a while.

5. Hotels are never TOO expensive when faced with a ‘tornado’.

4.  Sleeping bags work surprisingly well as sponges.

3. Warn your kids about the dangers of Lyme disease from ticks and then shout hysterically every time you see a bug.

2. Never let your kids have a water drinking contest en route to your camping destination or you may never get there.

1. Don’t send the 10 year old to get milk at the KOA grocery, because he will come back with goat’s milk.

What are your favorite camping stories or books about camping?

Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin, Illustrated by Rosana Faria, Translated by Elisa Amado

Holly: The Black Book of Colors is amazing. I just keep thinking about how amazing it is. Combining English and Braille, does that qualify as bi-lingual? I’m not sure of the right term to use.

Cari: I loved how the author attempted to describe colors without being able to see, I loved it! The words are delicious.

Holly: Hmmm, I would venture to say that yellow tastes like lemon, not mustard, but it could taste like mustard, or lemon or banana. Which I guess are all delicious in their proper setting.

Cari: I really liked that it made you think differently and appreciate maybe what the world is like for someone who can’t see. I thought the author did an excellent job, and I want it in Spanish since it was orginally written in Spanish.

Holly: Really? It was done in Spanish first?

Cari; Yep, some of the other reviews said that the braille isn’t what a blind person really would read, it needs to be more raised. But it makes you think how important tactile books are for children who are blind because that is how they see the world.

Holly: I had my kids read the book with their eyes closed. (Of course, mine were open, so I could read). They wanted to peek so they could see, their favorite was the rain pouring down – they thought that felt like rain.

Cari: We should clarify that all of the pictures are black, they are not in color, The text is grey.

Holly: The most controversial ‘picture’ for us was the one that was hair and my littlest one adamantly insisted  that doesn’t feel like mommy’s hair.

Cari: I loved that part, I thought it felt like hair.

Holly: I thought it felt like hair too, or at least how hair would ‘feel’ like illustrated on paper.

Cari: I wonder what things felt like for Great Grandma B when she went blind?

Holly: She must have been able to tell quite a bit by the limited colors she could see and what she could feel . . .

Cari: . . .because we each got a quilt made especially for us as her great grandchildren.

Holly: Yep. I still have mine. . . but I won’t rub that little fact in or anything.

Cari: Go right ahead. It’s not like we’ve never brought up this subject before.

And now . . . for a trip down memory lane:

One of our favorite shows to watch growing up was Little House on the Prairie. We loved it so much that we actually played Little House on frequent occasions. A monumental day was when Mary Ingalls was actually declared blind. That changed everything. How would we pretend to be Mary if she couldn’t see? Shortly after this episode, we were hanging out with some friends when we decided to play Little House. Cari got to be the fun-loving rambunctious Laura while Holly (enraptured with the beautiful Melissa Sue Anderson) was thrilled to play Mary.

Cari: You can be Mary, Holly, but it has to be Mary before she was blind, you can’t pretend you can’t see, we all know you can see.

Holly: Oh yeah? I can be blind like Mary, I’ll just keep my eyes closed!

Cari: I’ll make a bet with you. If you can keep your eyes closed the whole time, I’ll let you . . .

Holly: What?

Cari: Um, I’m not sure. I guess I’ll let you be in charge next time.

Holly: Okay! Hey guys, do you want to come over to our house? We could all put on pioneer dresses and play Little House on the Prairie

Cari: Yeah, let’s go. I’ll race you there on my bike.

Friend #1: How are we gonna get there if Holly has to have her eyes closed?

Friend #2: Yeah, you can’t ride a bike with your eyes closed!

Holly: You wanna bet? I betcha I can ride my bike all the way to my house without peaking. Not even once.

Cari: All right! The last one there’s the rotten egg!

Holly: That’s not fair! I didn’t say I’d get there fast! Wait for me!!!

Friend # 1: Woah, Cari, look! I think Holly really has her eyes closed.

Friend # 2: Are you really closing your eyes?

Holly: Don’t my eyes look closed? I promise I”m not peeking. (okay, so honesty didn’t always work in my favor when it came to bets with Cari) Keep talking so I can follow your voices.

Cari: Woah! I think she’s really doing it! She must have learned how to tell where she’s going from that one pillowcase game we play. I didn’t know she’d gotten so good.

Holly: See, I told you I could do it. Now, I get to be in charge! Laura, you’re the younger sister so you have to do what I say. Now, go take care of Carrie!

Cari: No, Mary. I’m too busy playing with my friends right now. We’re going to go fishing by the creek! Too bad you’re blind Mary, or maybe you could come with us. See you later!

Holly: Hey! Wait! I’ll be the Mary before she goes blind! I wanna go fishing too. Wait up!

Magnus at the Fire by Jennifer Armstrong, Illustrated by Owen Smith

magnus at the fire

Our Double Scoop for the month of October is Magnus at the Fire. Please note that the picture of the cover is not indicative of the high quality pictures in the book, we just couldn’t seem to find a very in-focus picture to post.

Cari: What did you like about this book?

Holly: The illustrations were my favorite part, they are so vivid and they have a classy, timeless look to them.

Cari: I liked the illustrations a lot too, if I collected story book art – I would want a print from this book. In addition to the illustrations, I liked the story.

Holly: Definitely. I liked the story because it’s not a common one to hear about. When you have a child who likes firetrucks you get stories about firetrucks and firemen and this story goes back before the days of the fire truck.

Cari: I love that this is based in historical fact, but it’s not a non-fiction picture book.

Holly: So does that make it a historical fiction picture book or something?

Cari: I think there is a term for it, but I’m not sure. Do you want to summarize the story a bit?

Holly: After working for several years, the fire station gets a new engine, a motorized version, and Magnus is thereby retired. They put the horses out to pasture with nothing to do. The pasture is next to the firehouse, and Magnus didn’t understand what was going on. The next time there is a fire Magnus jumps the fence and beats the motorized fire truck there and saves the day.

Cari: We should probably clarify that he is a firefighting horse meaning he pulls the steam engine that pumps the water to fight fires. I was trying to figure out what breed he was, because I don’t remember what kind he was.

Holly: I think he was a draft horse. The book says . . . “a mighty gray stallion” . . . at least in the pictures these guys are really big.

Cari: I think you’re right, they may be Percherons, a type of draft horse – they are beautiful animals. Fire fighting horses were trained so that when a fire bell rang, a harness would come down and their stall door would open and then they were ready to  pull the steam engine that would pump water to fight fires, which could weigh several thousand pounds. I guess Magnus had been trained really well because he didn’t bolt when he smelled the smoke.

Holly: What attracted us to the book in the first place was the picture of the stallion on the front. When we discovered it was about fire, I thought it would be a nice way to introduce the topic of fire safety without making it scary.

Cari: Makes sense. Isn’t October Fire Safety Month?

Holly: It sure is! We encourage all our readers to take some time to check their smoke detectors, talk to your children about fire safety and have a family evacuation plan. My 6 year old gives me a fire safety tip he’s learned at school almost every night as he heads to bed. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your kids what they learned in school about fire safety.

Now for Our Trip Down Memory Lane – Fire Drill

So a lot of our family vacations had a few common themes besides being crammed in a van for hours on end – our mom would usually have a stash of candy in her purse. The trick was to get front seat privileges (like volunteer to swap seats with Dad so he can take a nap or volunteer to take care of the baby to get free access). Of course this worked best while Mom was driving, but you did have to time it right to make sure your hand didn’t happen to be in there at the same time as hers.

We often spent time at our grandparent’s farm in Rupert, Idaho on the Snake River. At the time of this story Cari is 15 and Holly 14. Our dad happened to have taken the two oldest boys to Scout Camp. What does a mother, with 6 remaining kids and no husband do? She packs up the family van, along with the dog, invites the neighbor boy, because there just don’t seem to be enough people already, and we set out to spend a few days at a partially complete farm home in Rupert, Idaho. At this point, Cari would rather have spent time at home with friends, but being as they were busy on vacation she didn’t put up too much of a fuss.

Fire Safety Tip #1: The partially completed home was that way because it burned down in a fire a few years previously- due to a problem with the chimney, while there were renters living there. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but please consider this a reminder to get your chimneys cleaned out!!!

After a few days basically camping in a wood shell structure, we are about to head home.

Fire Safety Tip #2: The neighbor boy burned his foot by walking through hot coals without shoes on. Always wear your shoes around fires, and watch for hot coals. Don’t walk through extinguished fire pits, they might still be hot!

Cari: Ooh, I get to sit in the front of the van, I am the oldest (but my real reason is Mom has a stash of M&Ms in her purse and it’s not like she can supervise terribly well while driving if you know what I mean. . .)

Holly: I’ll sit next to the baby (and the M&Ms)!

Cari: I cannot wait to get home to take a real shower, Rupert is a lot better than it used to be at least we have flushable toilets, but seriously people stink!

15 minutes Later

Holly: A few M&Ms later. . . Mom what’s that white stuff coming out the back of the van?

Mom: Oh, um, I think we need to stop.

Cari: That looks like smoke, is that smoke?

Mom pulls to the side of the road, clouds of white stuff coming out from under the hood.

Holly: Is the van on fire?

Mom: I have no idea just get out of the van, EVERYBODY OUT!!!!

Cari: Everybody! Away! From! The! van!

(Imagine a circus act here, where people continually exit the vehicle and you can’t possibly figure out how they all fit in there in the first place)

Meanwhile a semi-truck driver pulls up behind us, a skinny guy with a mustache, hops down from his cab and hauls over to us as fast as his legs will carry him. Our rescuer has arrived wielding a bright red fire extinguisher.

Fire Safety Tip#3 It’s always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your home, boat and your car isn’t a bad place either, just make sure you know how to use it and maintain it.

Semi driver: Is it on fire? Is it on fire?

Everybody dazed and unsure- lots of shrugging shoulders.

Mom: We don’t know . . .

Cari:  Hey, does anyone hear sirens? Oh my goodness, look! There’s a red pick-up on the frontage road. Great this is so embarrassing not to mention we really stink.

Holly: I see a green fire engine!

Brother #3 – Wow that is so cool a fire truck, Mom is that a fire engine?

Semi-truck driver tries to lift up the hood, burns his hand, so grabs a rag and then opens the hood ready to take on any flames. . . There’s no fire! It’s only steam! You blew a hose lady!

Fire Safety Tip#4 Use something to protect your hands when touching hot surfaces, there’s a reason fire fighters wear gloves.

Everyone: Phew! We’re not about to be blown to kingdom come.

Farmer from the pick-up leans over the fence:  Are you guys alright? Is there a fire?

Mom: No, just a lot of steam, thank goodness!

Farmer: Good, I was working in my fields and I saw some smoke. I’m a volunteer fire-fighter so I radioed for the fire engine and thought I’d meet it here. Glad no one is hurt!

One of our brothers worked as volunteer firefighter in New York - Apparently this experience had a positive effect.

Woor wrooo – wroo – wrooo Arrives the fire truck

Cari: Great here come more people, are you kidding me? this will be a great story to NOT tell people.

Farmer: Well, I’ll call you a tow truck, you just be careful now.

Mom: Everybody back in the van, and be sure to put on your seat belts just in case someone hits us or something..

Meanwhile – sitting in the van for about an hour, in the heat of summer with our seat belts on- just in case. A few more M&Ms later . . .

Holly: The tow truck’s here! Finally!

Cari: Yes, we can’t seem to have a family vacation without one. (Some of our earliest memories on vacation happen to be in tow trucks, not sure exactly how many times).

Tow Truck Driver: Okay so let me get this straight: You have 7 kids and a dog? Hmmm, well it’s not exactly safe to have you travel in the van while I’m towing you, company regulations you know.

Mom: Well, we’ll manage somehow. I think we could all fit in the tow truck, except the dog.

(If you thought we looked like a clown circus act coming out of the van, you should have seen us load up in the tow truck)

Cari: Are you kidding me?

Holly: Well, we are related to Grandpa B- the ultimate in packing lots of things in small places.

Cari: (Rolling eyes) I guess since I am the shortest big person here you’re gonna make me sit next to the driver.

Mom: Yes! Now get in the truck. With all the gears you are the best person, you have the shortest legs you know, but you’ll only have to hold the youngest on your lap. Holly you get the neighbor boy and brother #3, I’ll take brothers 4&5.

Holly: (rolling eyes- there’s nothing comfortable about having your younger brother’s friend, who has a ‘secret’ crush on you, sit on your lap).  Fine, I’ll do anything to get out of this terrible heat.

Cari: Well, at least you don’t have to worry about being jammed by gears (and you’re closer to the M&Ms, darn it! I can’t reach those M&MS.)

We arrived at Twin Falls, Idaho and found out that our van would take a lot more work to repair then we had time for. We decided to rent a mini van to go home in. Only one problem. All the rental agencies were maxed out. Not even a car to rent. Why? Because of all the wild fires in Sun Valley, Idaho- Home of the rich and famous.

Fire Safety Tip #4: Don’t try to rent a car when there are wild fires where rich people live- you won’t have enough money, and the cars will be already taken anyway).

Twin Falls is the nearest airport to Sun Valley, so of course there was nothing available at any rental agency within any reasonable distance whatsoever. Luckily, the really nice tow truck guy convinced a dealership to let us rent a mini-van to go home in. After hauling around a circus in his tow truck, he was overcome with gratitude for the free entertainment. Right!?!

Note: We do not promote driving with kids on your lap as a safe alternative to a seat belts/car seats. We realize that any number of things could have happened to us resulting in injury and our grateful that none of us received any lasting affects beyond wanting to take candy and a cell phone on every road trip.

Jennifer Armstrong’s Website

What are some of you favorite road trip stories or books about fire?

the Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz

For our Double Scoop in September we are  reviewing the Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz – a hilirious, rip-rhyming book about a hippo with the hiccups.


Holly has been eagerly waiting to get her hands on this book. We decided we both liked it so much that we went ahead and reviewed it as our double scoop for this month. Our review of the Hiccupotamus is also part of a blog tour for the re-release of Aaron’s book.

Cari: What did  you like about the book? Or rather why did you want to get this book?

Holly: I was putting together a themed gift at Christmas time for my three boys that involved books and hippos. The Hiccupotamus color scheme coordinated very well with the other title I had.

Cari: Is that all?

Holly: Well I have always loved hippopotomi (My favorite Christmas song is I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas) so when I heard about this book I went to Aaron’s website. I saw some of the preview pictures and read the first stanza and I knew I had to have it.

Cari: I think you like hippos because a lot of them are pink or pinkish-purple.

Holly: You are probably right.

Cari: Well interestingly when I read the book to my daughter (5), she had the hiccups which only added to the hilarity of the rhymes.What did you like most about the book?

Holly: I liked how the illustrations and the story worked together. I should mention that my copy is getting a lot of use, Every day.

Cari: The rhyming surprised me a bit.

Holly: “There once was a hippopotamus, Who hiccuped quite-a-lotamus, And every time he got’emus. . .”

Cari: Definitely a great first stanza, a lot of the rhymes are not quite what you would expect in that they are created words more along the lines of Dr. Seuss type zaniness.

The Hippos I wanted to give my boys with the Hiccupotomus for Christmas
Holly got 3 of these hippos for her boys for Christmas- they would have been a perfect match to Hiccupotomus!

Holly: Yes. So when I first wanted the book I couldn’t  find it at any regular book stores because it was out of print. ARGH!!! I finally found a used copy on Amazon and I clicked to buy it and someone bought it before I could. The next copy was over $30.00 and that was out of my Christmas budget. I really wanted it as part of my Christmas book package, so it was a sad moment.

Cari: Not to mention I’m not sure the author would have made money off that sale. The book is a really cute book.

Holly: You can buy it new now on Amazon or in book stores as it is being re-released. I highly recommend buying it (unless of course you win our giveaway coming up soon). Check back September 12th for our interview with Aaron Zenz to enter!

Cari: One thing I appreciate about the book, is that as an adult it is fun to read.  It’s not like some kid books that make me want to stab my leg with a fork because it’s so boring. I especially liked the cast bios at the end of the book where it talked about each character like they were a real actor and even explained that they used doubles for some of the ‘stunts’.`

Holly: My older kids thought those were funny albeit confusing- they had no idea actors and actresses participated in book illustration. That was an interesting conversation. As proof that this book is very lovable I just thought I’d share that my littlest now gallops around the house shouting, “Hic! Hic! Hic!” Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery!

Now for a trip down memory lane

Holly: So, I know someone who gets hiccups worse than the hiccupotomus.

Cari: Who?

Holly: Don’t play dumb with me.

Cari: Are you talking about me?

Holly: Yes.

Cari: (sigh) Okay, let’s tell the whole world. Cari gets really bad hiccups.

Holly: Not just hiccups. Your hiccups are, shall we say… difficult to describe.

Cari: One of my teachers once told me they were so loud it sounded like my stomach was going to come out of my mouth.

Holly: Or so loud they could wake the dead.

Cari: I’d like to see Aaron Zenz put that in a rhyme.

Holly: I don’t think it would make a very good children’s book.

Cari: You’re right. So, since we are on the vein of disclosing embarrassing personal facts, I’d like to hear that story of yours about hippos.

Holly: What story?

Cari: You know, the one from college. Does Freshman orientation ring a bell?

Holly: Oh, THAT story (cringe). Do I have to?

Cari: I could black mail you with that other story.

Holly: Well, since you put it that way . . . without further ado, here is the story. Ahem. So, at the beginning of second semester college, we had a lot of students leave and new students moved into the dorms. So, a big group of us got together to play some standard get-to-know you games. To this day I only remember one of them.

Cari: I’m sure you do.

Holly: We were all sitting in a circle and had to go around taking turns introducing ourselves. The rules were you could say your name and one word to describe you or help people to remember you.

Cari: And you wanted to make sure everyone would remember you, right?

Holly: Something like that.

Cari: I think that was it in a nutshell.

Holly: Excuse me, it’s my turn to talk. Do you want to hear the story or not?

Cari: Sorry. Go ahead.

Holly: So, the game was progressing at a very rapid pace and my turn was coming quickly. My palms started to get clammy and my heart rate increased. I was really nervous. Thoughts raced around in my head. One word that describe me? Argh! At that point, it was my turn to introduce myself.

Cari: And?

Holly: I said, “Hi my name is Holly, as in Holly Hippo.”

Cari: How did that go over?

Holly: There was dead silence for about half a second, and then the whole hall was filled with loud, uproarious, very long peels of laughter. I turned bright red from head to toe and sat down.

Cari: I bet you got quite a laugh.

Holly liked seeing these hippos at the Seattle Zoo last year

Holly: You bet I did. That was definitely embarrassing. Perhaps even more embarrassing was that the whole boy’s dorm had heard about it by morning and I was greeted by, “Hi Holly . . . Hippo (wink, wink)” all day as I walked to and from classes the next day, or week, it may have gone on as long as a month.

Cari: I can’t believe you did that.

Holly: Neither can I. I tried to forget. I have one friend, though, who still reminds me from time to time, even though it’s been awhile.

Cari: So should we put Holly Hippo as your name on bookscoops?

Holly: Just plain Holly is fine.

Cari: What were you thinking?

Holly: I don’t know . . . alliteration? Don’t we all reach for literary tools when we’re under pressure?

Cari: Um . . . I think you’re the only one, and now I will use my older sister powers and change your name to holly ‘hippo’ bookscoops.

Holly: Then I will change your name to CariCamelCrocodileCookiebookscoops.

Cari: Oh Yeah? Well how about happyhollyhippohelperbookscoops?

Holly: I think maybe we should make up a rhyme. I dedicate this verse to my sister Cari who, though older, is shorter.

There once was a Cari Camel

who Cried for Chocolate Cookies

Her sister said, “No. They don’t help you grow”

So, instead Cari read lots of bookies

Cari: I think maybe we better let Aaron be in charge of the rhyming.

Holly: What, you don’t like my rhyming? Why don’t you give it a try?

Cari: Okay,

There once was a hollypotomus

Who hiccupped quite a lotamus

And every time she gotemus,

She fell upon her bottomus

Holly: That was cheating.

Cari: But it sounds better than yours.

Holly: Yes, but it was still cheating.

Cari: Let’s call it a tie.

Holly: Hmm… Alliteration… Cari Cheater, Cheater Cari, darn it. It just doesn’t sound right.

Cari: Ha ha ha!

***Click on the title for details on entering the details of the Hiccupotamus giveaway and for the author interview with Aaron Zenz.****

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)

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, Illustrated by David Shannon


So, I (Holly here) was digging through a bunch of books at a store one recent day, and low and behold, shiver-me timbers, I found this great book, that my kids let me hold for about half a second. My two year old had me read the book for nap time, bed time and two times in the morning within 45 minutes of waking up. Then, he took it and hid under the table with it, slowly turning pages, studiously learning about pirates.

When I proposed the idea to Cari, she wasn’t so sure about it being a double scoop because of all the news about pirates recently. But, after the resounding approval of her daughter, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to discuss one of the controversial aspects of children’s literature. Where do you draw the line between reality and imagination?

What captured your interest?

Holly: I like the illustration on the title page, because it obviously is a little boy pretending. Then you turn the page and you enter Jeremy Jacob’s imaginary world.

Cari: I really like that the pirates have green teeth, and the pirates sing a little off-key.

What was your favorite part?

Cari: I think one of my favorite parts is the part where Jeremy Jacobs talks about how carrots are not allowed on the ship and there is no Spinach anywhere on board. Not to mention you don’t have to use please and thank you.

Holly: My boys like the pirate with two eye patches and how he’s constantly flipping one patch up to see what’s going on.

Cari: I also like the captain’s name – Braid Beard.

What is your favorite illustration?

Holly: One of  my favorite pictures, is Jeremy Jacob trying to go to sleep in the middle of the pirates with a pirate squished next to him with his mouth wide open sharing his stinky green teeth breath and then a putrid pirate foot dangling in his face. The look on the kid’s face says, “I want my mom!”

Cari: Yeah and then Jeremy Jacob wonders why they don’t have anything to read on the ship.

Holly: All they have is maps. After that he doesn’t even bother asking for a good night kiss.

Cari: I like, on the page with the pillow fight, where Captain Braid Beard says pirates don’t have to wear pajamas ‘unless you want to’ and there is a pirate changing into pajamas in the background.

Holly: Yeah me too and the pirate is wearing sailboat pajamas, that would make so much sense to a little boy. You always have pajamas with pictures of what you love. I mean, don’t you?

What qualifies you to be a pirate in kid’s minds?

Cari: I like how quickly Jeremy Jacobs learns to speak ‘pirate’. He thinks that means he’s official.

Holly: The one skill the pirates are looking for is digging. I think it reveals that on a subconscious level Jeremy’s not sure about being a pirate, but he has this digging skill that might be useful to pirates, so he could maybe help them out for a while.

Cari: Jeremy Jacob doesn’t really get what pirates do completely, hmm now my daughter is hearing our conversation and wants to know what’s going on. She loved the book.

What did the pirates remind you of?

Holly: I love the illustrations, they are so vivid and fun and Braid Beard is so jolly looking that if he had a different jacket, white hair and teeth (not green) he could pass as a certain famous holiday character.

Cari: I really like the illustrations too! And I love the map to Jeremy Jacob’s Backyard where they ultimately decide to bury the treasure.

Holly: The map is a ‘treasure’ in and of itself.

Cari: I like also whenever the pirate captain says something they all repeat it back. Giving a sing-song feel to the story. And the map even has a compass rose.

Holly: Jeremy Jacob gives them the idea to bury the treasure in his yard while he’s standing next to the broken mast. Then when the pirates are sailing away after burying the treasure, the mast is suddenly intact. It gives a dream feel to the book where things are not always logical.

Holly: David Shannon must have had a lot of fun illustrating this book.

Cari: Oh I agree I think he is a lot of fun,

Holly: Don’t you know some interesting things about pirates, Cari?

Cari: I know of some Pirates from the pages of history that depending what ‘side’ you are on aren’t necessarily bad – Sir Francis Drake, for example. I think pirates can be a good thing sometimes. Children use imaginary play to make sense of the world around them. Recently pirates have been in the news lately and it has not been such a good thing.

Holly: So, maybe this book could help kids make some sense of what they hear on the news. I like that at the end you can see that this is a little boy who is on a pirate soccer team and he is trying to process how to be a good pirate so he can be a really good pirate soccer player.

Cari & Holly:  We both really feel for the families who are having to deal with pirates and missing/captured loved ones. How do you help your kids deal with things they hear about on the news or from friends?

And now for a trip down memory lane:

Holly: We once had pirates in our backyard. Cari saw them, didn’t you?

Cari: I don’t know if you could technically say I saw them.

Holly: What? Are you saying I’ve believed in a lie all these years?

Cari: Well, at age five when you find treasure in the sandbox it’s almost like seeing pirates.

Holly: We did find quite a treasure. I remember so clearly when we had just moved and were exploring our new backyard and, of course, digging in the sandbox . . .

Many, many years ago, we won’t divulge exactly how long:

Cari: Look Holly! Look! I found something.

Holly: What is it? What is it?(gasp)

Cari: A penny! It’s a penny!

Holly: Woah! Let’s see if there are any more.

(both glancing at the sun baked crusted sand)

Cari: We need some shovels.

Holly: We don’t have any. Remember you hid our shovels and pails in the field at our old house and they disappeared forever?

Cari: No I didn’t!

Holly: Yes you did.

Cari: Well, I hid them, but you were supposed to find them, so it’s your fault they’re lost.

Holly: I never wanted to play hide and seek with them! It’s your fault, so you go get something to use.

Cari: All right. I’ll go get some spoons from the drawer by the dishwasher. Mom won’t catch me I’m super sneaky.

(both resume digging with shiny silver spoons)

Holly: Look! I found a nickel!

Cari: I found a nickel and some pennies.

Holly: Wow! We’re going to be rich soon if we keep finding money. I wonder where it all came from?

Cari: Well, let’s think a minute. We are finding treasure in our sand box. Sand boxes are for digging up things that are buried. Buried treasure equals. . . Pirates!

Holly: Pirates?!?

Cari: Shh! Be quiet, you don’t want them to hear you. They might be coming back to dig up their treasure and if they know we got it first we might get captured!

Holly: I don’t want them to get my money.

Cari: It’s our money. Besides, we’re going to build a trap for them.

Holly: A trap? What kind of trap?

Cari: First, we need to dig a big hole in the ground. Like on Swiss Family Robinson.

Holly: We need bigger spoons.

Cari: That’s not all. We’re going to mix some quick sand and some poisonous bark and leaves with water at the bottom of our pit. Then, we’ll sprinkle  dry sand on top to disguise it.

Holly: Let’s get the boys to help. We can have them get the hose. That way we won’t get in trouble for turning on the water.

Working at a feverish pace all afternoon, the two foot deep  ‘Pit’ is finally finished.

Cari: (sprinkling a last handful of sand) Perfect!

Holly: Do you think we’ll catch a pirate tonight?

Cari: It might take a couple of days.

Holly: Should we try to sneak out and spy on the sand box tonight?

Cari: Only if you want to be captured by the pirates.

Holly: No, I don’t want to be captured, but how are we gunna know?

Cari: Oh, I will know if anyone messes up my, uh our pit.

That night:

Cari: (whispering) Holly, there’s someone outside our window. It’s a pirate, look!

Holly: (covers over head) No way, I’m not showing my face. Those pirates can take you.

Cari: Holly! Look! I see eyes right there! Ahhh! (covers now over both heads)

Cari: Go get Mom and Dad.

Holly: No way, I’m not moving. You go get them.

Cari: No, I’m too scared. I’m not moving either.

Holly: Baby.

Cari: You’re the baby.

Holly: No, you are.

Cari: You are.

Holly: You are.

Cari: (gasp!) He’s gone.

Holly: Whew! I was getting hot under those covers. Do you think he’ll come back?

Cari: Probably not, he was just checking to make sure we didn’t have the treasure in our room.

Holly: It’s a good thing we hid it real good.

Cari: Yeah. Go to sleep. I’m tired.

Holly: Okay. Good night.

Cari: Good night.

In the morning out at the sand box:

Holly: There’s nothing in the trap!

Cari: They must be smarter pirates than I thought. Let’s see if there’s any treasure left.

Holly: Okay, here’s your spoon. Let’s get to work!

Cari: Argh! Dig for treasure!

Holly: Aye Aye Captain! Dig for Treasure!

There is a second book out entitled Pirates Don’t Change Diapers (which Cari and her daughter think is a lot of fun too!)

Melinda Long’s website & blog.  For more information about David Shannon visit the Scholastic Books Author webpage.