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BFF: Books about Friendship in Time for Valentine's Day

by Miriam Downey 11. February 2013 10:12

Don't you just love your friends? I certainly do, and I have had many best friends throughout my life. I had two good friends when I was in elementary school: Betty and Margie. They lived next door to me, and we did everything together. We walked to school together every day. The bad part was that they were always late, and they made me late for school, too! My parents didn't like that very much, and so they told me that I would have to go to school without my friends if they weren't ready. My father thought that if you weren't early, you were late! I had to beg the girls to hurry up, so I could walk with them. Sometimes, though, I had to walk by myself. When they moved away, I was really upset. It didn't seem fair. But then I made some other friends, and before long, I had found other friends to walk to school with.

When I decided to pick friendship books for Valentine's Day, I had a terrible time because there were so many books to choose from. So, I picked several that I thought were representative, and hopefully some of them are books that you haven't already read. If you have any books about friendship that you would like to add to the list, feel free to add them in the comment section at the end of the blog posting. These books are all available at your public library or bookstore. Some will be available on ebooks as well.

Grades K-3 Picture Books

Magic Winter by Jean Little. An I Can Read book about the magical power of friendship.

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco. A story from Polacco's family about two young Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszka.This is a hysterical story about an unusual friendship.

Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Seeger. Also Dog and Bear: Two's Company.

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. The classic friendship book. Part of a series. Easy readers.

Grades 1-3 Chapter Books

Owen Foote, Frontiersman by Stephanie Greene. Two friends have a great tree house.

Zelda and Ivy by Laura McGee Kvasnosky. The first book in a series about a great friendship.

Marvin Redpost: A Flying Birthday Cake? by Louis Sachar. Marvin thinks the new kid at school is an alien. One of a great series of books about Marvin.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The classic tale of friendship. Appropriate for this age level as a read-aloud.

Best Enemies by Kathleen Leverich. Can enemies become friends?

Grade 4-6 Novels

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. One of the most powerful friendship stories ever. Newbery Prize winner.

The Fastest Friend in the West by Vicki Grove. The story of two lonely seventh grade girls.

Words of Stone by Kevin Henkes. A memorable novel about friendship surviving difficult circumstances.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Harry and his best friends try to navigate through sorcerer's school. There are seven novels in the series, and they grow in complexity as Harry and his friends mature. 

The Wild Kid by Harry Mazer. The story of two boys lost in the woods for different reasons. The novel is both scary and touching.

Holes by Louis Sachar. This is one of the best-ever stories of friendship. Newbery Prize winner.

When You reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Both a book about friendship and a scary mystery. Newbery Prize winner.

Grades 7-12 Novels

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is the funniest science fiction book ever and about the funniest friendship book ever. The first in a series of four. "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. A Native American basketball player in an all-white high school. Has cartoons intertwined with the story.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Anya's best friend is a ghost. A graphic novel.

Letters from the Inside by John Marsden. Pen pals Mandy and Tracey finally tell each other the truth.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. The ultimate fantasy novels are also novels about friendship and loyalty.


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Heroes of Diversity: Biographies for Inauguration Week

by Miriam Downey 26. January 2013 07:16

As I was watching the inauguration festivities this week, I was struck by the racial and ethnic diversity of the people on the stage with the president, from Justice Sotomayor, who administered the oath of office to Vice President Biden, to President Obama himself. Then, as the camera panned the crowd, I saw one of the most diverse crowds I have every seen. This was followed by an inaugural parade that had Native American horseback riders, Mexican dancers, and African American college bands.

I have collected a variety of biographies about some of the heroes of this diverse nation of ours. Some names will be familiar; some you won't know at all. Some of the books are available from the We Give Books website, while others will be available at your library or bookstore. Finish our month of biographies by reading one or more of these inspiring biographies. You will need to log on to the We Give Books website to access their online books, but I think that you will be glad that you did because there are several hundred books on that site.

PB means picture book or easy reader or picture book for the early grades; MR means books for children in grades 4-8; and YA means books for high school students. Enjoy!

African Americans

PB The Hallelujah Flight by Phil Bidner. Two African American pilots fly across the country during the Great Depression.

PB Who is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards. An easy reader of the the president's life.

MR Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves Deputy US Marshall by Vaunda Nelson. The story of a colorful career.

MR Free at Last: The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. by DK Publishing. An easy reader of MLK's life.

MR The Voice that Changed a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman. A biography of the singer who broke racial barriers.

MR Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell. Sojourner Truth was one of the original abolitionists.

YA Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. The amazing story of the escaped slave and abolitionist.


PB  Emma's Poem: The voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser. The story of how Emma Lazarus came to write the poem that appears on the Statue of Liberty.

PB Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Weatherford. How Tubman's faith sustained her on the road to freedom.

MR Women Explorers by Julia Cummins. Adventurous women.

MR Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming. The drama of Earhart's adventurous life.

YA Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Stone. How women tried to become astronauts in the early days of the Mercury astronaut program.

Hispanic Americans

MR  Soledad O'Brien: Television Journalist by David Robson. Highlights the life of the television journalist.

MR Sonia Sotomayor: First Hispanic US Supreme Court Justice by Lisa McElroy. On stage at the inauguration this year.

MR  Roberto Clemente by Thomas W. Gilbert. The story of the Puerto Rican American baseball player.

YA Ellen Ochoa by Judy L. Hasday. A biography of the first Hispanic woman to travel in space.

YA Cesar  Chavez  by Consuelo Rodriguez. A portrait of the man who organized farm workers.

Asian Americans

MR I.M. Pei by Mary Englar. A biography of the architect.

MR Yo-Yo Ma by Mary Olmstead. A profie of the world-renowned cellist.

YA Amy Tan: Weaver of Asian-American Tales by Ann Angel. Tan is an important Asian-American novelist.

Native Americans

PB Pocahontas by DK Publishing. Easy reader about native woman who maintained the peace between English colonists and Native Americans.

PB This Land is My Land by George Littlechild. The memories of a member of the Plains Cree Nation.

MR King Philip the Indian Chief by Ester Averill. An account of King Philip's War.

MR Native American Doctor: The Story of Susan LeFlesche Picotte by Jeri Ferris. The story of the first Native American woman doctor.

YA Sitting Bull and His World by Albert Marrin. One man's fight against the destruction of his tribe.

 If you need other book selections, please add a comment to this posting.

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Sports Biographies

by Miriam Downey 15. January 2013 07:30

We continue our month of great biographies with some biographies and autobiographies about famous athletes. Sports books are often the best way to get boys to read, but I also included some inspiring biographies about women athletes as well. Forgive me, but I had to include a new book written by Derek Jeter, shortstop of the Yankees. He is one of our hometown heroes and does a lot of good in our community with his Turn To Foundation.  Every year he comes to town and meets and talks with many of our community's children. Year after year, he inspires children to do their best.

That is what the best children's biographies do--serve as inspiration to readers. You can find short biographies of athletes on many websites. Here are just a couple of good ones: and has videos on the site which will be helpful for reluctant readers, but there are also advertisements on the site.

PB means picture book or easy reader; MR means middle reader (grades 408) and YA means high school readers.

Most of these books can be found at your local library. Some are available for your ereader. Enjoy!


MR Lives of the Athletes: Thrills, Spills (And What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull. The lives of 20 famous athletes.


PB  Teammates by Peter Golenbock. Tells the story of the friendship between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.

PB Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth by Robert Burleigh. Biography of the first great baseball player.

MR  Heroes of Baseball  by Robert Lipsyte.  Short biographies of several baseball players.

MR  A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson by Michelle Y. Green. Mamie Johnson was one of only three women to play pro baseball in the Negro Leagues.

YA  The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams by Derek Jeter. An autobiography by the famous New York Yankees pitcher.


PB  Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Roslyn Jordan. A picture book of the famous basketball player.

MR  Michael Jordan: A Life Above the Rim by Robert Lipsyte. The true story of the amazing athlete.

YA  My Losing Season: A Memoir by Pat Conroy. A famous author tells about his last season as a college basketball player.

YA  Counting Coup by Larry Colton.  A winning season on a girl's basketball team made up of Native American and White teenage girls.


PB  Family Huddle by Peyton Manning. A family story from the childhood of Peyton Manning.

MR  Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest by the editors of Sports Illustrated. Short biographies of famous football players.

YA  Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger. A town shaped by its football team.

YA  Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer. The biography of the football player turned soldier who was killed in Afghanistan.


PB  Hockey Hotshots: Young Stars of the NHL by Steele Filipek.  Easy reader profile of NHL players.

MR  Sidney Crosby: Hockey Superstar by Matt Doeden. How Crosby became a Stanley Cup champion.

MR  On the Ice with Wayne Grettzky by Matt Christopher. The life of the legendary hockey player.


PB Hope Solo: My Story by Hope Solo.  An autobiography for young readers.

MR  The Beautiful Game: The World's Greatest Players and How Soccer Changed Their Lives by Tom Watts. Profiles of several of the world's best players.

YA  Messi: The Inside Story of the Boy Who Became a Legend by Luca Laioli. Lional Messi is only 24, and he is already a legend.

Track and Field

PB Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull. Picture book biography of the famous runner.

YA  Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine by Tom Jordan. For four years Pre was the best runner in the U.S,

YA  The Best that I Can Be by Rafer Johnson. Tells the classic athletic story about hard work, success, and glory.

Other Sports

MR  Hawk: Occupation Skateboarder by Tony Hawk. A memoir by the famous skateboarder.

MR  The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers. An illustrated biography of the boxing great.

YA  I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler by Ted Lewin. The children's author tells about an unusual year in his life.

YA Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. The adventures of a long-distance swimmer.


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Great Biographies about Presidents

by Miriam Downey 3. January 2013 12:53

My nephew Evan is obsessed with Abraham Lincoln. He has dressed like Abe for Halloween and even had a log cabin birthday cake and a Lincoln impersonator come to his tenth birthday. He has read several biographies and knows lots and lots of details about Lincoln. He is my inspiration for the blog postings in January 2013.

During the month of January, I am going to concentrate my blogging on biographies for children and teenagers. Why biographies? Because biographies provide valuable lessons in life, and they help young readers know that life is not always smooth, even for the most famous among us. One online blogger suggests these reasons to read biographies:

  1. To discover fascinating people like Helen Keller or Babe Ruth.
  2. To rediscover people we think we know well, like the presidents.
  3. To assess infamous characters, for instance Billy the Kid or Jesse James.
  4. To get the story behind legendary characters, like St. Patrick or Christopher Columbus.
  5. To find a hero. I remember reading about Jane Addams who worked with immigrants in Chicago. I read the biography when I was 10, and it influenced my career choice.
  6. To learn history through the life of an individual, perhaps through Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, or Martin Luther King, Jr.
  7. To experience adventure from the safety of one's armchair. Last year I read a great adventure story about Hiram Bingham, who discovered Machu Pichu, the ancient city in Peru.
  8. To celebrate one's culture. Perhaps a biography of Steven Spielberg or Bill Gates.

This week's entry will concentrate on books about the U.S. presidents.

There are many series of biographies about presidents; a few of the series have a book for each president. If your child is really into the presidents, he/she might want to read through the entire series. The books I am writing about in this blog posting are individual books that tell part of the story of the president mentioned. There is a picture book, chapter book, and young adult book for each president. Of course, I won't be able to list books for all the presidents, but here is a good selection. If you need a recommendation for another president, please make a comment at the end of the posting, and I will recommend an appropriate book. You will be able to get these books at your public library.

PB means picture book; MR means middle reader; YA means teen reading.

The White House website has some excellent biographical sketches of the presidents. You can find them here. Another good set of biographies can be found at the website. There are videos at this website which may be valuable to reluctant readers.

 George Washington

PB  George Washington's Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora

MR  Washington at Valley Forge by Russell Freedman

YA  George Washington and the Founding of a Nation by Albert Marrin

Thomas Jefferson

PB  A Big Cheese for the White House: The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar by Candace Fleming

MR  What's the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon and the Louisiana Purchase by Rhonda Blumberg

YA  Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Democracy by John B. Severance

Abraham Lincoln

PB  Abraham Lincoln by Amy Cohn and Suzy Schmidt

MR  The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

YA  Lincoln and Slavery by Peter Burchard

Theodore Roosevelt

PB  Teedie: The Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt by Don Brown

MR Theodore Roosevelt: Champion of the American Spirit by Betsy Harvey Kraft

YA  Up Close: Theodore Roosevelt by Michael L. Cooper

Franklin D. Roosevelt

PB  Make Your Mark, Franklin Roosevelt by Judith St. George

MR  Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Russell Freedman

YA  The New Deal by Susan E. Hamen

John F. Kennedy

PB Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport

MR Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy by Ilene Cooper

YA  Kennedy Assassinated! The World Mourns: A Reporter's Story by Wilborn Hampton

Barack Obama

PB  Barack Obama: Out of Many One by Shana Corey

MR  Obama: A Promise of Change by David Mendell

YA  Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

Here are a couple of other notable books about the presidents:

MR  First Children: Growing Up in the White House by Katherine Leiner

MR  Lives of the Presidents: Fame, Shame, and What the Neighbors Thought by Kathleen Krull


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Read Me A Christmas Song: Books For The Season

by Miriam Downey 17. December 2012 16:34

Children love books that they can sing. I am particularly reminded of The Wheels on the Bus illustrated by Paul Zelinsky, which my grandchildren have loved. There are many, many books of Christmas songs, many illustrated by famous children book illustrators. Here is a brief list of some of the wonderful songs of the holiday season in beautifully illustrated picture books. These books are great for sharing. Sit down with your young child and sing along. Some of these books have CDs or music chips in them, if you are musically impaired. Most will be available at your local library or bookstore. I have included a few Hanukkah song books and one Kwanza book as well.


Frosty the Snowman illustrated by Steve Nelson. This one has been around for a long time. It is the classic version of the song.

Good King Wenceslas illustrated by Christopher Manson. The illustrations are woodcuts. Very lovely.

Deck the Halls: A Traditional Carol illustrated by Sylvia Long.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer illustrated by Peter Emslie. Cute is the word for these illustrations.

Here Comes Santa Claus illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

Feliz Navidad: Two Stories Celebrating Christmas illustrated by David Diaz. Diaz is one of my favorite illustrators.

Hillary Knight's The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Hillary Knight, who is the illustrator of the Eloise books.

Jingle Bells illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This one has a music chip in it.

The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett. She is the master of winter illustrations.

Elvis Presley's The First Noel illustrated by Bruce Whatley. This one has a CD of Elvis singing. Wow!

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Another one of my favorite illustrators.

Silent Night, Holy Night illustrated by Maja Dusikova. Lovely soft illustrations and a music chip.

The Little Drummer Boy illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. The very best!

We Three Kings illustrated by Olga Zharkova. Bright torn paper illustrations.


Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah illustrated by Susan Roth. Little mice celebrate Hanukkah.

I Have a Little Dreidel illustrated by Julie Paschkis.


Seven Days of Kwanzaa illustrated by Melrose Cooper. To the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Please also look at last week's posting for more Christmas book ideas.

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Some Traditional Holiday Books

by Miriam Downey 4. December 2012 18:07


Every family has holiday traditions that they cherish and become so important that children feel that the holidays aren't complete until the traditional activity happens. When I was a little girl, my grandfather would read the story The Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke on Christmas Eve. My grandpa was a preacher, and sometimes he would also read the story at church on Three Kings Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas. Other families I know read the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible on Christmas Eve. Other families read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Some families sing around the piano, or bake special cookies, or watch a favorite holiday movie together.

I learned again how important those traditions are to children a couple of years ago. Our large family had decided that instead of exchanging gifts, we would have a scavenger hunt at the local dollar stores and buy supplies for an area homeless mission. After the scavenger hunt, each person made a Cornish pasty for supper, an upper Midwest delicacy. I was helping my 8-year-old granddaughter make her pasty when she looked up at me with shining eyes, and said: "Oh, Grandma! Let's do this every year." And a new tradition was born.

I have included in this book list, classic books that are available online for your holiday reading pleasure. Some of these books may become holiday traditions for you. All of these links worked as I was writing this article. I assume that they will work for you as well. Remember that the only books that are available free online are books whose copyrights have expired.


Picture Books

The 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora. The classic song with a witty twist.

No Room in the Inn by Jean Malone. The story of the first Christmas. Easy Reader.

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. The classic poem.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney.  Llama Llama doesn't like waiting for Christmas.

A Christmas Journey by Hans Wilhelm. Two little mice witness the birth of Christ.

Chapter Books

Christ Legends by Selma Lagerlof. Stories of Jesus from many cultures.

The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. A Victorian family Christmas story.

This way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer. Separated from his family, a little boy discovers a way to celebrate Christmas.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The beloved story about the Christmas spirit.

Christmas in Legend and Story by Elva S. Smith. A collection of traditional Christmas stories.

The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke. A Christmas legend.

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Blog | English

America Gone Wild: Children Interacting with Nature

by Miriam Downey 13. November 2012 17:36

When I was a kid growing up in Duluth Minnesota, we lived across the street from the woods where my brother and his buddies used to hang out. One day he came across the street with a bear cub in his arms. My mother could see some rustling in the woods behind him as he reached our yard. She screamed at him, "Put that cub down! Here comes his mother!" My brother dropped the cub and sprinted to the house, just in the nick of time. Out of the woods rushed a very mad mother bear. She scooped up her baby and went charging back into the woods. Wildlife lesson learned.

We are seeing more and more wildlife around us all the time. At my house, we see it every day. We live in the middle of a mid-size city. We have a small woodlot behind the houses across the street from us and a nature preserve about four blocks the other direction. For rather unknown reasons, we are on a wildlife path between woods, and we are visited almost daily by a variety of wild animals, from deer to woodchucks and raccoons. We have seen some amazing things. One afternoon there was a parade of seven deer walking down the alley like they were out for a hike. Another time I asked my husband, "Wonder why we haven't seen any bucks?" That very evening there was a buck with a huge rack nibbling away at the bird feeder. But the day I saw a coyote walking down the middle of the street in broad daylight, I realized that the environment for wild animals was changing dramatically.

You are probably having similar experiences. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week discusses the problems most cities are having with wildlife. The article says that our urban and suburban habitat is better for wildlife than the habitat of the forest. "We offer plenty of food, water, shelter and protection. We plant grass, trees, shrubs and gardens; put out birdseed, mulch and garbage."

Parent educators can use these experiences with neighborhood wild animals to their advantage. I have included several books that I think illustrate the interaction between humans and wild animals. These will all be available at your local library or bookstore. I have also included some websites that tell about the animals that are becoming part of the ecosystem that most of us live in. This is in no way an exhaustive list--just some of my favorites.

Jean Craighead George was one of the premier nature writers for children. Some of her best books include: My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves. Both of these books would be great to read aloud for your entire family. Here is her website and a list of all her books.

Picture Books

A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. This is a magnificent book about the Nashua River.

Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett. Annie makes friends with some wild animals as she searches for her cat.

Bird Talk by Ann Jonas. In an ingenious way, the calls of birds are identified.

Can I Keep Him? by Steven Kellogg. A little boy tries to become friends with a series of wild animals.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. A bear cub and a little girl have parallel adventures picking blueberries.

Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City by Barbara Bssh. Beautifully illustrated.

Tree Trunk Traffic by Bianca Lavies. Photographs of squirrels and other inhabitants of a tree.

Crickleroot's Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats by Jim Arnosky. Beautiful book about animal habitats.

Come Back, Salmon by Molly Cone. A group of children bring a stream back to life.

Chapter Books

Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant. Stories about people whose lives are affected by animals.

Gentle Ben by Walt Morey. A bear and a boy in Alaska; a story of friendship and adventure.

Incident at Hawk's Hill  by Allan Eckert. A young boy gets lost and survives the wilderness for six months.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. A story of the wild ponies that live on an island off the coast of Virginia.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, A young boy tries to save a deer that he has grown to love.

Novels and Non-Fiction

Dogsong, Woodsong, and Cookcamp by Gary Paulson. Adventures in a logging camp in Alaska.

Red-tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn. The true story of how Red-tail Hawks came to nest in the most populous city in the United States.

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat. This famous Canadian author tells wonderful tales of the wild.

Up Close: Rachel Carson by Ellen Levine. A biography of the environmental pioneer Rachel Carson.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The classic book of essays about man and nature.

Animals and humans websites

Here is the article in the Wall Street Journal: American Gone Wild. This would be an interesting article for older students to read and write an essay about.

Enchanted Learning website about Biomes-Habitats. Activities for younger students.

PBS video about the red-tail hawks in Central Park. It is called Pale Male.


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Just in Time for Halloween!

by Miriam Downey 31. October 2012 17:38


Last week I spent a few days visiting a friend in Tarrytown, New York, a beautiful little town on the Hudson River. Tarrytown is neighbor to another beautiful little town, Sleepy Hollow. Between the two towns, they have a monopoly on festivities connected with Halloween and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow  by Washington Irving, their most famous resident.

Washingon Irving lived from 1783 to 1859 on a beautiful farm in the Sleepy Hollow area. His home, Sunnyside, is open to the public. He was America's first best-selling author and is known for his short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

While in Tarrytown, I went to the Old Dutch Church one dark October evening to hear a storyteller retell The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The church had an old reed organ and was lit by candlelight. The organ played eerie music as the story teller set the mood by telling some of the legends that had formed the basis for the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman, and then he brilliantly told The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was an incredible experience.

It made me think about the classic American short stories that are appropriate for dark October nights when people are inclined to think about scary things. These stories, appropriate for high school students, form the basis of much of American literature, and luckily for us, most all of them are available to download or read on the Internet.

So, for our scary approval, here is a list of classic American scary stories. Just a reminder: these are appropriate for teenagers.


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. (Actually all of his stories are scary.)

The Ghost Story by Mark Twain

For added enjoyment, here are a few British scary stories.

The Bottle Imp by Robert Lewis Stevenson

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells

Have a great scary time!

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Blog | English

More Math Concepts

by Miriam Downey 29. October 2012 16:55

My mother was never very good in math, and she let us know that she couldn't help us with math when we were in school. Consequently, I thought that I wasn't very good in math either. When I became a teacher and had to teach math, I found out I was a lot better than I thought. I learned a good lesson about parenting. Help your children know that they can be successful.

The following books will help your children think they are very good at math. These books are fun and some of them don't even look like math books. You will be able to find these books at your local library or bookstore. A few may be available on Kindle or Nook.

Chance, Probability, Graphs and Data

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Noble

Do You Wanna Be? Your Chance to Find Out about Probability by Jean Cushman

Graphs by Ed Catherall

Great Graph Contest by Loreen leedy

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Caps for Sale by Exphyr Slobodkin

Tiger Math: Learning to Graph from a Baby Tiger by Ann W. Nagda

Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young


365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental

Amanda Bean's Amazing Dream by Cindy Neuschwander

The Best of Times: Math Strategies that Multiply by Greg Tang

Can you count to a Googol? by Robert E. Wells

Spaghetti and Meatballs by Marilyn Burns


Cheetah Math: Learning about Division from Baby Cheetahs by Ann W. Nagda

The Little MouseThe Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood

The Pigeon finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

A Remainder of One by Elinor J. Pinczes


Fraction Fun by David Adler

Full House: An Invitation to Fractions by Dayle A. Dodds


Anno's Math Games by Mitsumasa Anno

The Best Kind of Gift by Kathi Appelt

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins

Counting on Frank by Rod Clement

How Long or How Wide? A Measuring Guide by Brian Cleary

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

 Have Fun Measuring and Learning Math!

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Blog | Math

Teaching Math Concepts

by Miriam Downey 16. October 2012 12:15


A square was sitting quietly

Outside his rectangular shack

When  a triangle came down--kerplunk!--

"I must go to the hospital,"

Cried the wounded square.

So a passing rolling circle

Picked him up and took him there.

Shel Silverstein in A Light in the Attic

There are many ways to teach math concepts, and math lessons don't necessarily have to be boring. Think about this poem by Shel Silverstein and what it teaches. What would this poem look like in pictures? Tell the story in a comic strip. Draw a square. Draw a rectangle. Can you find some triangles in this room? Some circles?

The National Research Council recently released a report suggesting that a child should begin learning about numbers, spatial thinking, and measurement at a very early age. I would suggest that intuitive math learning can begin and go on at any age. One of the reasons that I liked geometry in high school was that I was better at spatial thinking than I was at abstract algebraic equations. I think that if I had been taught to think mathematically, algebra would have been easier for me.

I happened upon a list of some favorite picture books that encourage mathematical thinking at many ages, but particularly for preschool and elementary school children. A book such as Each Orange Had Eight Slices by Paul Giganti Jr. can be used with a preschooler as a counting book and a third grader for a unit on fractions. Young children love How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz to teach really big thinking as much as a first or second grader will love it because they love really big numbers. And everybody loves Math Curse by Jon Sciezka, Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, and The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.

A few of the following books are available online, some are available in video on YouTube, but all will be available at your local library. They are arranged by mathematical concept. Many thanks to a middle school librarian on a wiki website from Blytheville, Arkansas for this list.


This blog posting will consider the basic math concepts of counting, addition and subtraction. The next posting will include books that are about higher level math concepts.


100 Monsters from My School  by Bonnie Bader

 Animal 1 2 3!  by J. Douglas Lee

Bears on Wheels by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Chicken Little Count to Ten by Margaret Friskey

Click, Clack, Splish, Splash: a Counting Adventure by Doreen Cronin

Count and See by Tana Hoban

Counting on Frank by Rod Clement

 A Dozen Dogs by Harriet Ziefert

Each Orange had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti, Jr.

The Handmade Counting Book by Laura Rankin

Mouse Count! by Felicia Law

Too Many Balloons by Catherine Matthias


365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss

Addition Annie by David Gisler

Blueberries for Sal  by Robert McCloskey

Imogene's Antlers by David Small

Math Potatoes by Greg Tang

The Mission of Addition by Brian Cleary

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


The Action of Subtraction by Brian Cleary

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Hershey Kisses Subtraction Book by Jerry Pallotta

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Happy Reading! Happy counting, and adding, and subtracting!




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