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Picture Books to Make You Laugh Out Loud!

by Miriam Downey 31. December 2013 07:42

Start the New Year off with a laugh.

I have been thinking about this posting during the holidays as I observed the things that made my grandchildren laugh. I watched my oldest grandchild making my youngest granddaughter laugh until she cried over his silly faces. I have heard children laughing at the dinner table over goofy jokes. At the same time, I observed my granddaughters watching tween shows on television where the laugh track was going wild but as the watchers, they weren't even cracking a smile. Why is that? Perhaps observing humor is different than participating in humor.

All of the books below are guaranteed to bring out a chuckle from both the reader and the listener. They are sophisticated enough that parents will love them as much as the child. They can all be found at the library or bookstore. They are guaranteed laughs.

I have to add that my special favorites are the books of David Shannon, Mark Teague, Lane Smith, James Marshall, Mo Willems and Dav Pilkey. You can't go wrong with any of their books.

Sooooo! Here's the list!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Lane Smith

Pigsty by Mark Teague

Click, Clack Moo! Cows that Type! by Doreen Cronin

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka

No, David! by David Shannon

I Want My Hat Back! by Jon Klassen

I Stink by Kate McMullan

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

Imogene's Antlers by David Small

Happy reading! Happy New Year!

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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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Blog | Math

Wild Things: A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

by Miriam Downey 11. May 2012 08:46

I started writing a blog posting about adventure books, but it will have to be postponed because I want to pay tribute to my all-time favorite children's book, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

Maurice Sendak died on May 8 at age 83. His influence on children's literature is immeasurable, primarily because of his groundbreaking picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't believe it would be an overstatement to say that Where the Wild Things Are may be the most influential picture book of the 20th century. So influential, I might add, that I have a grandson named Max after the hero of the book.

Max is a naughty boy, gets mad at his mother, and is sent to bed without any supper. And like the hero of Greek mythology he sets sail:

       "Through night and day

         and in and out of weeks

         and almost over a year

         to where the wild things are."

My favorite line in the book is "Let the wild rumpus start." I think of that line every time all my grandchildren arrive at the house and every time we have a party. My other favorite line comes at the beginning of the book when Max begins his mischief, and his mother reprimands him. He gets so mad he tells his mother, "I'll eat you up!" which is the reason he is sent to his room.

Before Max, most picture book children were well-behaved little things, and picture books told stories with morals, and nothing bad ever happened. Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of the interior life of an angry little boy and how he deals with that anger. I believe that is why children identify so strongly with Max. He can get really angry, but he finds ways in his imagination to deal with that anger. Kids get the moral of that story ... we can learn to deal with anger in an interior way and return to the real world calmed and reflective. Where the Wild Things Are opened a floodgate of picture books which dealt with children's anger and all the other things that children face--death, fear of abandonment or not fitting in, as well as all the other childhood experiences, including the rich imaginary experiences so similar to Max's.

I watched my year-old granddaughter get really mad at dinner a couple of nights ago. Her father pulled her out of the high chair and carried her into the living room to cool off. Her fit subsided, and she returned to finish her dinner ... "and it was still warm."

I can't say that I recommend all of Maurice Sendak's books. I do like Chicken Soup with Rice, The Nutshell Library, and In the Night Kitchen, although I do have to mention that the little boy is naked in In the Night Kitchen. Maurice Sendak also illustrated many books by other authors including, Little Bear by Minarik and A Hole is to Dig by Kraus.

The New York Times quotes a letter that Maurice Sendak received from an 8-year-old: "Dear Mr. Sendak, How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there."

In honor of Maurice Sendak, why don't you pull out your copy of Where the Wild Things Are or borrow one from the library? Have your children read it, and then write a story or essay about anger, or imagination, or "wild things" or whatever comes into their heads. It would be a fitting tribute to a great children's author and a great American book.

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Blog | English

Teaching Values with Picture Books

by Miriam Downey 1. December 2011 14:11


The other morning I was reading my baby granddaughter a Little Golden Book version of The Little Red Hen,and it brought back so many memories of telling her mother the same story with its moral--only those who help should reap the rewards. Those old stories, Aesop's fables, fairy tales, and folk tales teach moral values in interesting ways. They don't hit the child over the head with the message. The story itself tells the message. These are the stories that we all know and remember. How many times have we said, "Are you crying wolf?" or "Slow and steady wins the race."or "You're really in the lion's den!"

Some picture books are written in what we would call a didactic style--they tell the reader: "You are going to learn this moral value" and then the book goes on to teach the value. There was a series of books that came out about 30 years ago that had cute characters, and each book taught some aspect of good behavior. They were cute for one reading, but none of my children wanted to hear them over and over in the way they wanted to hear Where the Wild Things Are or Horton Hatches the Egg, both books that teach by example.

The Veggie Tale books and videos are an example of some delightful didactic books that teach moral values. If you recall your Bible stories, however, you know that the values taught in the Bible stories we tell children are not taught in didactic ways; they teach by example. For instance, in the story of the little boy and the loaves and fishes, the value of generosity is taught by the child's example.

One of the best resources for books that teach moral values is Books That Build Character by William Kilpatrick (Simon and Schuster, 1994). Although the book is nearly 20 years old, it is of immense value in helping parents find books for their children.

Recently I came across a list of books that teach values and morals in non-didactic ways as they deal with the universal problems of childhood. Some of the books on the list are among my favorites; some were new to me. So, I am offering this list as a starting point in what I hope can be an ongoing list of books and an ongoing discussion on this blog. The author of the list says of the books: "These are the ones that know how to teach without preaching, that get to the heart of the problem in inspired, interesting, often quirky and unconventional ways."

So here goes! Most all of these books will be available at your public library. Certainly all will be available at the bookstore or Amazon. You can find the books listed in the FWU library in the Other Great Books section.

Henkes, Kevin. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. Value of apologizing.

Shannon, David. No, David! Boundary testing. Children laugh out loud at this book.

Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Walks the Dog. Bullying.

Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read. Value of practice.

Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy. Value of diversity.

Brown, Margaret Wise. Runaway Bunny. Worry and separation anxiety.

McKissack, Patricia. The All I'll Ever Want Christmas Doll. Value of sharing.

Hoff, Syd. Sammy the Seal. Fear of the unknown.

Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The title says it all. Every child relates. We could also include Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday as a companion book.

Falconer, Ian. Olivia Acts Out. Value of making the best of a bad situation. Olivia is the best.

Latimer, Alex. The Boy Who Cried Ninja. The dilemma of lying.

Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. Value of moving on when things break.

Marx, Patricia. Meet My Staff. Value of problem solving.

Rathmann, Peggy. Good Night Gorilla. Sleeping in own bed.

Huget, Jennifer. How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps. Value of doing chores.

Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg. Value of understanding adoption.

Thompson, Kay. Eloise. Lack of family structure. Besides that, the coolest heroine ever.

Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Value of dealing with anger.

Moore, Julianne. Freckleface Strawberry. Dealing with differences.



Please join in the discussion. Which books do you and your children especially like that teach morals and values?





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