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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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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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Blog | Math

Hard Copy Picture Books or Digital E-Books? That Is the Question.

by Miriam Downey 27. September 2012 07:58

The library of FWU is a repository of classic books that can be found online or in e-book format. Many children's picture books, however, are not available online either free or for purchase. As a librarian and a grandmother, I highly recommend that picture books be read to and with your children in hard copy format rather than as an e-book.

First, on an e-book, only one page can be shown at a time. In many picture books, the pictures are spread across both pages. Some of the context will be missing if the child can't see both pages, and in picture books, much of the context comes from the pictures. Then, there is the issue of how to hold the device so that both parent and child can see the entire page. I would also argue that it might be harder to cuddle together with a device rather than a hard-copy book.

My feeling is that sitting on the couch reading a book is one of the most comforting and enlightening things a parent can do with a child. My daughter is currently reading A Child's Garden of Verse by Robert Lewis Stevenson to her toddler daughter every evening before bed. The interesting thing to me is that there are no pictures--it is a very old edition of the book. But every evening as they sit in the rocking chair before bed, Adela is lulled by the words, the rhyme, and the cadence of the words in the poetry.


Recent research would back up my feelings about picture book reading. "Print books are preferred over e-books by parents as well as children when they read together, according to a new study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop that found that 89.9% of iPad owners read 'mostly print books and some e-books' with their children, 7.5% read both formats equally with their children, and 2.7% read 'mostly or exclusively' e-books." These statistics appeared in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. More significantly, fewer than 10% of children liked to read e-books better. E-books may be valuable when a child wants to hear or read a story and a parent is not available to share the time with the child--like when a child is in the car or a parent is cooking supper. The study suggested that e-books may serve best as supplements to a child's literary development.

I would be remiss as a librarian if I did not suggest that your local library may be the best source of picture books for your child. At the library, your children can choose whatever books they want to support whatever interest they are currently exploring. The library will have books for the whole family, and probably nothing encourages reading for a child more than seeing a parent reading.

Some of the best picture book authors have not allowed their books to be remade in e-book format. Although Green Eggs and Ham, the classic children's book by Dr. Seuss is available on compact disk, it has not been released as an e-book, and neither have Where the Wild Things Are or Polar Express. These books have to be read in hard copy, and you certainly wouldn't want your child to miss those classics.

Reading together is one of life's great pleasures and encourages lifelong literary skills. Read a picture book with your child today!

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Blog | English

Going on a road trip? Listen to a book.

by Miriam Downey 11. June 2012 11:38

When my daughter was in middle school, we frequently drove from Michigan to New York and Minnesota to visit relatives. Both were very long trips for me as the driver and her as the rider. I remembered that my mother had read to us in the car when we were young, so I went to the library and got audio books for us to listen to in the car. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for us both; I tried to pick books that we both would like to hear. My fondest memory is when we listened to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It turned out to be transformative for both of us.

If there are several children in your family, you will need to be cognizant of the differences in the ages as you are choosing your audio books. Remember that children can listen to books geared to an older age level than they can read. You will find that even the driver tunes into the book. I have always gotten a kick out of my husband and the books we listen to in the car. He says that he doesn't like fiction, but he is always the first to turn on the player when we get into the car.

Here are my best suggestions for books for road trips. All of these books are available at my local library. Check with your library website or just go and browse their audio book shelves.

The best part of listening to a book in the car is that the hours just fly by!

These books are appropriate for almost all families.

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Most of the books in the series run about 6 hours on CD. The book for the youngest children is The Little House in the Big Woods. Please be warned that Pa speaks despairingly of Native Americans in some of the books but not in The Little House in the Big Woods. Probably will need some explaining about how pioneers felt about Native Americans.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. 4 1/2 hours. An adventure novel and modern fairy tale. It is fun with lots of puns and jokes about the meanings of English language idioms.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. 2 hours. Talk about silly! A vegetarian vampire bunny. Other books by the Howes that are also available on audio book include Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. Everyone will be in stitches.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  2 hours. Mr. Popper is a house painter who is given two penguins who begin a small flock. The curiosity of the penguins and Mr. Popper's goodwill is memorable.

Redwall by Brian Jacques. 10 hours. Several books in the series. The story of a brave mouse who founds an abbey deep in the woods and fighs evil. Great stories.

Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck.  8 hours. Travel with the famous American author John Steinbeck as he travels around the United States with his dog, Charlie.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  12 hours. The classic story about Scout, a girl of the South and her lawyer father, a kind man who tries to live a just life. Scout is one of the most appealing children in American literature.

Happy Travels!

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Blog | English

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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