Category Archives: Holiday/Special Event Books

Haven’t You Heard?

The Dangerous Book for Boys.  This reference book first caught my attention several months ago when Taylor read me an article about it from the Wall Street Journal.  Originally published in England, where it was wildly popular, the book had now been slightly altered for an American audience, and was gaining popularity here.  Last month, it was brought to my attention again in my Children’s Lit class.  The instructor commented that he was giving it to all his grown sons for Father’s Day.  What a marvelous idea, I thought. But even if you don’t read the WSJ or attend Children’s Lit classes, you may have still heard of it.  I’ve seen some talk of it throughout the mighty blogosphere, and noticed that Father’s Day weekend, it was on the top 10 bestseller lists at Borders, Barnes&Noble, and Amazon.  Sheesh!  


Why didn’t you recommend this before Father’s Day, silly Mrs. Cropper?!  My apologies.  Truth be told, I was procrastinating.  In fact, Blaine and I snuck out the Saturday afternoon before Father’s Day only to discover that it was sold out at our local Borders.  So Taylor got his gift 2 weeks late, courtesy of Amazon.  (By the way, I believe Amazon was inspired by God.)  So although this suggestion is too late for Dad’s Day 2007, I highly recommend it as a birthday, Christmas, or anytime gift for the men and boys in your life.

After all that babble, let’s talk about what this book is all about!  The authors, Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden sum it up beautifully on the back cover: “Recapture Sunday afternoons and long summer days.  The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.”  Essentially, it’s a reference book for boyhood.  Page 35–Making a Bow and Arrow.  Page 136–Map of the United States.  Page 79–Making a Go-Cart.  Page 146–The Golden Age of Piracy.  Page 171–Skipping Stones.  Page 18–How to Play Stickball.  Page 39–Understanding Grammar-Part One.  Page 250–Role-Playing Games.  Page 139–Extraordinary Stories-Part Two: The Wright Brothers.  Page 89–Juggling.  Page 163–The Declaration of Independence.  Page 238–Hunting and Cooking a Rabbit.  Page 73–Making Crystals.  Are you getting the idea?  And it’s chalk full of pictures, diagrams, intructions, charts, etc.  Taylor’s favorite section?  Page 21–Building a Treehouse.

My boys love it–and so will yours! 


A Gift Book for the Mister

Although I have no idea when I’ll be back in a classroom as Mrs. Cropper, I’ve decided to keep up on my teaching license rather than let it lapse.  That means attending workshops and such, which is SUCH a treat.  I spent the last 2 days in an incredible children’s literature class at our local library.  Our instructor is the director of the library here and besides having decades of experience with children’s literature, he has a passion for it.  He also served on the Caldecott committee in 2000, which is big.  (Note: I’ll have to do a post describing the process these committees go through to choose Caldecott and Newberry winners.  It’s fascinating.)  Anyway, you can bet that after a whole weekend of this, Mrs. Cropper is feeling rejuvenated and more excited than ever to share her findings.  One thing I decided during class yesterday is that we need to have theme weeks on this here blog.  So, without furthur ado, I give you…


Today’s Eric Carle book is quite timely.  In fact, you have exactly one week to rush out and buy it because I think it makes a most tender gift for the father figures in your life.  The book is entitled Mister Seahorse.

Yes, it is all about seahorses, fishies, and other under water creatures.  And, of course, it is rich with Carle’s watercolor and collage illustrations.  He also uses super neat plastic overlays to show the way these creatures camouflage themselves down there in the depths.  All of that aside, however, this book is about daddies.  And it is sweet and delightful.  Here is what Mr. Carle says about Mister Seahorse:

“Dear Friends, In most fish families, after the mother has laid the eggs and the father has fertilized them, the eggs are left on their own.  But there are exceptions such as the seahorse, stickleback, tilapia, Kurtus nurseryfish, pipefish, bullhead catfish, and some others.  Not only are the eggs cared for by a parent but–surprise–that parent is the father.  And this is my story about them.  I  hope you enjoy my story.”

Mrs. Cropper hopes you enjoy it, too!  Come back tomorrow for more Eric Carle…

Happy (one day late) Birthday Dr. Seuss!


Well this post was going to be up by yesterday morning (March 2nd, the birthday of Dr. Seuss), but Blaine had a sleepless night followed by a whiny day (mostly Blaine whining, but then I joined in) so…

By yesterday evening I said, “what’s the point of writing about Dr. Seuss’s birthday now?”  But I am the boss of this blog, so we’re going to have a belated birthday celebration.

Dr. Seuss’s birthday is a hoot at school.  We read all sorts of his stuff, make red and white striped hats out of paper, and talk about his life and career.  My favorite thing to do on his birthday is to have a read-a-thon (in fact the National Education Association has dubbed March 2nd, “Read Across America Day”).  The kids get to bring pillows and blankets and one healthy snack and then we spend the entire morning reading.  You’d think they’d get bored or restless, and of course a few kids do (and have to take a walk or two), but for the most part they just plop down with their pretzels and giant stacks of books and read read read!  It’s such a ball.  Do it at home with your kids–they’ll die about it. 

seuss-cat-hat.gif I learned yesterday that it was not only Dr. Seuss’s birthday, but also the 50th birthday of The Cat in the Hat.  This classic is a perfect example of why we love Dr. Seuss so much and why his books are so great for emergent readers.  His characters and stories are inventive and comical, and the writing is phonetic and simple, yet very clever and memorable.  Even all of his nonsense words are completely phonetic, so a child learning to read can use the rules he knows to pronounce them correctly.  All the rhyming and repetitiveness is perfect for beginning readers as well.  That is the sort of thing that helps them learn “sight words”–those words that don’t always make sense phonetically but are frequently used and crucial to reading fluently.  Actually, Dr. Seuss didn’t just happen to write books that help emergent readers.  He wrote The Cat in the Hat in response to a complaint by a man named John Hersey that the reading primers being used in schools (this was 1954) were full of “insipid illustrations” of “abnormally courteous children.”  Hersey said, “Why should [school primers] not have pictures that widen rather than narrow the associative richness the children give to the words they illustrate — drawings like those of the wonderfully imaginative geniuses among children’s illustrators, Tenniel, Howard Pyle, “Dr. Seuss,” Walt Disney?”  Dr. Seuss responded to this challenge by writing a book that came from a 223-word list of vocabulary words for school children.  Because the list was so limiting, it took him 9 months to complete.  The finished product–The Cat in the Hat.

And of course, Dr. Seuss’s books are chock full of life lessons and morals.  From friendship to the true meaning of Christmas to learning to try new things, his morals are clear but not sappy, which I find refreshing. 

So here’s what you’ve got to do.  Read all of the classic Seuss titles with your kids.  You know–The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oh The Places You’ll Go, etc.  THEN, get to know some of his less commonly known greaties.  Our favorites are The Lorax (I’ll dedicate anEarth Day post to this poignant and clever story) and The Sneetches (an absolute must read which I’ll write about another time).   You’ve also got to check out  It’s got a biography of Dr. Seuss, a list of all of his books, and super fun games for your kids to play. 

Enjoy a day with Dr. Seuss and remember to wish him and his cat a Happy Birthday!

Hail to These Books!

Happy Presidents’ Day everyone!  Here are some of my favorite books on Washington, Lincoln, and all…

wannabepres.jpg So You Want to Be President? is absolutely phenomenal!  Judith St. George cleverly presents scads of presidential trivia accompanied by David Small’s outstanding and hilarious caricatures of all 43 (42 really, since we had Grover Cleveland twice!) presidents.  In fact, Small’s illustrations were so good that this book received the Caldecott Medal in 2000.  What I love so much about this book is that it’s full of fascinating information, and absolutely hysterical at the same time (which makes it popular with both children and adults).  We learn everything about our presidents from their children and pets to their musical and athletic talents to their idiosyncrasies and foibles in the office.  We hear about John Quincy Adams skinny-dipping in the Potomac River and William Howard Taft bathing in his specially-made extra large bathtub.  We learn the pros and cons of being the commander in chief.  For example: “Another good thing about being President is that the President has a swimming pool, bowling alley, and movie theater.  The President never has to take out the garbage.  The President doesn’t have to eat yucky vegetables.  As a boy, George H. W. Bush had to eat broccoli.  When George H. W. Bush grew up, he became President.  That was the end of the broccoli!”  Well, I’ve gone on long enough!  Read this book!  You will laugh out loud!

lincoln.gif Lincoln: A photobiography by Russell Freedman is a fabulous read.  This Newberry Medal winner is intended for an older audience–I’d say 6th grade and up, and is a really great book for adults.  Here are some things I love about this biography: it is comprehensive yet succinct, it is organized in a very reader-friendly way, and it helped me learn many things about President Lincoln that I’d never known before.  For example, did you know that he didn’t like to be called Abe?  And did you know that he struggled with depression for much of his life?  The photographs are the icing on the cake.  This is an excellent biography of one of our most beloved American Presidents–read it! 

georgewashington.gif A Picture Book of George Washington is one of David A. Adler’s (with John and Alexandra Wallner as illustrators in this case) many picture book biographies.  They are all excellent.  He packs in  a lot of content and nice detail, while keeping it simple and enjoyable for a young child (around 3rd grade and up).  In fact, Adler does a lot of non-fiction for children, mostly historical.  His books are fun to read and a very informative. 

ourcountryspres.jpg Our Country’s Presidents by Ann Bausum is a fabulous resource.  As a rule, you can count on anything published by National Geographic to be well done, and this is no exception.  Two features I particularly love: 1) Besides the several pages of informative text about each president, there is a section of quick facts about each one (including nickname, political party, number of terms, etc.).  2) In typical National Geographic fashion, the book is full of wonderful photographs.  I think this would make a great “coffee table” book that would interest the children (about 5th grade and up) in the family as much as the adults.

 Enjoy the holiday and make some time to read!

Valentine’s Day Books We Love Love Love

olivemylove1.jpg Olive, My Love stars Olive the dog (first seen in Olive, The Other Reindeer), a charming character created by Vivian Walsh and illustrated by J. Otto Seibold.  When her canine pal Dexter drops an enormous heart on her doorstep, she (not realizing it’s for her) goes to great lentgths to return it to him.  Endearing characters, vibrant images, and clever writing make this story a heart-day favorite.

                                                                                                                                                                             loveyouthepurplest2.gif I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse, Mary Whyte illustrator.  This is a great story about a mother who helps her two sons understand that she loves them both equally, but for different reasons.  She loves exuberant Max the reddest and quiet Julian the bluest.  Together she loves them the purplest.  This is a well-crafted story with such a universal lesson.  As a side note, my friend Alicia read this book to her 2nd-graders and then, on the last day of school, sent them each home with a special bookmark.  Each bookmark was unique, with a photograph of the child, his or her name, and a message from their teacher: “I love you the ____est because…”  They loved it, of course.  I mention this because I think it’s a fantastic idea not only for teachers but for parents.  You could do something like this on a Valentine for your child or make something like a bookmark that they would see often and keep forever.

unlovable.jpg Unlovable (by Dan Yaccarino) may seem like a funny choice for this particular list.  I guess you’ll just have to trust me!  This book is about a little mutt named Alfred without any friends.  (In fact, the cat tells him, “You’ve got the ugliest mug I’ve ever seen.  No one could love you!” Ouch!)  After countless insults from the neighborhood animals, Alfred really believes he’s unlovable.  Then one day a new family moves in next door…

Now I’ll be frank with you.  I think this book is cute and fun, but I don’t find it particularly clever or outstanding.  My students, however, ADORED it!  They begged me to read it over and over and then would ask to read it during their Reading Workshop time.  I’m not sure why they enjoyed it so much, but they did.  So–read it to your kids.  They’ll love it! 

juniebvalentime.jpg Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime.  Does it get any more fun than exchanging valentines (or valentimes if you’re Junie B.) with your classmates?  In yet another greatie from Barbara Park, Junie B. receives a mystery valentine from a secret admirer and then sets out to discover who it is!  Reminder:  Kids love Junie B. Jones.  Girl, boy, doesn’t matter.  They can’t get enough!  (Junie B. is perfect up until about 3rd grade.  It is one of the best series for readers who are transitioning into chapter books.)   

loveeloise.jpg Love & Kisses, Eloise.  I post this with some reservation.  We Croppers are true-blue Eloise fans.  And the real Eloise is written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hillary Knight.  They are the ingenious creators of our favorite little girl who lives at the Plaza, and no one else can help us hear her distinctive voice so clearly, nor illustrates her and Nanny so perfectly.  However, admittedly Marc Cheshire and Ted Enik do quite a nice job of portraying Eloise and Nanny as they celebrate Valentine’s Day by eating extra boxes of chocolate, playing cupid at the hotel, and telling Mr. Salomone to be happy happy happy! 

So, have a most wonderful Valentine’s Day!  I will attempt to read these favorites to Blaine (hopefully they will escape un-torn!) and I hope you will read them too.  With red and pink and hearts and flowers and chocolate…I get pretty giddy in February.  As Eloise would say, “Ooooooooooooo, I absolutely love Valentine’s Day!”

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