Category Archives: Rainbow Books

This Week’s Rainbow Book-Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse


Introducing-my favorite children’s author:  Kevin Henkes.  I know!  A favorite?  What?  How can I pick one favorite?  But alas, it’s true!  I think Kevin Henkes is absolutely the man.  Everything he does is magic.  I love his unique little rodent-characters and all their nuances.  I love his simple, perfect-for-his-stories artwork, and I love how he loves what he does.  Here’s what he says: “I used to live with my parents and brothers and sister and work at a card table in my bedroom. Now I live with my wife and son and daughter in our own house and work at a drawing table in my own studio. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to be a real author and illustrator. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”  Do you not love him already?

I will feature many of his books in the near future, but today I start with my favorite (using that word again?!) of his characters and the first of his titles I discovered.

Meet Lilly.  She is the snazziest rodent you ever did see.  She wears red cowboy boots and everything!  She is excited, she is loud, and sometimes she is sassy.  SASSY.  I actually like this about her because she gets in trouble for it (and has to sit in the uncooperative chair).  And as a result, she learns.  Without cheesiness (well, actually, there usually is cheese involved, as a lot of Henkes’ stories are about mice…but it’s actual cheese, not the sentimental stuff) or hitting you over the head with it, Kevin Henkes brilliantly teaches morals-even to the sassiest of mice and children. 


But we’re getting off track.  Lilly stars or co-stars in several of Henkes’ books, but I think Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is her best.  In it, we read the story of how dearly Lilly loves school, particularly because of her teacher, Mr. Slinger.  “Mr. Slinger was as sharp as a tack.  He wore artistic shirts…Instead of ‘Greetings, students’ or ‘Good morning, pupils,’ Mr. Slinger winked and said, ‘Howdy!'”  Lilly loves Mr. Slinger so much that she decides to be a teacher when she grows up (instead of a surgeon or an ambulance driver or a diva–her prior ambitions).  But then one day Lilly comes to school with some new treasures from her Grammy.  “Lilly had a new pair of movie star sunglasses, complete with glittery diamonds and a chain like Mr. Slinger’s.  She had three shiny quarters.  And, best of all, she had a brand new purple plastic purse that played a jaunty tune when it opened.”  As you can imagine, Lilly becomes quite disruptive with all her new wares, and Mr. Slinger takes them from her for the day.  In her sassy SASSY rage, Lilly draws a terrible picture about Mr. Slinger and slips it into his bag…  


I will let you read it to find out how things turn out.  (Don’t worry!  Kevin Henkes’ stories have happy endings!)  But promise me that you WILL read it!  If you don’t, you’ll miss learning what the Lightbulb Lab is (I copied Mr. Slinger and set up one in my classroom–it was a hit!), you’ll miss all of the clever dialogue, and you’ll miss Lilly, Mr. Slinger, and all the other rodent-students doing interpretive dance.  There–that seals the deal.  I’m sure you’ll read it now.

Enjoy Lilly and stay tuned for more Kevin Henkes Rainbow Books. 


The Fanciest Rainbow Book Yet

The Easter Bunny brought me a real treat!  Thanks to some hot tips (thanks Liz, via Martha Stewart and Katie, via Emily’s blog) I learned recently of a book entitled Fancy Nancyby Jane O’Conner (illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser).  I put it on my LONG “to read” list.  Last week Taylor and I walked up to the bookstore to have a look around, and I (predictably) meandered, no-more like beelined-to the children’s literature section.  After perusing the sale bin for a few minutes I went to find Fancy Nancy.  She is glorious.  Here’s what she looks like:


I know they say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I couldn’t help myself!  There I was, standing in the bookstore, oogling over this fabulous girl!  (What you can’t see on this screen, is the very fancy glitter which adorns the title and title character.)  I didn’t care what was inside, I already loved this book.  I read the first few hilarious pages (which were reminiscent of Eloise) to Taylor and said, “I have to have this book!”  But, feeling very poor having just written a check to the IRS (oh, glorious tax season!), we decided to leave without Nancy.  I didn’t feel fancy.  I felt glum. 

 Which takes us back to the dear Easter Bunny (AKA my dear husband).  On Easter Sunday I discovered 2 things on my bed.  The first was a basket filled with delicious chocolatey things and the second was a glittery, hardback book.  “Fancy Nancy!” I squealed with delight.  I read the story aloud to Taylor…

 “I love being fancy.  My favorite color is fuchsia.  That’s a fancy way of saying purple.  I  like to write my name with a pen that has a plume.  That’s a fancy way of saying feather.  And I can’t wait to learn French because everything in French sounds fancy.”  And so begins the delightful story.  Feeling frustrated that her family is so totally plain, Nancy decides she will teach her family how to be fancy.  She trains and tutors them on how to dress and talk more like her–more fancy!  She takes them out to dinner and they do everything fancily.  They even “eat with their pinkies up and call each other ‘darling.'”  But Nancy discovers that even the fanciest girls can lose their fancy.  And that her family loves her even then.

OOOOHHHH you absolutely must read this book!  You will love the ending, you will love the detailed illustrations, you will love the charm of this little girl who loves to think big.  You will love Fancy Nancy.

A Very Fitting Rainbow Book


This week’s Rainbow Book is my all-time favorite book about rainbows (I have several, of course!).  It is The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico.  Interestingly enough, this rainbow baby had never been introduced to The Rainbow Goblins until my freshman year in high school.  I grew up dancing (ballet, tap, jazz, you name it) under the direction of a very talented and incredibly creative teacher.  She didn’t just choreograph little dances to popular songs and costume us with what was available in dance catalogs.  She put together enormous productions, and in addition to her choreography, designed elaborate sets and costumes.  Now, I’m not claiming that our little dance studio put on shows to rival Broadway.  But for a small studio, with a small budget, in a small town, I think what we did was pretty neat. 

My teacher’s 4 children grew up with The Rainbow Goblins.  It was a classic in their family.  And so in 1996 she created a ballet entitled The Rainbow Goblins.  Set to the beautiful and stirring music of Edvard Grieg, it followed Ul de Rico’s story perfectly.  I was cast as the Red Goblin (appropriate, for those of you who know that “Ann(e) Likes Red.”)  Of course I fell in love with the story, and my mom gifted me with a hardback copy of it that I have since shared with my students and will read to my children.  So now, as you imagine me dancing around the stage in a red unitard, a tight, red hood to cover my head (picture a bobsledder), red gloves, and red point shoes, I will share with you the beginning of the story…

“Once there was a land that lived in fear of seven goblins.  They were called the Rainbow Goblins and each had his own colour, which was also his name: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.  Yellow, being the craftiest, was their chief.  The goblins lived on colour–they prowled the valleys and climbed the highest mountains looking for rainbows, and when they found one, they caught it in their lassoes, sucked the colours out of it and filled their bellies with its bright liquid.  Only one place in the land had never known goblin-fear–the hidden valley called the Valley of the Rainbow, where the great arches of colour were born.  There the animals still lived in paradise.  But the Rainbow Goblins had heard tales of this Valley, and their mouths watered whevener they thought of the feast that awaited them there; and so they gathered up their lassoes and their pails and set off…”

What follows is a delightful story of goodness and beauty prevailing over selfishness and greed.  The illustrations are oil paintings by the author and are absolutely exquisite.  (It’s worth reading the book just to see the gorgeous artwork.)  So go find this gem and read it!  You will love it! 

Hooway For This Wainbow Book!


“Poor Wodney.  Wodney Wat.  His real name was Rodney Rat, but he couldn’t pronounce his r’s.  To make matters worse, he was a rodent.  A wodent.”

So begins Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger’s delightful story about a little rat with a speech impediment.  Of course Wodney’s classmates tease him so incessantly that he gnaws his cheesy lunch alone and hides his head in his jacket during recess.  Then one day, big, mean, smart Camilla Capybara shows up and torments all the rodents in the class.  But guess who  saves the day not in spite of his speech impediment but because of it?   

This book is funny and charming as can be.  You will laugh out loud and your children will be giggling uncontrollably.  And you will be oh, so proud of Wodney… 


Oooooooo I Absolutely Love This Week’s Rainbow Book!


Meet Eloise.  She is 6.  She is a city child.  She lives at The Plaza.

This perfectly written character was created by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight back in 1955, but I have a feeling many of you have never heard of her.  I have that hunch because even I, who grew up in a very literary family and made a career out of this stuff didn’t get to know her until my husband Taylor gave me the book for my college graduation present 2 1/2 years ago.  As Taylor read it out loud to me that night (just the way his mother had for years, as it was a classic Cropper book) I fell in love with Eloise.  Then I shared her with my students and now they all adore her.  (Actually, I love her so much that I dressed up like her for Halloween at school and all the kids died about it!)  And now I share her with you.  

Here’s what we love about Eloise:

– It’s written in first-person, from Eloise’s perspective of course.  So there are grammar errors (“She is my  mostly companion”) and made up words (Sometimes I sklonk him in the kneecap”).  And she, like any good 6 year old, mimics all of the grownups in her life (“Our day maid’s name is Johanna She has earrings with garnets and is going to take her Social Security to Bavaria on her birthday”).  You may have noticed some punctuation errors in these quotes.  That’s yet another brilliant way Kay Thompson helps you hear Eloise’s voice.  (Can’t you just hear a 6 year old you know rambling on and changing the topic every 9 seconds?) 

-The supporting characters are perfect.  Nanny the nurse “always says everything 3 times like Eloise you cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t.”  Skiperdee is a pet turtle that “eats raisins and wears sneakers.”  Weenie is “a dog that looks like a cat.”  Not to mention all of the snooty adults Eloise interacts with at the Plaza.

-The Eloise-isms (referred to as “Eloisiana” by Kay Thompson) have become a part of the Cropper family language and became common phrases in my classroom as well.  Things like: “Here’s what I like,” “Here’s what I can do,” “Charge it please,” and of course, “Ooooooooo I absolutely love _____.” 

Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight also did Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmastime, and Eloise in Moscow.  These are all wonderful, but the original is the best.  There are also Eloise books by other authors (see my Valentine’s Day post) that are clever but don’t hold a candle to the genius of Thompson and Knight.

In my opinion, you simply must must must have Eloise in your family library.  Make it a family tradition.  Always read it aloud and do all the voices.  So look it up on Amazon or rush out to Borders and “charge it please Thank you very much!”    

This Week’s Rainbow Book–George Washington’s Teeth

george-washingtons-teeth1.jpg February was my favorite month as a teacher.  There’s Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, the 100th day of the school year, Black History Month, and Presidents’ Day.  It was so fun to incorporate all of those events into our class discussions, reading, writing, art, etc.  But, did you know that February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month?!  Oh yes, in our classroom we heard from special guest speakers (dental hygenists), celebrated how many teeth we’d lost, and read this week’s rainbow book–George Washington’s Teeth.  I know what you’re thinking, “A book about dental hygeine and George Washington?  That’s perfect for February!”  Exactly.  And this book is an absolute gem.  The authors, Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora (with illustrator Brock Cole) present this absolutely true account of how and when George Washington lost all of his teeth–in verse–and it’s hysterical!  Kids laugh and laugh–and you will too!  Here’s a little teaser…

“Poor George had two teeth in his mouth the day the votes came in.  The people had a President, but one afraid to grin.”    

Chandra and Comora include a timeline in the back of the book that tells more of the specific details of President Washington’s dreadful dental woes.  This comes in especially handy when the children ask, “Is this for real?!”  Indeed…poor man.  (By the way, the story that George Washington had wooden teeth is as much a legend as the story of him chopping down the cherry tree.  His dentures were made of ivory.)

Make sure to read this book!  And don’t forget to brush your teeth!                                                                                               

This Week’s Rainbow Book–Fanny’s Dream

fannysdream.gif Today a friend reminded me of this marvelous book and I thought it perfect for our Rainbow Book this week.  Why?  Because this week we celebrate love.  In this story, with echoes of a familiar fairy tale, Caralyn and Mark Buehner tell us about Fanny–a sturdy farm girl who dreams of marrying the Prince Charming type.  Since her Fairy Godmother doesn’t seem to be showing up, she accepts the proposal of Heber–a short, kind farmer (who doesn’t exactly live in a palace).  But Heber shows Fanny what real love is.  He raises children with her, works hard for her, makes her laugh, and every night he soaks her tired feet in hot water.  One night Fanny goes out to pick a melon and her Fairy Godmother shows up (just a little late!) and offers her the chance of a lifetime… 

I’ll let you read it to find out what Fanny decides.  This story is a MUST READ!  I’m practically tearing up just writing this post!  Fanny and Heber remind us what REAL LOVE is.