2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times


In 2010, there were 106 new posts, not bad for the first year!

The busiest day of the year was July 27th with 50 views. The most popular post that day was Fantastic New Addition to the Blogroll!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, childrensbookreviews.pbworks.com, welltrainedmind.com, and storysnoops.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for 1000 books before kindergarten, read me a story, rain gutter bookshelves, storysnoops, and read me a book.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Fantastic New Addition to the Blogroll! July 2010
1 comment


Used Any Numbers Lately? by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman April 2010


Borders Summer Reading Program May 2010


No Place Like Earth (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) by Susan Amerikaner April 2010
1 comment


While Angels Watch by Marni McGee May 2010


“My Book Buddy Bags” from Links to Literacy

Here’s one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas.

My Book Buddy Bags are reusable bags made from 50% recyclable polyester filled with a fiction and informational paired book (book buddies!), an age appropriate hands-on literacy activity and/or craft, and a resource booklet of literacy activities that can be completed at home.

To begin with, the idea of a matched set — a fiction book, a nonfiction book, a craft idea, and a literacy booklet — is nice.

I also uncovered a blog post from the creator, Dawn Little, describing the Book Buddy Bags a little more in detail, and providing a couple of examples of the activity included.

Book Buddies: Pairing Fiction and Informational Texts to Motivate Readers

Overall, interesting enough, but so far I’m not compelled to pull out Ye Olde Visa. Take a moment and look a little deeper, though.

These bags can be completely customized. You can select the age-range of the child, and you can choose the subject matter as well (you’re not limited to the two shown). Better yet, once you’ve purchased a bag, you can request a “refill” (at, one presumes, a reduced price).

Now I’m beginning to think there’s some value here. I’m thinking of those phases when a child fixates on a particular topic — baseball, horses, trains. I’m also thinking of the well-meaning but not-really-in-touch gift-givers — the friends and family who want to give “a little something” but don’t really know what the child might like or already have. A Book Buddy Bag could neatly fill the juncture between the two. A lovely extension of the gift idea would be for the giving adult to offer to read the books with the child and do the activities (quality time!).

Do you see another use for the Book Buddy Bags? When else might they be useful?

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke

Available on Amazon

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! is perhaps the most fun book I’ve read in a quite some time. It’s full of suspense, and silly giggles, and play-acting, and all sorts of fun. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The premise is simple. Four friends find a strange black box with strange, cryptic warnings on it – “Don’t Look At It, Don’t Touch It, Don’t Open It!”. Of course, their curiosity insists they must look at it, must touch it, must open it, whereupon they discover a mysterious item and more cryptic warnings. This happens over and over again (there’s that repetition that small kids love) until at the last….

No, I’m not going to tell you the ending. Suffice it to say that it’s a happy one, suitable for children.

This is a great book for giving kids a bit of experience with suspense. It could be a bit spooky — in fact, my daughter got surprised by just how spooky. She’d had great fun with the book when mama read it, so she settled down to read it again herself just before bed. Without mama there to make it fun, she got a little freaked out and ended up having a hard time getting to sleep that night. Lesson learned – this is a book best read in the daylight.

So have fun with reading it out loud. Do your best creepy-scary voice, and make it comical. Show your kids that it’s fun sometimes to get just a little scared, because that makes the “boo!” all the more exciting.

Don’t Look At It! Don’t Touch It! by Steve Patschke, illustrated by Julie Durrell. Troll Communications, 1999.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Sarah Jane Hartwell does NOT want to get up for the first day at her new school. She wants to stay home, safely in her bed, but her dad insists she go. On the way, Sarah is very nervous; in fact, she starts to feel sick. Her dad lovingly pushes her out of the car, and the school principal is there to show her to her room. The dreaded moment comes at last, the principal introduces her to her class…. Sarah Jane is the new teacher!

I loved this book from start. It’s so cleverly done, my kids never guessed that Sarah Jane was a grownup. They were simply tickled by the idea that a grownup could be nervous about meeting THEM! I can easily see this as a jumping-off point for helping a child who is fearful of starting school — what better way to conquer your nerves than by helping someone else with theirs?

As far as readability, First Day Jitters sits squarely in the middle of the bookshelf. The book is aimed at slightly older children, so it has no infectious rhyme or meter. Perhaps the best aspect of the text is the complete familiarity of Sarah Jane’s excuses and complaints — and of course, her dad’s predictable response to them! The illustrations are attractively done, but very chaotic-feeling. They suit the mood of the story well, but can be a bit overwhelming.

A book well-suited to a nervous or uncertain child; a nice change from the common “everything will be okay and you’ll make lots of friends” type of first-day-of-school book.

Available on Amazon

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells

Emily races off to her first day of school “too excited to cry”. Once there, she learns that her class will be making “number friends” – learning one new number every day, all the way up to 100. Frankly, Emily and her friends don’t believe they’ll EVER get to 100.

Emily’s First 100 Days of School is a book that’s a bit hard to catalog. It’s about school, true. It’s also about finding numbers in the everyday world surrounding us. It’s about a lot of small vignettes of life that may be new to children, such as lost luggage, Route 66, friends moving away, vegetable Jell-O, and ice fishing. It’s this latter aspect that provides the greatest amount of repeat-reading interest. I found it difficult to read through two whole pages without stopping to explain some new item. In fact, it took us several days to get through all 100 Days. That’s okay, though, as it makes good practice for getting ready for chapter books. I could also see Emily’s First 100 Days making a good bedtime book, because of that continuity.

The text isn’t scintillating, but it is effective and clear. The illustrations are recognizably Rosemary Wells, with colored pencil drawings of animals in human guise.

My favorite aspect of this book is the way it places “going to school” directly into a child’s familiar daily routine. School isn’t a strange new place full of scary new things, but it’s a new extension of what is comfortable and familiar. For every brand-new activity or idea, there is one that is so common as to be unnoticeable, like picking vegetables from the garden, big sisters, birthday flowers, and cookies.

Even better, Wells’ stated aim is to make children aware that math isn’t a boring subject that’s restricted to the schooldesk. The point of the book is to make children aware of how useful, indeed vital, numbers are to our life. In that, it succeeds admirably.

Available on Amazon

Emily’s First 100 Days of School by Rosemary Wells. Hyperion Books, 2005.

Fantastic New Addition to the Blogroll!

Stumbled across an article covering the StorySnoops, and I’m hooked!

If the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is correct, then four Los Gatos moms are definitely on the right track.

The foursome—Jen Nagel, Tiffany Boltz, Eden Manseau and Shannon Knowlton—recently launched Storysnoops.com, a website that offers children’s book reviews from a mom’s perspective, at a party in Saratoga to coincide with Children’s Book Week.

“We wanted it to be a resource for parents to either seek out a book or check on a book their child is reading,” Nagel said. “If they have a book in their hand at the book store, they can type it in and see if it might be a good fit for their child. We wanted it to be very simple and easy to use. We wanted to give a parent’s perspective, so what we communicate in our reviews is what I think another mom would want to know about a book.”

Later on:

The site is unique in that it doesn’t just offer reviews on the books, it also gives parents in-depth details on the plot summary, tells them exactly what type of content is covered and gives discussion topics. On the site, each book review has two parts—the story and the scoop.

“The story is basically what you could get off the jacket of the book. It’s an overview of the story and we don’t give anything away,” Boltz said. “In the scoop, we have a spoiler alert and may give away something like the main character dies in the end. Some kids only want happy endings, so we basically speak parent to parent.

The scoop offers good parent/child discussion materials, as well as all of the positive and negative things about the book. The scoop also offers content keywords, such as “problem solving,” “lying,” “courage,” “orphan,” “sex talk,” “drug reference,” “jealousy” and “virginity issues,” so that parents can find, or stay away from, books that deal with certain topics.

“We have about 100 content keyword to choose from,” Knowlton said. “You can pick anything from mild violence to cancer to pet death. Friendship troubles is a keyword and if your child is having those troubles and you are looking for a book dealing with it, click on the keyword and a whole list of books with that content will come up.”

Read the Rest

Seriously, go check out the StorySnoops. It’s great (and I’m TOTALLY jealous of their layout!)

Chinese Children Suffer From ‘Reading Malnutrition’

Google Alerts turns up some rather interesting stories from time to time. This one? Well, it’s not exceptional in terms of content, but I enjoyed taking a moment to realize that the concern of “kids don’t read enough” isn’t limited to just the U.S. Here’s an excerpt from the article, found on the English-language version of People’s Daily Online.

Although Chinese parents spare no effort to send their children to various after-school classes to acquire useful skills, they have neglected to let their children constantly improve one of the most important abilities – reading ability.

Chinese parents attach great importance to their children’s education. According to reliable statistics, education expenditures in most Chinese families account for more than 30 percent of the total household income, and is still growing. In contrast, spending on children’s books is even less than what is spent on toys and clothing.

I actually have no idea of comparable statistics in the U.S. or Canada. That would make a bit of interesting research, wouldn’t it?

Read the Rest