Key Ideas and Details

When the Rain Came Down

Posted by on Jun 20, 2024 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Michigan Author, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Print Motivation, Science | 0 comments

I’ve been a fan of author/illustrator Leslie Helakoski for a long time. She’s incredibly creative, kind, talented, and she’s been a generous mentor for many years. I asked her about one of her newest picture books, WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN, illustrated by Keisha Morris, and this is what she told me.

“I grew up watching the ups and downs of the bayou next to my house. But as more and more oil companies marched into Louisiana, diverting the Miss. River and its silt, affecting the marshes and coastlines, we saw higher and higher water and bigger storms coming toward land unimpeded.

My book, WHEN THE RAIN CAME DOWN, is in part about Hurricane Katrina, which was followed by Rita in 2005. But flooding is not always due to a hurricane and flooding can happen in every state of the union.

Years after those storms, I was trying to write a story about a family that was over-the-top friendly and invited everyone over. But my mind kept coming back to people who opened doors to those in need during the floods.

As a writer, I was fascinated by up and down rhythm of it all. The rain coming down water rising up and then eventually, the people rising up, the sun rising up, communities rising up.

It made me cry. And write.

Since then, I’ve learned more about restoration projects along the Gulf Coast. You can find many of them on my website:

What can we do?

Be conscious of planting native plants and grasses wherever you live. Use natural products, and support “green” organizations.

Do not buy cypress mulch –we need those trees to slow down storms.

Weather disasters often leave people needing help–and not only during floods. I hope kids will see the power we have and will one day reach out to others and say COME OVER.”

This beautiful book is essential not only for children who’ve lived through natural disasters but for all of us witnessing what is going on in our world. May we all remember to reach out and say COME OVER. Thank you, Leslie Helakoski!

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I Am Odd, I Am New

Posted by on Apr 28, 2024 in Biography, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Fluency, Key Ideas and Details, Non-Fiction, People Smart, Print Motivation, Rhyming, Self Smart, writing | 0 comments

I Am Odd I Am New by Benjamin Giroux illustrated by Roz MacLean
“I Am Odd, I Am New” written by Benjamin Giroux and illustrated by Roz MacLean

When Benjamin was ten years old, he wrote a poem about what it’s like for him to live with autism and be surrounded by kids who don’t always understand. This book is his poem, “I Am Odd, I Am New”. It’s beautiful and poignant and wonderful for discussion.

“I am odd, I am new.

I wonder if you are too.

I hear noises in the air.

I see you don’t, and that’s not fair!

I want to not feel blue.

I am odd, I am new….”

After sharing this book, encourage kids to write their own poem, rhyming or not, about what it’s like to be them. If kids get stuck, return to the words and art in this book. How are you like Benjamin? How are you different? “Odd and new” aren’t necessarily bad things – these things can be great! Do we want to write a poem together in which odd and new are seen as wonderful?

April is World Autism Month. I’m reminding myself to work for acceptance, not just awareness, and to presume intelligence, especially in nonspeaking people. For insightful reading, pick up “Ido in Austismland” by Ido Kedar and “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida. These are brilliant books written by two nonvocal young men who gave me really interesting perspectives on what it’s like to live in a world without an easy means of communication.

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Posted by on Apr 15, 2024 in Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Holiday, Integrating Knowledge and Ideas, Key Ideas and Details, Logic Smart, Michigan Author, People Smart, Print Concepts, Print Motivation | 0 comments

I’m thrilled to announce that my newest picture book, SQUIRREL NEEDS A BREAK, will be published by Charlesbridge on May 7th! Squirrel is especially grumpy after having been stuck in the nest all winter with three rascally kits so his friends decide to take the kits for the day to give him a break – how hard could it be, they think? By the end of a very busy day, Groundhog and his friends have a whole new appreciation for what Squirrel does as a single parent, and Squirrel realizes that he has family he can rely upon in his circle of friends. It’s a great book for fathers, single parents, and anyone who knows what a handful little kits can be!

Matt Faulkner and I will be visiting some local bookstores and libraries. I hope to see you there!

May 11th: 2 Dandelions Bookshop in Brighton, MI at 11am

May 18th: Sidetrack Bookshop in Royal Oak, MI at 11 am

May 19th: The Book Beat in Oak Park, MI at 2 pm

May 25th: Schuler Books in West Bloomfield, MI at 11 am

June 1st: Orion Township Public Library in Lake Orion, MI at 11 am

June 8th: Eras Bookstore in Oxford, MI at 11 am

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“Grandma Heaven” and “Grandpa Heaven”

Posted by on Sep 8, 2023 in Early Learning, Key Ideas and Details, Loss, Michigan Author, Self Smart, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Shutta Crum and Ruth McNally Barshaw are two of my most favorite people in the kid lit world. They have two new books out, “Grandma Heaven” and “Grandpa Heaven” that sweetly feature my own parents as two of the people enjoying the afterlife.

Is Heaven a fun-filled place of laughter, companionship, and love? Who knows. Perhaps it’s
simply a state of the universal/eternal mind. Regardless, Shutta Crum knows that here in this
corporeal world there are young worriers who’ve suddenly lost a beloved grandparent, and those
bereft children need to be consoled. Shutta began working on Grandma Heaven and Grandpa
Heaven years ago when her four-year-old grandchild asked, “Are you going to die, Grammy?”
Shutta reassured her granddaughter that that was not going to happen for a long time. But the
child’s question sparked the idea for these two books about grandparents having a great time in
Heaven. The grandparents drive snazzy cars in Heaven, study prehistoric animals, have pets,
bake, read, knit, bowl, tinker with broken things, and zip in on zip-lines. But the most important
job of a grandparent in the afterlife is watching over all the grandchildren of the world and
sending the memory of a hug when it is needed. Importantly, these two books are non-religious
and multicultural. Heaven in Grandma Heaven and Grandpa Heaven is populated by
grandparents from around the world so that all children can rest assured that their grandparents’
love never dies.

Grandma Heaven and Grandpa Heaven (published by Lawley Books, 2023) can be found online
wherever books are sold. Also, ask for them at your local bookstore, or to be purchased by your
local library. Paperback editions available: Sept. 28, 2023. Spanish editions: January 2024.


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