“Disasters In Time” series

graphic novel page

Graphic novels are one way to get reluctant readers to open a book. They are quick reads, and mostly tell the story through a combination of drawings and words.  Although “The 1918 Flu Pandemic” is intended for kids, it’s fine for anyone about 3rd grade or older. The pictures and dialogue take you through one of the world’s worst periods of sickness – the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918.

This book is part of a series of graphic novels called “Disasters In Time”. The books are done by a variety of authors and illustrators, and cover disasters in history. After reading this book, I checked on Amazon and found many other graphic novels in the series:

– The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard
– The Donner Party
– The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
– The Attack On Pearl Harbor
– The Hindenburg Disaster
– The Apollo 13 Mission
– Shackleton And The Lost Antarctic Expedition
– The Challenger Explosion
– The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
– The Great Chicago Fire Of 1871

If you’re looking for an interesting way to present history to your child or students, or just want the short version for yourself, this is a good series to check out from your local library.

Shackleton And The Lost Antartic Expedition  The 1918 Flu Pandemic




Ira Sleeps Over – by Bernard Waber (1972)

Ira Sleeps Over

For a lot of kids, their first sleepover at a friend’s house is a milestone. When young Ira is invited to spend the night at a friends’s house, he is excited. What fun it will be! They can stay up way past their bedtime, play with flashlights, and tell spooky stories in the dark.

But as Ira thinks about the sleepover, he wonders whether he should bring his teddy-bear along or not. This leads to some anxiety about being laughed at. His family is divided in their opinions of whether he will be laughed at or not. What will Ira do?

Although this book is an oldie, it’s a great story. My husband read it to our sons so many times that they almost had it memorized. It’s easy for kids to identify with Ira’s dilemma. How we feel about our treasured stuffed animals remains the same, whether it’s 1972 or 2018.

Runaway Ralph – by Beverly Cleary (1970)

Runaway Ralph

What’s a mouse like Ralph to do when he’s fed up with his family? His uncle is always trying to get him to stay safely inside the walls of the motel room they live in, but Ralph wants to roam the halls on his cool motorcycle. His cousins are constantly around, pestering him when he wants to be alone. His mother makes him give each of the whiny cousins a ride on his motorcycle. There’s a big world out there that Ralph wants to explore, but everyone in his family is holding him back. One day he decides he’s grown-up enough for adventure, and runs off to the Happy Acres Camp down the road. But once he gets there, Ralph is surprised to find that life there is not as fun as he thought it would be.

I’m reading this book to my grandson, a chapter each time he’s over. The story-line is simple, so you can read a chapter, put it away for a week, then pick it up again with no problem. It only has 9 chapters in it, so it’s not overly long. Each chapter has one or two pictures sketched by the author, which are fun to look at. This is a great book for kids and adults to enjoy together!

Wonder Horse – by Emily Arnold McCully (2012)

Wonder Horse

You’ve heard of child prodigies, but have you ever heard of a horse prodigy? Back in the 1800’s there was a freed slave named Bill “Doc” Key, who was a veterinarian. He was greatly bothered by the brutal way that many horse-owners treated their animals. He would implore them to lay down their whips and use kindness instead.

In 1889, one of his horses gave birth to a crippled foal. Many people would have put down the foal. But Doc gave him a name –  Jim Key – and worked gently with him until he learned to walk. A great affection grew between man and animal. As time went on, Doc became convinced that Jim Key was intelligent. He began to show Jim cards with numbers and letters, and eventually Jim learned the alphabet, as well as numbers and simple addition and subtraction!

So amazing was Jim that Doc took him to fairs all over the country. They went to the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition in 1897, and to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Many people have debated over the years how much Jim Key actually understood, but one thing is for certain: patience and kindness will bring out the best in both animals and humans.

This is a Scholastic children’s picture book, but can be enjoyed by all ages. To learn more about Doc and Jim Key, you can read the biography: “Beautiful Jim Key – The Lost History Of The World’s Smartest Horse” by Mim Eichler Rivas.

Scholastic Books Evolving

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite things at school was to get a Scholastic book flier. (Yes, I was a book geek even then.) My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but we would pore over the selection of books, and pick something. Then there was the anticipation of that book being sent, and excitement on the day when the teacher got her class’s book order in and passed out the books.

Scholastic is still around, and this week my grandkids showed me their fliers. Now instead of one flier, there are multiple fliers – four of them this month. Wow, I said, and I was once again like a kid in a candy shop. I was surprised to see that Scholastic is now carrying a good variety of books with moral or faith-based themes. Among the fliers were:

Jesus Always: 365 Devotions For Kids
An 8-pack of Bible story books
The Berenstain Bears And The Joy Of Giving
Who Was Jesus?
The Plot To Kill Hitler (a biography about Pastor Bonhoeffer in Germany during WWII)
National Geographic Kids: Mother Teresa
Why Should I Share?
Why Should I Help?
Kindness Is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler
Pass It On (about sharing happiness)
The Kindness Value Pack
The 7 Habits Of Happy Kids Pack
Building Faith Block By Block
The Little Flowers Of Saint Francis Of Assisi
God Gave Us Angels
Five-Minute Bible Devotions

Kudos to Scholastic for expanding their selection of books for kids! This is especially important since so many walk-in bookstores have closed over the past decade. If ever there was a time that we need to be focused on living moral and giving lives, it is now.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar – by Eric Carle (1969)

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This morning I was at a local store, when a set of pajamas for toddlers caught my eye. Hey, I thought, how cool is that! On display were pajama sets with pictures from “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”, classic books written by author Eric Carle.

The Very Hungry Catepiller pajamas.jpg

Eric Carle was born in 1929, graduated from an art academy in Germany, and moved to New York City in 1952. Starting off in advertising and graphic design, he was asked in 1967 to illustrate a child’s book by author Bill Martin Jr., who was writing “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” From then on, Carle fell in love with children’s books and began writing and illustrating his own.

One of his most well-known is “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, which explains to young children how caterpillars morph into beautiful butterflies. The story is quite humorous, as the caterpillar eats and eats and eats, ending up with severe indigestion. I have enjoyed this story with my little grandson dozens of times.

Netflix has a wonderful reading of the book, followed by a few of Carle’s other books for children – “Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me”, “The Very Quiet Cricket”, “The Mixed-Up Chameleon”, and “I See A Song”. All of the stories feature Eric Carle’s unique hand-painted collage artwork. If you want to check it out on Netflix, here’s the link:

Some lucky toddlers will get to wear pajamas with pictures of their favorite stories this winter. If only the manufacturers would make some clothes for older kids and adults with pictures from much-loved novels…

Kids’ Books For A Snowy Day


Today was a “snow day” for most of the school-age kids in our county, the first this season. Unfortunately, the bitter cold kept them indoors most of the day. What was there to do? Couch out in front of the TV, or play video games on a tablet device? When that gets boring, try reading some snow books! Chances are you’ve got a few around the house from school book orders. Time to dust them off and read them together on a cold winter’s day. Try one of these:

Katy And The Big Snow – by Virginia Lee Burton

The Snowy Day – by Ezra Jack Keats

White Snow, Bright Snow – by Alvin Tresselt

Snow Day – by Mercer Mayer

Owl Moon – by Jane Yolen

Clifford’s First Snow Day – by Norman Bridwell

The Polar Express – by Chris Van Allsburg

Tacky The Penguin – by Helen Lester

Snow – by P.D. Eastman

Tacky And The Winter Games – by Helen Lester

The Snowman – by Raymond Briggs

There Was A Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow – by Lucille Colandro