Category Archives: Family

A Hen for Izzy Pippik

By Aubrey Davis

Illustrated by Marie Lafrance

Published by Kids Can Press


A folksy multicultural tale of honesty and integrity replete with chickens, but no chicken soup or fricassee for you, these are Izzy Pippik’s chickens.

Shaina lives in a poor village. One day she finds a beautiful hen at her doorstep and she learns that it belongs to Izzy Pippik. Even though her family wants to eat it, she knows that she should save it for Izzy Pippik because he will surely return for such a fine chicken. Her family relents, but when the hen has many chicks, and the chicks have chicks of their own, they become a nuisance to her family and to the whole town. Shaina still believes she must care for the chickens until their owner returns. Slowly though, the town begins to like the chickens because they returned good fortune to the town, but will Izzy Pippik ever return for his chickens?


“A Hen for Izzy Pippik” is a wonderful tale about doing the right thing even when it is unpopular. Shaina does the right thing not just once but many times. In Shaina we also find a selfless example of a young person doing what is right, not for what she will get out of it, but because it is the right thing to do.


This universal moral, is derived from “Jewish and Islamic traditional text.” Marie Lafrance’s illustrations really add to the universality of this story as they have a very simplistic French/European appeal. This multicultural tale will be a pleasure to read to your children, and not only will they get the moral, but I think they just might have a blast trying to find and count all of the chickens that Lafrance has drawn into this book. (For children 4 years and up.)


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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, Folklore, Multicultural, Nature/Animals, People & Places



By Jessie Haas

Illustrated by Jos. A. Smith

Published by Greenwillow Books

Copyright © 1996


I was born in Northwestern Massachusetts, just south of the Vermont line. This is still very much near the heart of maple sugaring country. As a matter of fact we only lived a few miles from Gould’s Sugarhouse which was on route 2 also called the Mohawk Trail. Living in rural New England spoils a lad when it comes to maple syrup; no Mrs. Butterworth’s or Log Cabin for me. Though I no longer live in New England I am very fortunate to live in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania which is also a maple syrup producing area. It is because of my love of maple syrup that I read the children’s picture book “Sugaring.”


Early spring is sugaring season, and Nora is collecting sap with her Gramp. The sap itself tastes like sweet water. And they can’t wait to get it back to their sugar shack to make it into something even sweeter, maple syrup. Nora also helps her Gramp as he boils down the sap. When they finally have maple syrup Nora thinks that the horses should have some since they did all the hauling.


“Sugaring” is entertaining and informative look at the charming and old fashioned process of maple sugaring.  It provides us with the simple details of how sap is collected and turned into maple syrup while at the same time telling the story of a girl who thinks that all workers, even horses, should be rewarded for their labor.


Of course, sadly, maple syrup is rarely collected with buckets, horses, and sleds anymore. Often they use tubing that is gravity fed down to the sugarhouse. And while wood is still used to heat the evaporators some producers use oil or other fossil fuels. If you are fortunate though you will still find an operation that keeps the old fashioned tradition of making maple syrup alive.


“Sugaring” is a great book to read with inquisitive children (ages 4-8) who want to know where maple syrup comes from. I plan on making its reading an addition to my own personal maple festival.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, Nature/Animals, People & Places, Seasonal

Zen Shorts

By Jon J. Muth

Published by Scholastic Press

Copyright © 2005


Michael, Karl, and Addy find a Panda with a large red umbrella. “The wind carried my umbrella all the way from my backyard to your backyard” he told them with a slight Panda accent. His name is Stillwater and he is ever so nice and polite. Each child visits Stillwater in succession and to each he tells a story. Stillwater and the children become fast friends.


The stories that Stillwater tells are parables based in old Buddhist and Taoist literature. I don’t want to give away the morals in the stories however I think you’ll find them to be good reminders, not just for children, but for adults as well.  


Muth also paints wonderfully soft and gentle watercolor illustrations for this book; just as he did for his book “The Three Questions” that really reflect the meditative quality of his main character and the story itself. He juxtaposes this against simplistic black and white illustrations to depict the long ago and faraway quality of the stories the panda tells.


This is really a fabulous book. You don’t need to be a Buddhist or a child to benefit from these tales. Muth has chosen stories with principles that are very universal. Read this book for yourself, or share it with children age 4-8.


Quill Award nominee

2006 Caldecott Honor

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Fables/Parables, Family, Friends, Multicultural


By John Rocco

Published by Disney-Hyperion Books

Copyright © 2011

A family of four is at home on no particular night, but they really aren’t together. They are all doing their own thing cooking, talking on the phone, using the computer, or playing video games. One member of the family gets the idea to play a board game, but everyone else is too busy to play, that is until the power goes out in the city.

John Rocco has written and illustrated a pointed story about how we tend to get so caught up in nothingness when the most important thing is passing us by – spending time with our families. This lightly worded book has a wonderful moral, and it has fun illustrations that children ages 4 and up will enjoy.

I hope everyone who reads this book will get the point, power down, and spend time with their loved ones.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, People & Places, Technology

The Stranger

By Chris Van Allsburg

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright © 1986

It is nearly fall and a cold breeze is beginning to blow. Farmer Bailey feels that breeze as he is driving down the road in his old truck, and just then he hits something. At first he thinks he hit a deer, but when he gets out and looking he finds a strangely dressed man lying on the road. Farmer Bailey takes him home to recuperate with his family, but unfortunately the man has amnesia and can’t remember who he is. The stranger is pleasant and helps out around the farm, and the Bailey’s are happy to have him. Then one day as he is working in the field and looks out to the valley to the north and compares it with the Bailey’s farm he soon realizes who he is and that he must go.

Van Allsburg has written and illustrated a beautifully simple story that rides the line between reality and fantasy. He gives a charming appearance and personality to the bearer of the coming winter – you know his name. Van Allsburg accomplishes this without being overtly fantastical or magical. This is a great story to read with K-3 children with the change of season and the coming of fall. Adults who love the bucolic splendor of the northeast in the fall of the year will certainly enjoy this tale as well.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, Fantasy, Nature/Animals, People & Places, Seasonal

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

By Jane Yolen

Illustrated by Mark Teague

Published by The Blue Sky Press

Copyright © 2000

Are you having trouble putting your child to bed? Or do you have a child who loves dinosaurs? This book is wonderful because it helps parents with bedtime in a fun and enjoyable way using a subject (dinosaurs) that isn’t normally associated with bed time. The text is simple and the illustrations are a little cartoony and fun.  In addition Mark Teague has hidden the dinosaur’s name in each illustration which is wonderful for the young dinosaur enthusiast who can have fun looking for the name. I highly recommend this picture book.


Filed under Children's Picture Books, Dinosaurs/Archaeology, Family, Growing Up, Nature/Animals

The Gardener

The Gardener

By Sarah Stewart

Illustrated by David Small

Published by Farrar Straus Giroux

Copyright ©1998

It is the Great Depression and Lydia Grace Finch is being sent to live with her unsmiling uncle in the big city until her parents get back on their feet. Lydia may have to leave her country home, but she is determined to continue gardening just like her grandmother taught her. She uses this skill deftly to make her Uncle’s Bakery beautiful and to create a surprise for him that will make him smile. This is a touching and light hearted book that subtly and sometimes quietly teaches so much. This is Picture books is great for the home library, but it would also make a great companion to an elementary school Great Depression history lesson.

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Family, Historical, People & Places