Category Archives: People & Places

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


By Matt Tavares

Published by Candlewick Press

Copyright © 2005

I am a big baseball fan, and I’m sucker for books about baseball. As I was searching for another picture book the other day I stumbled upon “Mudball”, and since spring training is here and I have baseball fever I knew I had to read this book.

“Mudball” is the story of Andy Oyler of the Minneapolis Millers. He is the smallest player on his team; heck he is the smallest player in the league. Andy just can’t seem to get a hit. He is in a big slump. The Millers are playing the St. Paul Saints and they are down 3 – 1 in the bottom of the 9th with 2 men on and hitless Andy at the plate. It seems like it is all over for the Millers, but just when things look their worst it starts to rain. This might just be a blessing in disguise.

While the story of Andy Oyler may be a bit of a fabrication, it is a wonderful baseball story none the less. No other sport can produce folklore the way that baseball does. Regular men are turned into giants and the slight of stature can be turned into David’s slaying the might giant. Whether it is true or not who doesn’t want to believe a story about someone small and down on their luck doing something great and becoming a hero. I for one absolutely love this story, and it just reminded me why I love the game of baseball so much.

Great book for children ages 6-10

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Filed under Children's Picture Books, Folklore, Historical, People & Places, Seasonal, Sports

The Dodsworth Adventures

The Dodsworth Adventures Series

By Tim Egan

Published by Houghton Mifflin

Dodsworth in New York © 2007

Dodsworth in Paris © 2008

Dodsworth in London © 2009


A Ducky little set of books that take children on a whirlwind trek from New York to Paris, and from Paris to London. Children will be captivated by this Mouse and Duck comedy team.

Dodsworth is getting ready to go on an adventure to Europe, but before he does he needs a hot breakfast. He stops at Hodges’ Cafe to have some of the best pancakes in the world; here he meets Hodges’ crazy duck. This duck is going to give Dodsworth more of an adventure than he ever planned for.

In “Dodsworth in New York” the duck hitches a ride with Dodsworth to New York City and he ends up chasing the duck all over the city. He runs up Wall Street and down Fifth Avenue, past Yankee Stadium and into the Statue of Liberty. In the end they both end up on a boat bound for Europe. “In Paris” Dodsworth and the Duck stay in the Chateau de Paris, visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, and visit the Eifel tower all the while participating in some very French activities like eating, painting, and riding a bicycle. And finally, “in London” Dodsworth and the duck get separated and Dodsworth confuses the Queen’s royal duck for Hodges’ duck and follows her around London on a big red bus learning things about London Bridge and Big Ben. In the end Dodsworth and the Duck get the immeasurable privilege of meeting the Queen of England.

The Dodsworth Adventures are a fun way to introduce children 6 and up to the cultural and geographic landmarks of New York, Paris, and London. In addition Egan does a wonderful job of weaving different forms of transportation in to these stories which will make for even more conversation. Egan’s illustrations match the stories with there simple, cute, and quirky characters and images. Each book features that crazy duck creating some comic situation for the straight man, Dodsworth, to navigate, and in each book the mouse and the duck grow closer together.

One thing that stands out most in these books though, is that while travel can be fun, it is even more enjoyable when there is someone to share it with, even if that someone is a crazy, troublesome duck. I can’t wait to see what these to do when they get to Rome.

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Filed under Adventure, Children's Picture Books, Friends, Geography, I Can Read/Young Chapter Books, Nature/Animals, People & Places, Transportation, Travel


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 Village Garage

The Village Garage

By G. Brian Karas

Published by Henry Holt & Company

Copyright © 2010

“The Village Garage” is a charming book that puts the seasons on display through the eyes of the workers at the village garage. In spring they can clean up from winter storms and wash the trucks. In summer they are busy fixing roads. In fall there are lots of leaves to clean up. And in winter there is snow to plow. There are so many things for them to do, and they enjoy their job.

“The Village Garage” is a great book for boys and girls ages 4-9; however I think that this book will have a strong appeal to boys who will enjoy learning about the seasons by connecting it with the different activities requiring trucks, power equipment, and more.

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Filed under Nature/Animals, People & Places, Seasonal, Trucks/Power Equipment

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