Once Upon a Story
January 19, 2015

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Published by: Schwartz & Wade

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled. 


About the Author:05_lauriethompson_PhotoByMaryBalmaceda (2)

Laurie Ann Thompson is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, a how-to guide for teens who want to change the world. An advocate for social justice, Laurie is dedicated to inspiring and empowering young readers. Emmanuel’s Dream is her picture-book debut. Visit her at lauriethompson.com.
A CCSS-aligned curriculum guide for Emmanuel’s Dream is available here

My Thoughts:
Happy Monday, all!
For those of us in the U.S., it’s also Martin Luther King Day. For many, it’s a day off of work, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on ourselves as a nation, and a man who believed that facing adversity did not mean ‘impossibility.’
Which also makes it the perfect day to share with you this story of not only diversity, but also plain ol’ hard work and strong spirit.
Emmanuel’s Dream is the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Today, Emmanuel is recognized as an athlete, an activist, and a philanthropist. His life (thus far, he’s only 37) has been made into a documentary (also entitled Emmanuel’s Gift), and he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
But before all that he was a kid in Ghana. A kid who wanted to do what the other kids did, and a kid whose mother believed he should do what all the other kids did. While this book contains moments that will make young readers gasp in surprise, or make round ‘o’s of awe, what also comes through is how normal of a kid Emmanuel was. Don’t most kids like to play soccer at recess, or ride bikes with friends?
I had the chance to ask author Laurie Ann Thompson what she would like her readers to take away from Emmanuel’s story. Here’s what she said:
What would you like to see children learn from Emmanuel?
I want children to learn that they, too, can be brave, creative, and determined enough to go after their dreams, no matter what challenges they may face in their lives or what other people might tell them along the way.
But we all know that picture books aren’t just for the young.  What would you like to see adults take away from Emmanuel’s Dream?
I hope adults take away that same message of empowerment for themselves, of course, but that they also understand the broader message of everyone having the potential to change the world. I think keeping that in mind would make us all a little more tolerant, a little more accepting, and little more supportive of one another. And that would be a very good thing.
I love her responses. Have faith, keep working, and be supportive of one another.
It does, indeed, seem like that would be a very good thing.


Thanks to Schwartz and Wade, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls. (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Monday, February 2nd.

 Good luck!

Follow Emmanuel on the rest of his tour:

Mon, Jan 12
Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13
5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15
Fri, Jan 16
Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19 (MLK Jr bday)
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Jan 20
Wed, Jan 21
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22
Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23
The Fourth Musketeer AND  Kirby’s Lane
Mon, Jan 26
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27
Teach Mentor Texts


January 14, 2015

My daughter has had a break-through over the last two days.

She’s my avid reader. Or listener. She was using short phrases at her first birthday. She went to her first toddler storytime at 18 months and always sat through quietly. By the time she was two, she was listening to longer picture books. By the time she was four, it was chapter books.  When she started kindergarten in September, her ability to read independently took off.

She’s my verbal kid.

And then we hit a wall.

The “I can’t read this many words on a page” wall.

I noticed. I knew her ability. I knew it was a confidence thing. I encouraged, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

She stuck to her guns.

I showed her books at the library that I thought she could handle.

She reached for simpler ones, and I rolled with it.

Last week, I brought home two books from the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen.

She resisted. She didn’t want to read about a pig.

So I was surprised when she asked to read a little bit before bedtime last night. I read the first page. She read the second, then asked me to read the next page. We took turns for the first 2 chapters.

Between last night and lunchtime today (thank you, snow day) she finished it. All by herself.

She’s so stinkin’ proud.

Embedded image permalink

“Take a picture of the last chapter!”

Confidence plays a big part in this reading game.

You know what else does?


Let me introduce you to my son, my 3yo.

He was born in 2 hours and 45 minutes, start to finish.

He hasn’t slowed down since.

He does not like to sit on your lap and cuddle while you read. He does not like to sit still, period.

For the first 2.5 years of his life he would choose just about anything over listening to you read a book. Around the age of 2, we were able to settle him into a routine of listening to a story at bedtime, after he’d been bathed and dressed for bed, and was getting drowsy.  But during the day? Forget it.

About six months ago, he started bringing a book to me occasionally.  They were mostly interactive and there were lots of (loud!) interruptions, but it was nice to see his interest.

His ability to sit and listen really expanded, though, when his sister started reading. Because of all the people in the house, she is the one he most idolizes. And he’ll sit still for her.

Now we’ve started a practice of reading while dinner is cooking, the three of us. It starts with the 5yo reading the leveled reader she brings home from school every day. And then they take turns picking. And now, at three, he’s starting to actually enjoy this time.

The Washington Post recently published this article about pushing kindergarteners to read. I have my thoughts on that, but I think it starts before kindergarten. We’re guilty, sometimes, us parents. We get stressed and caught up in competition.

He/she doesn’t like books.

He/she should know all his letters and sounds by now.

What should I buy to teach my child to read?

The kid across the street is reading on his own, and he’s only four. Why isn’t my child doing that?

You’ve met my kids now. I’ve got one of each. One whose verbal skills have always been impressive, and one whose fine and gross motor skills have always been ahead of the curve (but who has a hard time sitting still).

They’re both doing just fine.

It comes.

Or it doesn’t, and you cross that bridge when you come to it.

In the meantime, I firmly believe in just plugging away. Even if it does mean you have to read the same Arthur book 1, 247,968 times.

Ask me how I know.

January 12, 2015

(Just a reminder: You can always click on the image for more information about the book, including a summary.)

For me:

Saving Lucas Biggs

Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

I’ll admit, I was first drawn to this book because of the cover. There’s something mystical and magical about it. And while they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” in this case I’m glad I did. There is something mystical and magical (and just a little bit sad) about Saving Lucas Biggs.

For the kiddos:

Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale

by Lynn Roberts, illustrated by David Roberts

This is a repeat, but worth it. A 1970s bell bottoms and garage band take on a classic fairytale.

Ling & Ting Share a Birthday

Grace Lin

I shared last week that we’d be back for more Ling and Ting. Sure enough, when we hit the library this week, it was the first book my 5yo went in search of.

When Otis Courted Mama

by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

This is a wonderful new book for all families, but especially blended ones. You can find more of my thoughts and your chance to win a copy here.

Cars: Rushing, Honking, Zooming

Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

This is my 3yo’s current favorite. Besides the fact that it has cars and vehicles of all kinds, the book is chock-full of fun onomatopoeia words. And the collage style illustrations provide some hidden surprises and giggles. There’s also one for trains and trucks that we’ll have to check out.

Happy Monday, Friends!

What are YOU reading this week?

January 9, 2015

When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Published by: Harcourt Brace

Release date: January 2015

Ages: 4-8

Pages: 40

From the publisher:

Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell’s life is mostly wonderful. He knows he’s loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that’s okay–Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a “grrr “form in his throat. Otis can’t make jalapeno flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell’s daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say “”Adios, ” Otis.” But what will happen if she doesn’t?


About the Author:Kathi Appelt photo

Kathi Appelt’s perfectly wonderful stepfather was a terrific storyteller, and she grew up to become a teller of stories, too. She is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her picture books include Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, and the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard. Her novels for older readers include two National Book Award finalists: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath, which was also a Newbery Honor Book. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To download a free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guide, visit Kathi’s website at kathiappelt.com.

Watch the WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA book trailer (created by Kathi’s own two sons!) :


My thoughts:

I’m a big advocate for books that handle the tough stuff. As parents, we often want to protect our children from life’s challenges. Sometimes we can get away with that, at least for awhile. But inevitably, that tough stuff comes up, and when it does, it’s nice to have those books we can read with our kids. The ones that show children peers, families and situations like their own. It normalizes tough stuff, and makes whatever that child’s thinking,feeling, and experiencing “okay.”

When Otis Courted Mama is the story of a blended (coyote) family. Right from the start, it’s made clear that Cardell, is a well-loved kid (um, coyote). Even though his parents live in different parts of the desert, and even though each household is different, Cardell’s life is “mostly wonderful.” He doesn’t mind sharing his “perfectly good daddy” with his stepmother, Lulu, and his stepbrother, Little Frankie. And he doesn’t even mind the other coyotes who have come to court mama. They never stay around long, and then Cardell has his “perfectly good mama” back to himself.

So it’s a bit of a shock when Mama doesn’t say “adios” to Otis, who arrives one day with flowers and cactus candy. Cardell is confused. And defensive (this coyote is not like his perfectly good daddy!). And even a little protective of mama.  All emotions one might expect to see in a child whose parent begins a serious relationship with a new adult.

And while those relationships don’t always work out, some do. The adults who, like Otis, work hard to win the child over and who include the child, and who wait patiently…sometimes those adults become someone special. Not replacing mama or papa, but in addition to. And that’s the message Appelt delivers.

Jill McElmurry, who also illustrated the Little Blue Truck series, captures the essence of the Southwest that she grew up in.  From the golds and browns of day, to the purples and blues of night, to the bright red bandanna themed endpapers, every page explodes with color. And her subtle use of expression allows the reader to feel the full range of emotions, both Cardell’s and his mama’s, without Appelt having to put it into words.

A special book, especially for children of blended families, but also for children in other kinds of families, as they explore the different family dynamics the world has to offer.

And now:

EVERYONE can find a full-color door hanger and other fun downloadables at kathiappelt.com.

 Thanks to Harcourt Brace, ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy of WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA.  (U.S. addresses only). Enter below by 11:59pm on Friday, January 23rd.

 Good luck!

 Renee F., you’re a winner!

Follow sweet Cardell on all his tour stops!

Mon, Jan 5
5 Minutes for Book
Tues, Jan 6
Cracking the Cover
Wed, Jan 7
Thurs, Jan 8
Unleashing Readers
Fri, Jan 9
Once Upon a Story
Sat, Jan 10
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 12
Geo Librarian
Tues, Jan 13
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog AND NC Teacher Stuff
Wed, Jan 14
Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Jan 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 16
The Fourth Musketeer


January 4, 2015

(Just a reminder: You can always click on the image for more information about the book, including a summary.)

For me:


Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Meg Medina

I’ve heard Meg speak twice, and she’s as authentic as they come. So is her writing.

This is real, powerful, important, stuff.

 Rain Reign

Ann M. Martin

When I think of Ann M. Martin, I immediately think of The Babysitter’s Club. I’m a child of the 80s. I can’t help it. But she’s written so much more, including this, her most recent. And I love her for creating a character who is so beautifully atypical.

What the Moon Said

Gayle Rosengren

My newest pick, just started last night.

For the kiddos:

Benny and Penny in Lights Out!

Geoffrey Hayes

We are currently a little obsessed with Toon Books, an imprint of Candlewick, who produces graphic novels specifically for younger readers. My 5yo is reading (devouring!) the level 2 books independently. We picked up a couple of the Benny and Penny books at our library last week. Though the genders are reversed from what is in our household, I think she she’s herself and her brother in the sibling relationship.

Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly

Grace Lin

I’ve read Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, but didn’t realize she’d also penned this early reader series. We’ll be back for more!


Let’s Go for A Drive

Mo Willems

Because we’re always, always, always reading an Elephant & Piggie book :)


Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters

Jane Yolen, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Simple, descriptive, rhyming text. My 5yo has been reading this to my 3yo.

Sebastian and the Balloon

Philip C. Stead

You can always count on Stead to write those quieter books that have a timeless feel, both in text and illustration. They make perfect bedtime/quiet time stories.

Happy Monday, Friends!

What are YOU reading this week?

January 1, 2015

image source



Whether you had a wild night out, or a quiet evening in, like we did, a new year has arrived.

I don’t do resolutions, mostly because I’ve got enough going on already, and trying to remember to start something new just stresses me out.

We do have some “bettering” traditions. We’ve been fixing up our townhouse, bit by bit, for the last 4 years, and we start each year with a list of projects we hope to have completed by December 31st. So there’s that.

And over the month of December, I created a new writing habit, thanks to author Linda Urban’s Write Daily 30 challenge. Thanks to that commitment, I managed to add just shy of 19,000 words to my current project, despite all the craziness (and sickness) in our household during the month of December. I’m continuing that challenge with Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Daily Words.

And because words carry meaning, I’m going to adopt one for the 2015 year. Something I can put up on my bathroom mirror as a reminder everyday. I’m not sure what the word is yet, but I’m working on it.

File:Sunset next to Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawai, USA1.jpg

And then in July, we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary with a kid-free trip to HAWAII! So when I’m not on the computer adding words, I’m on the computer looking at pictures of white beaches, and umbrellas (both the shade kind and the kind in bright pink drinks).

So happy 2015, friends.

May the year bring you all the hopes you have on this, the first day of January.

December 24, 2014


The Christmas Cat

written by Maryann Macdonald

illustrated by Amy June Bates


 I reviewed this book last year, and, for the second year in a row, it has been a favorite with my kiddos.

December 23, 2014


Who is Coming to Our House?

written by Joseph Slate

illustrated by Ashley Wolff


December 22, 2014


The Animals’ Christmas

12th century carol

illustrated by Cheryl Peterson


 This book was published in 1983 by Random House and is no longer in print.

December 21, 2014


You Are My Miracle

written by Maryann Cusimano Love

illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa


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