Chris Harris has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a worthy heir to Silverstein, Seuss, and even Ogden Nash.” I couldn’t agree more. Some of his shorter poems are as pithy and to the point as Nash’s “Purple Cow.”

“I’ve never seen a purple cow,

I hope I never see one.

But, I can tell you anyhow,

I’d rather see than be one”!

Here is an example from Harris’s I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense/for Mischevious Kids and Immature Grownups:

“Jack Sprat could ear no fat.

His wife could eat no lean.

He lived to be one hundred three;

She died at seventeen.”

I particularly love parodies and have come across some excellent ones lately. Here is Harris’s parody of Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by…

Since then I’ve been completely lost.

Thanks for nothing, Robert Frost”!

It would be remiss not to mention the fantastic, comical illustrations by Lane Smith.  The combination of the poems (?) and drawings will make any kid (or “immature adult”) chuckle.



With the thought that kids from the early days of TV and on into the 60s often watched cartoons on TV on Saturday mornings while parents tried to go back to sleep, this post gives recommendations for books kids might be equally occupied with.

Is Your Mama a Llama,  written by Deborah Guarino and illustrated by Steven Kellog, is today’s selection/recommendation.

A baby llama asks his animal friends, each in his turn, “Is your mama a llama”? Each animal, a bat, a gosling, a calf, a seal, a kangaroo give a fact about their mamas, leading the baby llama to conclude none of the animals’ mamas are llamas. At the end, he finds whose mama is a llama–his own! The ending picture of the baby llama snuggled up against his mama llama gives the very young reader a sense of closure and security.  The repetition of the question, “Is your mama a llama”? is appealing to the very young as is the rhythm of the words. There is a loose rhyme scheme as well, making this a very good go-to-sleep-now story.


Today’s selection is a delightfully illustrated story, Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina. It won the Pura Belpre Award and was a 2019 publication.  The author, who was born and grew up in Bogota, Columbia, often was reprimanded in school for drawing cartoons of her teachers. This book, however, is a pure delight of cartoons, lovingly drawn and labeled of Juana and her dog, Lucas. The plot alone is engaging when Juana must learn a very hard language–English in order to earn the reward of going to *SPACELAND* (the equivalent of Disney World).  She describes her difficulties to her abuelo, (grandfather) “No matter how hard I try, there’s always more to learn and to practice. It all seems so pointless. When it comes to the English, it never seems to get any easier.”

Will Juana earn her trip? Will she get over her dislike of learning English?

A second book, also published in 2019, Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas, finds Juana dealing with life-problems bigger than learning English. Her mother has a new friend, Luis, who likes her mom and maybe Juana very much. Will Luis want to take her father’s place in Juana’s heart? Will she have to leave Bogota, the only home she has ever known? How will Lucas adjust if they have to move?

This is a real story about real problems faced by a real girl who has a real friend in her loyal dog.  Read this new author and enjoy, as I did, meeting Juana and her dog, Lucas.


Believe it or not, one thing I always had to teach to my Advanced Writing students at the university was “proper” comma usage. I would give a pretest on placing needed commas or removing unnecessary ones, and those who made less than 90%/85% (depending on the class and the majors involved) would be scheduled to meet during class time for small-group grammar instruction. Students who exempted out were allowed to come anywhere from thirty minutes to forty-five minutes later for the start of class the next week.

A book I found most helpful in this endeavor was Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Why Commas Really DO Make a Difference, Children’s version, by Lynn Truss (original author) and illustrated by Bonnie Timmons. Each time one opens the book, a sentence on the left side, illustrated by a cartoon, shows a sentence punctuated one way, then its counterpart, with the comma treated differently, is illustrated on the page on the right. For example, A sentence on the left says, “Get him doctors!” while the cartoon shows a kid who has just fallen off the monkey bars, flat on his back, as a woman points to other kids ordering them to run for a doctor. On the right, the same sentence is punctuated, “Get him, doctors!” and shows one kid “liberating” a hospital (in the background) kid-patient, running off with the little boy in the wheelchair, while an orderly shouts the message to doctors (complete with stethoscopes) standing nearby.

My favorite, which never failed to crack up junior high students back in the day had a left-hand page saying, “Eat here, and get gas” complete with cartoon minimart and gas pump while people filled up their cars and ate hot dogs and other fast-food delights. On the right, however, one is inside a restaurant, patrons are sitting at tables while one unlucky lady is flying through the air, expelling gas like a recently released balloon, and the caption has no comma: “Eat here and get gas.”

This book is a delight and as helpful as the best selling grammar handbook  (NOT an oxymoron, Truss’s grammar handbook was on the NY Times bestseller list for over a year.) Eat, Shoots, and Leaves, adult version for teaching grammar and punctuation “basics.”

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS (On Saturday Evening–Again!)

At least I have a good excuse this Saturday. This is Memorial Day Weekend here on the Texas Gulf Coast, and on my weekend “off;” yes, we retired people have weekends and some times days “off”–off from the routines and schedules of daily life.

Today’s recommendation is for kids of ALL ages, a YOUTUBE video, three of them, in fact.  I received some discarded paperback copies of Thatcher Hurd’s Mama Don’t Allow, Reading Rainbow, book, which can be found on YouTube. (“Reading Rainbow Book in HD, ‘Mama Don’t Allow’).  Hurd’s drawings are priceless and are recommended especially for ages 4-8. To make this a “family affair,” view the YouTube video, “Mama Don’t Allow” by the “Jive Aces Skiffle Combo,” a hilarious, slapstick video which will give you the tune, sung in all its ridiculous splendor. Even Pokey LaFartage’s Live Back Stage Central Time Tour, “Mama Don’t Allow” will give the whole family a toe-tapping, knee-slapping, hand clapping good time together. Make up your own words, and there you have it, an enjoyable few moments of family fun!


If you or your young ones have not read the “Arthur the Aardvark” series, finding these helpful, amusing, humorous-at-times books, should be the first priority on your child’s reading list. Written by Marc Brown, the series teaches family values, as it reinforces a child feeling good about himself/herself.

I have recommended these books at the primary school where I volunteer, and yesterday, a lovely young fourth grader, Liliana, donated to my Little Free Library her whole collection of 18  hardback,  “Arthur” books published by Advance Publications.  She has moved up to “The Baby Sitter Club” series and other age-appropriate stand-alones.



Today’s (Saturday, May 11th) recommendations for kids are both “classics.” Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice is aimed at early readers or wannabee readers. It teaches children the months by using Sendak’s delightful illustrations, each month cleverly linked to something about chicken soup. For example, accompanying a sketch of a happy whale, spouting chicken soup from his blowhole, is the following poem,

In November’s

gusty gale

I will flop

my flippy tail,

and spout hot soup.

I’ll be a whale!

Spouting once

Spouting twice

spouting chicken soup with rice.

When I read Sendak’s “teaching poems,” I was reminded by my all-time-favorite aid for teaching “color poems” to students from grades five to graduate students at the university, Halistones and Halibut Bones, written by Mary O’Neill. O’Neill covers the colors of the spectrum, and my personal edition, published in 1989, is gorgeously illustrated by John Walker.

When approaching a group/class of students, I ask them to shout out their favorite color. One poem at a time, I read the poem for each color. Each poem includes the taste, sight, sound, feel, and smell of the color described. The color red begins with ” What is red?/ Red is a sunset/ Blazy and Bright. / Red is feeling brave/ With all your might.” The poem on pink includes “…Pink is peachbloom/ Gauzy…frail/ The wind’s exquisite wedding veil.” My favorite line is “…The sound of black is / Boom! Boom! Boom! / Echoing in an empty room.”   The concluding poem states, “…For colors dance / And colors sing, / And colors laugh/ And colors cry—/ Turn off the light/ And colors die. / And they make you feel/ Every feeling there is/ From the grumpiest grump/ To the fizziest fizz./ And you and you and I/ Know well/ Each has a taste/ And each has a smell/ And each has a wonderful story to tell….”

These books are special to the young children who hear or sound out the words as they read them, and to the parents and teachers who experience the books with each child or student affected by the poems contained within their pages.



It is not unusual for neighbors to place books they’ve read in my Little Free Library. Interestingly, some books are lovingly worn from re-reading, some are books assigned for the current semester at the local schools, and some are obviously the products of someone’s attempts to clean out clutter or downsize. The other day, some wonderful, anonymous neighbor (I have my suspicions as to who you are.) donated three brand-spanking-new copies of Gordon Kramer’s ReStart. I vaguely remember a car stopping to chat mentioning Kramer, a YA author, whom I registered a “mental memo” about to “get with it” and look for at Half Price Books, but the person in the car evidently bought three copies of this wonderful book first before I could act on it. (Obviously, I am guessing as to who did this good deed.)

The book was the best YA novel I have read this year. It was so good that I put a crease in the paperback cover because I kept holding it up while reclining on my back, not wanting to turn out the light and sleep! The subtitle is, “Lose your memory…find your life.” Fourteen-year-old Chase “comes to” in a hospital to discover that he doesn’t know anything–anything! The doctors tell him he fell off a roof, and he meets people he doesn’t remember, his mother, father, brother, and two big football players who inform him they are his best friends. When Chase returns to eighth grade, “Some kids treat him as a hero; some kids are clearly afraid of him.” Who is Chase? His attempts to find out and what he does find out about the kind of person he was is a zany, funny, read with plenty of “mysteries,” complications, puzzles, and many revelations.

ReStart talks to teens directly, yet never lectures or preaches. I am sure kids will enjoy the book as much as I did.


Kids who are in high school or junior high love graphic novels. Some are too violent, some too sexy, some too horror-prone to be healthy reading for adolescents. However, today’s selection for junior high and high school kids, a graphic novel by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe, sends important messages which are expressed in the dedications by each:

“To India, Milo, and anyone who’s ever sought to stand out in a crowd–A.H.”

“For my fellow cartoonists out there, who inspire me to draw–P.H.”

And the title? There is none. A single peanut–lifelike, stands against an indescribable shade of blue. At the bottom are the author’s names–nothing else. The drawing throughout the novel is “special” (and inspiring) to young readers who are budding cartoonists or constant doodlers. The writing is straight-forward, and authentically represents the dialog of teens.

The protagonist and narrator, a freshman in high school who is changing schools, decides to fake a peanut allergy to stand out as “the new girl” because she feels she is not special enough or different enough to “fit in” or find a circle of friends. She is conflicted, like most teens, between conforming and standing out. True to the formula of many teen novels, she tells a lie and then bears the repercussions and consequences when the lie is “found out.” The author’s scenes where the girl almost confesses the lie, then does not, create anxiety and concern in the reader. One turns the pages rapidly to find out what is going to happen next.

And the ending? So many possible outcomes are expected by readers, but the reality is a surprise! Although an adult, I enjoyed this graphic novel greatly and admired the talents of both Halliday and Hoppe; my mind often shouted, “Yay!” as I shifted into the thinking/reading styles of my former eighth and ninth graders. I highly recommend this book for all ages.



One day I hope to meet the girl/young lady (?) who donated today’s recommendation to my Little Free Library. I had just finished Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, about a black, land-holders family, struggling to “make it” in the rural South during Depression Days, when a gorgeous purple 5″x7″ book turned up. That’s part of the fun of an LFL, people put books in as well as take them out. On the cover were black and white photos of a stately, African American woman, dressed for church; a young girl, about eleven, striking a pose that indicates she has a mind of her own; a tiny sleeping baby, and a typical southern bungalow-styled home; a typical Sunday dinner, complete with cornbread and collard greens. From the lady’s hat, dress, and pearls, the reader might guess that the lady is a relative of the girl or a respected woman of the girl’s community. All this is set against a rich, purple background. The author’s name, Barbara Hathaway. The title: Missy Violet and Me. The “me” turns out to be Hathaway’s grandmother, who like the family in Thunder, lived during the Great Depression.

The story is based on true stories told to the writer by her mother about her grandmother’s life as a young girl The photos comprising the cover must be family photos. Viney, an eleven-year-old girl narrates the story, for it is her story, hers and the town’s midwife, Miss Violet, “…one of the most looked-up-to ladies in Richmond County.” As the book opens, Viney’s sister is delivered by Miss Violet, and Viney hears her shamed father tell Miss Violet that he cannot pay. She reminds him that he still owes her for the delivery of the last child, and suggests that Viney work off his debt by assisting her in her practice. When her father agrees, Viney is so excited and feels so important that she sings softly under her breath as she goes off to bed, “Gonna’ work for Miss Violet! Gonna’ work for Miss Violet; gonna’ catch me some babies.”

It is a lovely, “soft” encouraging story for a young girl in upper elementary or junior high.   It is appealing, not only because of the cover’s beauty and its petite, “thin” size (LOL) but because of the influence a mentor can have on a child’s life. The author describes how Viney’s education/apprenticeship leads to her vocation and the finding of her identity. Perhaps because I am a teacher, I was inspired by Miss Violet’s methods and compassion, agreeing with her: Yes, mentoring a young woman-to-be is ‘worth it’. The “Kristin M. Soto,” who donated the book and decorated the inside, right, purple, fronts- page in silver pencil, adding curlicues and  “favorites”: “cats/pizza/softball/art/[and the color] lime green” in her design. I would love to someday meet this woman and invite her in for a cup of tea and conversation.