Happy Halloween! Watch My Pumpkin Rot Video!

Last Halloween I reviewed a fascinating book called Rotten Pumpkin (Creston Books), written by David M Schwartz and photographed by Dwight Kuhn, and was inspired to try my hand at photographing my own pumpkin as it decomposed. Here in tropical South Florida our carved pumpkins start to rot within hours, and with all the rain we had last fall, mine rotted in just 10 days! Enjoy the Pumpkin Rot Video . . .

Read my interview with the author and illustrator of Rotten Pumpkin.

Happy Halloween!

Have a fun and safe night  trick or treating with your kids!

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I made this pumpkin pie slice costume for my daughter 15 years ago out of foam and fabric. The fork and can of whipped cream are made out of ppaper mâché and paint.

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I carved a flying witch on broom out of the pumpkin. The flat pumpkin in the front near the hand is a painted sea grape leaf! First I pressed it for 5 days so it could dry out and just used craft paints. I’m going to save it for my Thanksgiving decorations too, and it will even store well for next year.

Spaghetti Smiles: How One Small Boy Solves a Very Big Problem

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Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.
 

•    Targeted Audience: Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 5-8)
•    Genre: Fiction Picture Book
•    Author: Margo Sorenson
•    Illustrator: David Harrington
•    Publisher: Pelican Publishing
•    Publication Date: September 15, 2013
•    Binding: Hard Cover
•    Dimensions: 11.5 X 8.5
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 32 Pages
•    Retail: $16.95
•    ISBN: 978-1455619221

After making my favorite dinner last night – spaghetti and turkey meatballs, I reached for this book to review . . .

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Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

Uncle Rocco’s Got a Problem

Image 2Jake is a boy who loves to read books to his Uncle Rocco. But Uncle Rocco’s too distracted these days. His Italian restaurant, that has been so popular in the past, is in desperate need of a new neighbor, one that will bring him some new customers. Jake cant bear the thought of losing his reading time with his uncle so he sets out to find Uncle Rocco the perfect new neighbor by visiting nearby businesses and asking them if they’d considering moving next door. But for one (humorous) reason or another, none of the business owners want to move.  What if Jake never finds the perfect business to move next door? What will happy to Uncle Rocco’s restaurant?

Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

“My gas station?” Mr. Pumper asked. “The gas pumps would pump tomato sauce instead of gas. Customers would get olive oil added to their engines instead of motor oil.”

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Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

A Silly, Creative Storyline with Great Messages

Jake is so eager to help his uncle and to be able to keep reading books to him that he springs into action right away. Each of the business owners Jake meets has a silly reason for not wanting to move next door to an Italian restaurant. The lady at the bank is afraid customers would get pepperoni slices instead of quarters by accident and the man at the post office fears messy lasagna would be mailed all over the world. But then Jake gets a brilliant idea, and with his motivation and determination, he doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants. Readers discover the rewards of kindness, the benefits of creative problem-solving and the love of reading.
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Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

Why You’ll Love This Book

Spaghetti Smiles provides readers with a wonderful, humorous read-out-loud opportunity. Children will stay engaged as they laugh at the words and pictures. There’s a lot of dialog, keeping the action going. Illustrator David Harrington’s colorful images and characters with animateed facial expressions are a perfect match for the story. And Uncle Rocco’s business problems offer a real life introduction to entrepreneurship. All that plus the fact that the focus is on books and reading makes Spaghetti Smiles a real winner.
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Images from Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by David Harrington, © 2014 by David Harrington, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

Buy Spaghetti Smiles here

About the Author

ph_margo_palmAward-winning author Margo Sorenson was born in Washington, DC, but spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, cultivating her love for reading. After teaching at the middle- and high-school levels, Sorenson became a full-time writer of children’s and young adult fiction. Through her characters, Sorenson hopes to introduce kids to new ideas and experiences.

About the Illustrator Harrington, David

David Harrington’s affinity for art began at a young age, when he drew on everything—except paper. Since receiving a BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, he has illustrated numerous children’s books, including Pelican’s Pecos Bill Invents the Ten-Gallon Hat, winner of the WWA Spur Award, Chachalaca Chiquita, Ole! Cinco de Mayo!, and The Boy Who Wouldn’t Read.

If you like this book, you’ll also want to read:
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If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

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Cover image courtesy of Kids Can Press

If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

  • Targeted Audience: Upper Elementary, Middle School (Ages 8-12)
  • Genre:  Non-Fiction
  • Author: David J. Smith
  • Illustrator:Steve Adams
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2014
  • Binding: Hard Cover
  • Dimensions: 9.5″ x 9.5″
  • Printing: Full color
  • Length: 40 Pages
  • Retail: $16.95
  • ISBN: 978-1894786348

“If all the food produced around the world in one year were represented by a loaf of bread with 25 slices…11 slices would come from Asia, 5 from South and Central America, 4 from Europe, 2 3/4 from North America, 2 from Africa, 1/2 from Oceania.”

Breaking Down the Universe Into Smaller Pieces

Author and teacher, David J Smith takes imposing facts about the universe and everything in it and breaks them down into more understandable comparisons for young minds to ponder.  Each two-page spread presents another topic: Our Galaxy; The Planets; History of Earth; Life on Earth; Events of the Last 3000 Years; Inventions Through Time; Inventions of the Last 1000 years; The Continents; Water; Species of Living Things: Money; Energy; Life Expectancy; Population Food and Your Life. Subjects that seem too grandiose to truly comprehend are not only more easily digested but also more fascinating to young readers. David compresses and compares time, quantity and size to help readers put all these subjects into perspective, without being copy heavy. David’s topics in the book are illustrated by Steve Adams, adding a visual learning aspect to the mix.

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© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Kids Can Press

What This Book Teaches

In addition to helping readers grasp what, on the surface, seems too daunting to even try to understand, If… makes readers think outside the box.  Within the 40 pages of this book, there is math, science, human and physical geography, history and more. By reading the facts, children develop their own abilities to break down large tasks into more managable-sized scales. A particular subject a reader may have found too complicated to learn is suddenly attainable. In the back of the book are suggestions for classroom activities and a list of resources for further learning.

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© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Kids Can Press

Why You Should Read This Book

If... is not the first book for children to compare sizes and measurements, but it is originally done with some excellent topics I’ve never seen before. The author manages to keep it simple and yet fascinating. Children who love reading unique and preposterous facts as well as those who have been reluctant learners will love reading this book. The universe is full of ginormous possibilities. If… encourages readers to think in new ways and gives them confidence to learn subjects they may have thought were out of their league. Also, with geography education greatly lacking in our schools, I’m all for any book that broaches this subject. Every middle grade classroom should use this book as a teaching tool. And from what I’ve read about the author, David J. Smith, any student who has had him as a teacher is one lucky kid indeed!

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© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Kids Can Press

About the Author

David J. Smith is a classroom teacher with over 25 years experience teaching middle and high school English, geography and social studies. He achieved davidjsmithnational recognition for his unique method of teaching seventh graders to draw maps of the entire world from memory, now published as a highly successful curriculum, “Mapping the World by Heart.” In 1992, Smith won the U.S. Department of Education’s “A+ for Breaking the Mold” Award for his work. Since 1992, he has been a full-time educational consultant. David Smith lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

About the Illustrator

steveadams3After studying graphic design, Steve Adams traveled to Europe to see illustration and design from a different point of view. Upon his return, he began collaborating with various clients such as The Wall Street Journal, Havard Business Review, Citigroup, American Lawyer, CA Magazine, The Globe & Mail, La Presse, L’actualité, Barefoot Books, Penguins Books, Dominique et compagnie. He also teaches illustration at Université du Québec à Montréal. Steve lives in Montreal with his wife, two kids and their cat.
Photo Credit: Pierre Manning

Further Learning

  1. Watch the book trailer here.
  2. Check out the teaching guide for this book.
  3. Explore the many resources listed in the back of the book.

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