blogpromoI’d long wanted to visit the places Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote about in her Little House series. During the summer, I finally got to travel the Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway.

My traveling companions–son Breece, niece Avery, my mom–and I covered more than 2,500 miles during our pilgrimage. We’ve been blogging about our Little Journey on the Prairie at Reading Rockets and that’s where you should go to read about what three generations of readers saw, learned and loved about each historic site. There’s also a bit of advice for those planning to make their own little journey and plenty of ideas for parents and educators who want to help kids connect to the stories and history of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family.

But here’s where I’ll offer some additional insights and photos as things strike me or as I learn even more about Laura from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Massive Online Course from Missouri State University.

Here’s your first tidbit:

jackLaura’s best friend was a brindle bulldog named Jack. Brindle refers to the color of the dog. Brindle is brownish or tawny with streaks of other color. Did you know that?

And did you know that when Charles Ingalls traded away the ponies, Pet and Patty, Jack was part of the deal? The real Jack didn’t travel back from the prairie and never once played along the banks of Plum Creek.

Dear, faithful Jack!

Summer is a great time to get a little crazy in the kitchen and for food-related field trips! At Random Acts of Reading, you’ll find my Dr. Seuss inspired recipes that will take your reading and cooking adventures on beyond Green Eggs and Ham.

You’ll also find food fun, like these One Fish Two Fish Treats at

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Reading Rockets has cooked up some great food fun centered around paired fiction and nonfiction books. Check out these Reading Adventure Packs for getting creative in the kitchen:

Each Reading Adventure Pack includes great book recommendations. But if you want to sample some other food and cooking related titles, try these: 

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger

How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake: A Book About Kitchen Chemistry by Joanna Cole

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Looking for true love this Valentine’s Day? Connect a kid with a book and watch the sparks fly!

The wise and wonderful Katherine Paterson said, “It is a sign of wonderful love and affection to read aloud to someone, and we love it. So, we should never stop reading aloud.”

Make some book love this Valentine’s Day! Read aloud with your loved ones and enjoy these titles about a love for books and reading.


The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herm Auch



I Am the Book: Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Yayo




The Library by Sarah Stewart. Pictures by David Small




But Excuse Me That is My Book by Lauren Child




 That Book Woman by Heather Henson. Pictures by David Small




Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke




The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers. Pictures by John Holyfield



Have a very happy Who-liday when you visit Who-ville this Christmas season!

Enjoy enchanting scenery and local musical performances

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 Dig in to delicious local foods
Since the Grinch took the last can, sample this Who Hash featuring
leftover Roast Beast

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Or remember the Grinch with a sweet and tasty souvenir

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 Send holiday love to friends and family

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 And relax with a good book

It was delightful to chat with Kathleen Dunn and her callers today about encouraging and motivating kids to read. Listen here if you want to hear the thistle tongue twister, how to be a reading role model, and ideas to make reading fun and fundamental to your kids.




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There’s no better ode to the Earth than Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax!

Find all kinds of reading and recycling fun for Earth Day in my article for Random House Kids For Parents.

And when you visit Seussville you’ll find my recipe for Truffula Tree cake, directions for making a recycled page corner bookmark, along with activities, crafts and more.

Elephant Ironing by Katherine Whitney

The reading party here at Belle of the Book is about to get rocking again. Things have always been a bit too static on these pages, so it’s time to make it more fun for everyone—including me—to visit.

The decorations committee is now in the capable hands of the extremely talented Katherine Whitney. The art shown here is part of a collection of handmade cards Katherine created for Mingei World Arts in Decatur, Georgia.

These whimsical creatures enlivening their everyday activities with books were exactly the kind of party animals I needed to meet. Katherine’s art inspired me to ask her to create original art for Belle of the Book and got me to focus again on why motivating kids to read is so important.

Your invitation to the new Belle of the Book is coming soon! In the meantime, please let me know what kind of reading fun, ideas, and resources for reading activities and events you’d like to find here.

Moose Fishing by Katherine Whitney

Pasha Painting by Katherine Whitney

Many readers know D.E.A.R.—or Drop Everything And Read—as sustained silent reading for pleasure during school time. National D.E.A.R. Day extends the idea to families. With so many other activities and forms of entertainment to choose from, National D.E.A.R. Day offers parents a gentle reminder that reading together on a daily basis should be a family priority. 

Who better to share this message than beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary? This national literacy campaign takes place on her April 12 birthday. Families are encouraged by campaign spokesperson, Cleary’s delightful and mischievous character Ramona Quimby, to read together at home or join other families and celebrate reading with local schools, libraries and bookstores.

  • If you’ve forgotten how much fun spending time with Ramona can be, HarperCollins Children’s Books has the first chapter of Beezus and Ramona available for online reading.
  • National D.E.A.R. Day partner Reading Rockets has a video interview with Beverly Cleary and a fun audio podcast where Mrs. Cleary answers readers’ questions.
  • A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet, Beverly Cleary’s autobiography in two books, are excellent and at the top of my favorites list of author memoirs. Either title makes for wonderful D.E.A.R. Day reading.
  • There are also great D.E.A.R. ideas and activities at HarperCollins Children’s Books’ Drop Everything and Read site.

Since this week is National Library Week, today is the perfect day to spend some quality family time at the library. What are you waiting for? Drop everything, head to the library, and READ!

Now that I’ve been a mother for nearly 13 years, I’m finally starting to identify—somewhat—with the grown-ups in children’s literature.

You are what you read, so I think that as a mom, I am in part product of all the moms I met in the books I read growing up:

  • Part Max’s mother in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, I’ve yelled at my kids and sent them to their rooms.
  • My own less furry version of the quiet old lady whispering hush in Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. When my youngest was adjusting to his big boy bed, he wanted me to sit with him until he fell asleep. I obliged and kept sitting there long after he fell asleep.
  • Slight sprinkling of Almanzo Wilder’s mother from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. I’m industrious, but not nearly as industrious as Mother Wilder.
  • A bit Mrs. Hatcher from Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. As the oldest sibling in my family, I had to agree with Peter that his mom let Fudge get away with too much. But now from a mother’s perspective, I totally understand her mistakes and appreciate more her willingness to admit them.
  • Part Quimby. Beezus and Ramona’s parents who showed me characters more like my own parents, especially in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Her Father, with a full-time working mom (like my own mother) and a dad at home (though my dad was unemployed by choice—a devoted househusband).
  • A little like Mama in Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind-Family. I’ve especially tried to borrow from her gentle and creative ways to motivate kids to do their chores. Though I’ve also found myself borrowing from Jennifer’s mother in The Big Tidy-Up by Norah Smaridge.
  • A tad Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables adoptive mother. Something in me thinks I need to hold back my sense of humor to keep the kids in line. And my children will verify I’m not here to spoil them.
  • Careful not to be the moms in Paula Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit or The Pistachio Prescription. Even at age 11, I could see the angst these mothers generated in their daughters was something to avoid.
  • Big Witch from Patricia Coombs’ Dorrie series was always off to some important witch meeting and it made an impression that Dorrie was impressed by this. Big Witch could be a witch and a mother and even if that meant leaving Dorrie alone with Gink sometimes, she always came back.

There are also so many books where the mother doesn’t have the biggest role in the story, but you can tell by the heroics of the son or daughter that she knew how to raise a brave, resourceful, creative child. Those are the moms that make up the bulk of me as a mother. My kids are in my life story, but they’ve got their own to write too. I hope I can step back and give them just the right amount of space to explore and thrive.

I’m sure that now I’ve started thinking about this, lots of other titles and characters will come to mind. Any come to mind for you?

Sharing books in the great outdoors is a simple and wonderful way to celebrate Earth Day. While you’re out with your young readers, take the opportunity to note and discuss things that need changing or improving to help protect our planet.

This conversation can be helped along by the books you read together. Some good choices to read aloud are:

And don’t forget The Lorax. I recently wrote a new set of family reading activities for Reading Rockets centered around two classic books: Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and “Tell Me, Tree” by Gail Gibbons. Suggestions for this Lorax family reading adventure include journaling up-close observations of trees, creating your own tree identification book, writing or recording your own tree tale, or celebrating Earth Day (and National Poetry Month) with a community “poetree.”

Delightful Children’s Books also had some excellent suggestions for Earth Day reading with this post:  Celebrate Earth Day with These Children’s Books. This Earth Day blog meme from the Sage Butterfly should generate some interesting recommended reading as well.

Myself, I’m interested ideas for reusing and recycling books that are beyond passing on to other readers. Check out this library information desk at Delft University made from recycled books or these beautiful book purses by Rebound Designs. Let me know about other cool uses for books that you’ve seen.

Happy Earth Day!