Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Lovely books from the Pacific Northwest


High quality non-fiction can be hard to find for children, especially at the lower grades. That’s why I was so excited to review these three new offerings from Seattle-based Sasquatch Books. They are fictional picture books, but include so many facts that a K-3 teacher could use them to support several of informational content threads from the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Elliott the Otter: The Totally Untrue Story of Elliott, Boss of the Bay by John Skewes and Eric Ode gives kids a close look at life in Elliott Bay. From tugboats to orcas, Elliot the Otter explains all. He also describes what fish ladders are and why they are so important to salmon.


My daughter is five and a half years old and I feel like she learned a lot of science and social studies from Elliott the Otter. Technically this is a fictional book, because I’m pretty sure we don’t have talking otters in Seattle, but there were so many facts conveyed that it could definitely be used to meet Common Core standards for informational texts.

My daughter and I were both charmed by the colorful illustrations. Elliot himself is very loveable and altogether this was an enjoyable book to share.

Another collaboration from Eric Ode and John Skewes is Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea. When Larry the dog and his human friend Pete go to the beach, Larry sneaks away for a maritime adventure. Or perhaps I should say a “marine biology” adventure because this book is packed with science.

My family recently went to the Aquarium in Vancouver, Canada, and this was an excellent text to reinforce everything we learned about sea life. From the oceans of the world to how tides work, Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea explains crucial concepts with beautiful illustrations and a very cute dog.

I could definitely see this book being part of a K-3 classroom library supporting Common Core standards for informational text, but it’s also a fun book to have at home for bedtime read aloud.

Arrow to Alaska: A Pacific Northwest Adventure, written and illustrated by the talented Hannah Viano, tells the story of a six-year-old boy named Arrow who travels from Seattle to Alaska to visit his grandfather. Along the way Arrow rides on a salmon tender boat with his Aunt Kelly and sees a wide variety of ocean life.

Reading about Arrow’s journey immediately made my daughter and I think about our own trip to Alaska aboard a cruise ship. I wish we had been able to read Arrow to Alaska two years ago when we were on the Celebrity Solstice. Hopefully cruise ships take note and stock this book in their gift shops!

The illustrations in Arrow to Alaska are absolutely stunning and convey the beautiful of the Pacific Northwest in a stylized way. The only criticism I have regards the picture of the coffee mug that has “I Heart Mom” stenciled on the side. The way the “O” is drawn in stencil letters is very confusing for emergent readers and/or individuals with dyslexia. To them the stenciled O looks like a backwards C and they might read it as “M-C-M.” This can be really frustrating for children, especially when “Mom” is one of the first words they are consistently able to decipher.

Mom mugs aside, my daughter and I both loved Arrow to Alaska and would highly recommend it to anyone.

P.S. I received free copies of all three books from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

What the film “Home” can teach kids about Autism

When I took my kids to see the 2015 animated film “Home” I was blown away. To me as a person who loves many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it seemed like the entire movie was a parable for what it’s like for kids with ASD as they attempt to navigate life.

The hook of “Home” is that aliens called the Boov invade Earth and relocate all human beings. As a species, Boovians are cowardly, antisocial, and strict rule followers. They avoid confrontation whenever possible. But Oh, the main character, is different from the rest of the Boov. He is eager to make friends and fit in, yet everything he does annoys his neighbors. When Oh tries his hardest to blend in, he sticks out the worst. The customs of his fellow Boov are foreign to Oh. They speak a social language he can barely understand.

Facial expressions also confound Oh. He doesn’t understand when another Boov is angry with him. When Oh attempts to make friendly conversation, he drives Boovians further away.

Despite his lack of social awareness, Oh is quite brilliant. He’s a mechanical genius, even by the advanced technological standards of his fellow aliens. Oh has a gigantic heart and proves himself to be a loyal friend.

Jim Parsons did an exceptional job voicing Oh and made him a loveable character in spite–and because of–his quirks.

As a former teacher, I think “Home” could be a great tool for classroom conversations because it could help neurotypical children empathize with students who have ASD. “Home” can also help children better understand relatives who have ASD which is an ongoing topic in so many households today.

Besides all that “Home” is entertaining too!

“Deception on Sable Hill” by Shelley Gray

I am very picky when it comes to historical fiction–and I enjoyed Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray immensely. It has the perfection combination of great storytelling, good writing, and enough historically accurate detail to earn my admiration and respect. I detest historical fiction books that go of course in terms of authenticity, but Deception on Sable Hill stays true to the time period.

At its heart, the book is a romance between the wealthy Eloisa Carstairs and the middle class Sean Ryan, an Irishman who has worked his way up in the police force to become a detective. Set in 1893 against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair, Eloisa confides in Sean that she is a sexual assault victim.

As a reader, I enjoyed the novel because in was a great story. As a writer, I was impressed by Shelley Gray’s mastery of the craft. This is probably something most people won’t notice, but she hardly ever uses sentence tags like “he said” or “she asks.” The dialogue is seamless and this is part of what makes Gray’s book so gripping.

Deception on Sable Hill is the second book in the The Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, but it holds up exceptionally well as a stand-alone novel. I have not read Secrets of Sloane House but I did not feel lost at all. In fact, I loved Deception on Sable Hill so much that I am definitely interested in reading the entire series.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

I review for BookLook Bloggers