Spork, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is a charming book about what it’s like when someone–be they kitchen utensil or human–is trying to find their place in the world.

Spork doesn’t exactly fit in. His dad is a fork, and his mom is a spoon. He’s both and neither at the same time. He tries to be more spoon-ish, but that upsets the forks. When he tries to be like the forks, the spoons get mad. Spork just can’t win. Spork wonders if there are others like him in the kitchen, those who don’t really match anything else…those who are never picked to be at the table.

One day, when Spork is feeling particularly low, a strange, messy “thing” arrives and throws the kitchen into chaos. Neither the spoons nor the forks can handle this being, but Spork thinks he might have what it takes. He could be just right for the job.

Read Spork to learn how one little utensil finally finds his way to the table.

Spork is a great picture book to emphasize the importance of individuality, diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. I think it would be especially relevant in the hands of students from multiracial backgrounds. Spork, in it’s own special way, shows readers that everyone has their own unique place in the world and that they don’t need to be just like everyone else.

The paperback version of Spork, published by Kids Can Press, will be released on April 4th, 2017.

Dog vs. Cat

Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Dog and Cat are both going to live with Mr. and Mrs. Button. Unfortunately, these two very different pets have to share a room. Everything starts out okay, but it doesn’t take long for them to start annoying each other.

Dog is messy, chatty, and likes to sniff everything. Cat is neat, quiet (except at night), and claws everything in sight. They decide to divide up their room, but that doesn’t end well, either.

When there’s a new arrival in their home, Dog and Cat realize they must put aside their differences and figure out how to deal with the situation–together.

Will Dog and Cat be able to find common ground? Will this new arrival change everything? Find out when you read Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall!

Dog vs. Cat is a charming book that will appeal to readers young and old. Young readers will enjoy the story of how Dog and Cat are different and eventually come together. Older readers will delight in the fun little details in the illustrations. With any age group, Dog vs. Cat is a wonderful read-aloud and is perfect for discussions about perspective, working together, and appreciating differences.

I created the book trailer below to promote Dog vs. Cat in my own library. Feel free to use it in yours!


Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is a nominee for the 2016-2017 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Mrs. Poodle loved her four puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Three of the puppies stayed very small, had lovely manners, and were very graceful. Then there was Gaston. Gaston didn’t look like the other puppies. He had to work very hard to be like them, and things didn’t always go his way. But they were a family, and they loved each other.

One day at the park, the Poodle family came across the Bulldog family. It didn’t take long for them to realize that something was amiss. It seems that Gaston, who was actually a bulldog, may have been mixed up with Antoinette, a tiny member of the Bulldog family who was actually a poodle.

Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog decided to let Gaston and Antoinette choose where they belonged, and they quickly discovered that, though they might look similar to their new “siblings,” they acted very differently. What if they were right where they were supposed to be all along?

Gaston is an adorable book that is perfect for children (and adults) who are adopted or part of blended families. Its message of belonging with the people who love and accept you is a great one.

Gaston is a great read-aloud, and I think young readers will love comparing and contrasting the poodle and bulldog families, even though there is a bit of stereotyping involved here. (Poodles are supposed to be feminine and tender while bulldogs are masculine and tough.) Gaston and Antoinette challenge those stereotypes, but teachers, parents, and librarians might want to give those misconceptions a bit of attention.

If you’d like to promote this book in your classroom or library, here is a short book trailer I created.

The Art of Miss Chew

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco was nominated for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Young Patricia is a gifted artist, but she has some difficulty taking timed tests. With the help of a great teacher, Patricia is given more time to work, and she’s also led to Miss Chew. After school, Miss Chew teaches Patricia all about art and encourages the girl’s remarkable talent.

One day, a substitute teacher comes along and tries to convince others that Patricia wouldn’t have problems with tests if she spent more time studying and less time on art. Luckily, Miss Chew (and other adults in Patricia’s life) comes to the rescue, and Patricia is given the guidance and support she needs.

The Art of Miss Chew emphasizes the importance of good teachers and the positive impact these individuals can have on our lives. (After all, the girl in this story, Patricia Polacco herself, has gone on to be a prolific author and illustrator!) This book also demonstrates the power of art and would be an excellent addition to art teachers’ classroom libraries.

Exclamation Mark

Exclamation Mark, written and illustrated by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Exclamation Mark, or !, tells the tale of the most exciting (and often overused) punctuation mark. All ! wanted to do was fit in, but, as the saying goes, “He was born to stand out.” He tries everything he can to be like the marks around him, but nothing works.

One day, an encounter with a rather annoying question mark, makes this little exclamation mark snap, and a whole new world opens up to him! He finds his voice, and he learns that it’s okay to be different. Being different is what makes him special.

Along with learning a little about punctuation, I think this charming book could be used to teach kids that it’s okay to be different. (I tell my students constantly that normal is boring.)

I love the simple illustrations in this book, especially that the background on each page is that lovely, elementary writing paper.

This is definitely a book that I will share with my 1st and 2nd grade students. (My K5 kids may not fully grasp punctuation yet.) In older grades, this book could serve as a way to make punctuation just a little more fun.

Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose

Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose, written by Nancy Gow and illustrated by Stephen Costanza, is nominated for the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

This book is probably my favorite of this year’s SCPBA nominees. The story of a young princess with huge feet and a prince with a big nose is awesome for teaching young–and older–readers the value of looking past appearances and seeing a person’s inner beauty. (This is definitely a lesson that needs to be taught throughout the school years and beyond.) The book also shows readers how important it is to accept themselves as they are, even the things they may not really like about themselves. (Again, this is a lesson that everyone could stand to learn.)

When I share this book with my students, I plan to pair it with Shrek. I may even have them write their own fairy tale or love story where the two characters aren’t the beauty queens and handsome princes that they’ve always been taught to expect.

Polar Opposites

Polar Opposites by Erik Brooks, a nominee for the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award, is about a polar bear and a penguin and how they are opposites in every way. One lives in the Arctic; the other lives in the Antarctic. One is neat; one is messy. The list goes on and on, and there are even some “opposites” that are not outright mentioned. I especially enjoyed learning that one is a Republican while the other is a Democrat (glimpsed in campaign posters on their walls). Both are baseball fans, but one pulls for the Red Sox while the other roots for the (hated) Yankees.

This book teaches lessons on opposites as it lets readers know that it’s okay to be different; we can always meet in the middle. (In this case, the Galapagos Islands!)

The text in this book is very easy to read, and the illustrations are absolutely charming and have tons of little details that older readers will appreciate. A definite winner!