Picture Book–Dinosaurs in Clothes #1

As a preschool teacher, I am forced to read aloud all kinds of picture books over and over and over. I often wonder who decided to spend money on them in the first place.

This month we have been studying dinosaurs, so I’ve been spending my time mispronouncing dinosaur names by the dozen and trying to keep the more sensitive children (like I would have been) from being traumatized by pictures of dinosaurs fighting and eating each other.  A few books, though, separate themselves from the fold and feature dinosaurs that are just like people. I guess in these books’ world, the dominant life form evolved from reptiles instead of monkeys–kind of like how in the Arthur world everyone evolved from fuzzy animals…

Today I’m going to talk about this little gem: Mama Rex and T Stay Up Late by Rachel Vail.

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The story: Mama Rex has a lot of work to do, so she hurries her son, T, home and tells T to find something quiet to do. T attempts to be good, but spills rocks, sings and dances, and then gets glue all over Mama Rex’s sock. Finally Mama Rex gives T the important job of decorating the folder said important work will be going into. The finishing touches are a pair of rocks he glues in the middle. Spoiler Alert: The last line is “The bigger one is you, and that one is me.” So sweet…

This picture book is divided into chapters. I’m not sure why, since nothing really happens. And the first two pages you open to have over 140 words combined–Not the sort of thing any adult likes to be faced with, especially when T’s attention rambles as much as the narrative. We are given every mundane detail of that long night before T is finally able to go to bed.

Am I being exceedingly picky? Perhaps. The children don’t seem to notice my feelings for the book–too dazzled by those talking dinosaurs, I guess.

Here is my strategy for dealing with certain picture books:

1. Don’t put the book out in the first place (if it’s in my classroom).

2. If #1 is out of my control, hide the book at the bottom of the book basket.

3. If brought to me by one of many children, all holding out different books, conveniently choose all the other children first, and hope the one holding the “special” book loses interest or goes to lunch.

4. If all else fails, read only the first line on each page. Most 3-year-olds won’t know the difference, and hopefully the one on my lap won’t either.

BTW: You can get your own new paperback of Mama Rex and T on Amazon for just $9.81!

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Animals

I am a big animal lover, and so animals appear in all of my works in one way or another. Sometimes I throw them in on the side as a loyal pet or, like in The Hollywood Effect, kind of a device to make a harsh character (Gwen) a little more sympathetic, such as when she shows sympathy to a spider. Sometimes, like in The Partial Garden, they are featured more prominently.

When I was little all my stories had animals as the main characters, and books about people seemed so boring. We had an interesting discussion in my Montessori training course about children’s books that star animals. We wondered if children could sympathize more with animals because they were drawn to them in the first place (such as when my preschoolers all flock to the window every time a person walks a dog by). Young children have a hard enough time just identifying and expressing their own emotions that when they see them in other peers and adults they can be confusing and downright scary. Maybe children actually relate more to animals when they act like people than they would if people act like people…or it could just be that animals are cuter and funnier than people. Who knows?

Anyway, even in my adult targeted books, animals still jump in. They make the books more interesting for me to write.

A Silly Story

Here’s a goofy little story to commemorate the start of my summer. I dedicate it to the kids who have gone on to the Big School (4-6 year-old building).

Once upon a time, in a school far, far away, the children were just settling down for their morning meeting. Suddenly, yellow smoke filled the room, and no one could see. A moment later the smoke cleared, and a witch stood in the middle of the room—at least the kids assumed she was a witch because she had a warty nose, black clothes, and of course, a pointed hat.

“I’m here to cause trouble!” she shouted. “Because everyone here is too kind and sweet.”

She danced in a circle and the kids all turned into cats and dogs.

“Now your parents will make you sleep outside!” she said.

“But my mom lets our kitty sleep in my bed,” one child, Natalie, said.

“Never mind that,” the witch snapped. “Since you’re animals now you don’t have any thumbs, so you can’t open doors or hold silverware or turn the lights on and off.”

“But opening doors and turning on the lights are teacher works,” Nathan said.

“And they never use their silverware at lunch anyway,” Michele, a teacher, added.

The witch’s face turned red. “Now I’ll really make you pay!”

She snapped all ten of her fingers and all of the teachers vanished. “Now you can’t do anything because the teachers aren’t here to help you!”

And she left in another cloud of smoke before Sienna could point out that they could do plenty of things without anyone’s help.

At first the kids weren’t too upset that the teachers were gone. They really enjoyed being cats and dogs, and they ran and played all over the school. Eventually, though, they started to miss those friendly, helpful ladies.

“We should try to find them!” Renée announced.

All the other kids agreed, but they didn’t know where to look, and most of them were afraid to try to leave the school without a grown-up.

Suddenly the front door opened, and three men in spandex entered. They were Batman, Spiderman, and Superman!

“We’ll help you find your teachers!” they said.

The kids cheered and licked the superheroes’ faces.

“There’s too many of you to carry,” Spiderman said. “We’ll have to find another way to travel.”

They all heard a loud whistle from the railroad tracks across the street.

“It’s Thomas!” Cora shouted from the window.

Thomas the Tank Engine agreed to give them all a ride, so they climbed aboard and started their quest.

Along the way, though, the superheroes had to leave to go fight some bad guys, so the kids had to continue on their own.

They’d gone a long way when Matilda screamed, “Stop!”

In front of them was a beautiful, fairy tale castle. Everyone rushed inside to find the princess. All they could find, though, was a tiny pony with a pink mane and tail. The pony, though, had heard about the missing teachers and told the kids they had to go through the dark forest to find them.

Even though they were scared, they went ahead anyway. Some of the kids thought they saw a ghost in the trees, and others thought they saw goblins. What they found, though, ended up being worse than any of that.

The witch was blocking the path, smiling. Before the children could get close to her, she clapped 3 and a half times and created a huge Tyrannosaurus Res that was hungry for some kids to eat—especially kids that looked like kitties and doggies.

The children were terrified at first, but then Tariku shouted, “We can stop him if we work together!”

They did start to work together, and they ran in circles around the t-rex’s feet. The t-rex couldn’t decide which delectable pet to try to eat, and he ended up getting dizzy and fell down. He bumped his head and didn’t get back up. The kids were cheering when Spiderman, Superman, and Batman swooped back in.

Batman put the witch in a headlock and Spiderman took her hat away with a squirt of his web, because everyone knows a witch’s power comes from her hat. The kids crowded around her and barked and meowed and scratched at her legs until she finally said, “Okay, okay, I’ll bring your teachers back.”

She spit on the ground and all of the teachers dropped down from the sky. Everyone cheered. “Could you please turn the children back into humans as well,” Tricia, a teacher, asked.

“All right,” the witch said.

“Awwww,” all the kids said.

Thomas took everyone back to school, and they arrived right before the first parent came to pick them up. All in all it was a wonderful adventure—and they all lived happily ever after. The end.

The Block Castle

CODY IPSUM is five years old and is in my manuscript THE HOLLYWOOD EFFECT. He starred in a movie with his big sister, VALERIE IPSUM. Cody and Valerie both had a lot of fun doing it, though Valerie doesn’t care for the attention her role has brought her, and she wants to live a normal life. Valerie helps Cody make his posts.

“What is green and jumps a lot?”
A frog with hiccups

I made that joke. Valerie helped—she did the hiccups part. I like telling jokes because they’re funny. Everyone laughs different, and I like to see them laugh.

At my school we laugh a lot. My friends Jase and Catalina made a big castle with me. We used all the blocks to make it. The trick to keep a castle from falling down is to put all the big blocks on the bottom. Sometimes you can put a little piece down there, but when it starts to wobble watch out!

Don’t build a castle when Nick is around—he’ll knock it down. And don’t make one after Miss Delmany tells you it’s almost quiet time because she’ll make you put it away even if it’s not done. But yesterday me and Jase and Catalina made the biggest one ever. I let Catalina put the last piece on top because she’s nice and Daddy told me to be nice to girls.

Miss Delmany took a picture and everything. She let me look at the picture on the camera. Jase had his eyes shut, but me and Catalina were smiling. Miss Delmany said she’d give a copy to my mommy to keep. Mommy can put it in her big scraps book. She said it’s all about me, but I’m not allowed to see it until it’s all done. She showed me some pictures in it, though. There’s one from when I was born. I didn’t have any hair in it, but I was smiling. Valerie says I always smiled when I was a baby. I guess that’s why I like to see other people smile now.