Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here Google+

Archive for Holiday Books

Shining Star Read Alouds – The Halloween Edition

Read aloud books, Halloween, halloween books, halloween picture books, halloween books for kids

We LOVE Halloween at our house, and nothing sets the stage for Halloween like a good story.  Here are some of my absolute favorite Halloween books for reading aloud with children.  I haven’t put ages along with the books because spookiness is subjective.  I have put the books in order of spookiness level.  The first books on the list have absolutely NO scary factor, and would be appropriate for the youngest readers and listeners.  The last two books on the list are  full on ghost stories that are fantastic, but will really scare young children and any sensitive child.

I hope that you enjoy these as much as we do!

halloween, halloween books, halloween books for kids, halloween read aloud books

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kidsFive Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Boo Who? A Spooky Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Spooky Wheels on the Bus by J. Elizabeth Mills

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’connell and Jennifer Barrett O’Connell

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Splat the Cat: What Was That? by Rob Scotton

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

big pumpkin cover

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman and S.D. Schindler

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The 13 Nights of Halloween by Guy Vasilovich (sung to tune of 12 days of Christmas)

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Spooky Box by Mark Gonyea

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting and Jan Brett

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen


For Kids a bit older, or who can handle a good clean scare (spooky, but with no violence or gore)

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams and Megan Lloyd

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Teeny-Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky and Arnold Lobel

Halloween, halloween read alouds, Halloween books for kids

The Tailypo: A Ghost Story (Paul Galdone Classics) by Joanna C. Galdone and Paul Galdone

Happy Reading!

Tracy :-)

Great Picture Books and Activities for Celebrating the 4th of July!

Great books and activities for Celebrating the 4th of July at School4Boys

The 4th of July is just a week away, and I decided to put together a set of books to help us learn a bit more about the holiday, and the history behind it. Big A., is very interested in historical stories if they are told in an interesting way (a bit like his mom), so I wanted to find fun stories that were accessible for my little guys, but also show the meaning and history behind the celebrations.


I also did my best to look for stories that offered many different kinds of diversity. I tried to find stories that featured diversity of setting, ways of celebrating, and of race and ethnicity.


It took a little investigation, but I think I found some good ones…

4th of July Picture Book: The Story of America's Birthday

The Story of America’s Birthday – written by Patricia A. Pingry illustrated by Meredith Johnson

This is a short and simple book that makes the connection between the Declaration of Independence, The American Revolution, and Independence Day celebrations remarkably accessible to preschoolers.


4th of July picture book: Red White and Boom!Red, White, and Boom – written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee

This fun and gentle text shows diverse and loving families enjoying themselves in all sorts of traditional 4th of July celebrations in sites all over the country.

 4th of July picture book : Betsy RossBetsy Ross – written by Becky White and illustrated by Megan Lloyd

This bright, colorful, and fun text tells the story of Betsy Ross, and the making of the American flag for young children. A “Betsy Ross” star cutting activity ends the book.


4th of July picture books : CelebrationCelebration – written by Jane Resh Thomas and illustrated by Raul Colon

This is the story of one extended family’s 4th of July house party. Full of and familiar family characters, situations, and ways of celebrating that any family can relate to. The illustrations add to family warmth of this book.


4th of July Picture Books: The 4th of July StoryThe 4th of July Story – written by Alice Dalgliesh and illustrated by Marie Nonnast

A work of historical fiction, with an emphasis on the history, this book brings the story of our county’s founding to life for kids.


4th of July books: Hats off for the Fourth of JulyHats off for the Fourth of July – written by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Gustaf Miller –

This book captures the excitement and fun of a 4th of July Parade in a small Northeastern town with rhyming text and humorous illustrations.


4th of July picture books: The One and Only Declaration of IndependenceThe Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence – written by Judith St. George and illustrated by Will Hellenbrand

This book is a gem, and it tells the true story of the great challenges and adventures of the historical document that paved the way for the freedoms in this country. As someone who has an interest in American history, there were many things in this book that I did not know, and it reads like an adventure story.


4th of July Picture Books : Hello America

Hello America! – written and illustrated by Martha Day Zschock and illustrated by

This colorful and playful board book for young children follows a baby eagle and his mother on a trip through America’s historic places. The cartoon eagles are fabulous and the Littles love it!!!


4th of July Picture BooksApple Pie 4th of July – written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Margaret Chodos Irvine

This is a very different kind of 4th of July story, and it features a first generation Chinese American child whose immigrant parents run a restaurant. This story beautifully captures the cultural difficulties that often face the children of immigrants, and demonstrates that the combining of different cultures is truly what creates American culture.


4th of July Picture Books: America The BeautifulAmerica the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Chriss Gall

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Wendell Minor

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Robert Sabuda

America the Beautiful – poem by Katherine Lee Bates and illustrated by Neil Waldman

Each of these four books contains the text of the beautiful poem written by Katherine Lee Bates, and which was first published for Independence Day in 1885. This poem, focusing on the beauty of the United States, is illustrated in four very different ways in these four picture books. I find them all beautiful, and all interesting. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I am a sucker for the elaborate paper engineering done in Sabuda’s book. To call it a pop-up seems demeaning, because it is truly amazing. Just one of these books, or the collection of all four together, could encourage a creative family to document their own America The Beautiful in an artistic way.


I’ve also found some really creative and fun holiday projects and activities that we are trying this week…


Here is a fun flag hand print art activity from b-inspired Mama! We are going to try this by cutting out paper hands and painting on them, rather than doing the painting directly on the kids’ hands because Big A. doesn’t want the paint on his hands, and hand painting is a little difficult for me to manage with all three right now.

4th of July crafts - handprint flag painting


Here is a collection of great flag inspired crafts from Kids Activities Blog …

4th of July - American flag crafts for kids


A super cute idea for making red, white and blue t-shirts at home from Cutesy Crafts…

4th of July - cute t-shirt craft


Here is another large collection of fun looking craft ideas from All Kids Network. We are going to try the star guy!

4th of July - crafts


I hope you find a book, or an activity that helps your family enjoy your 4th of July this year.

Happy Reading!


Tracy :-)






Our Top 11 Bunny Rabbit Picture Books

Great Picture Books about Bunny Rabbits - Just in Time for Spring and Easter

Spring is in the air, and with the spring temps come the “hop-hops” as my Littles lovingly call them.  My little boys are absolutely fascinated with bunny rabbits, and they LOVE reading about them in books!  I mean LOVE!  Here is an assortment of the bunny books we are reading and reading and reading at our house right now. 


1.  Tops and Bottoms – written and Illustrated by Janet Stevens

I can’t say enough about this book.  It is a clever, funny, and amazingly illustrated re-telling of a Trickster Tale.  It is a great read aloud for K-3.

Bunnies cover 2

2.  Bunnies – written and illustrated by Alex Kuskowski  ♥♥♥♥

Little Z. and Little B. absolutely love this book.  It is an early reader informational book, and is part of a series on baby animals.  Bunnies would work well as an introduction to the format of informational text, and because each page is short and and easy to read, it would be useful in teaching non-fiction comprehension skills as well.  The large and clear photographs of baby bunnies are a stand-out, and keep my boys happy for a long time!  This is a book that works on several levels.  (Baby-1)

 Zomo the rabbit cover

3.  Zomo the Rabbit – written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

Another clever trickster tale (a favorite sub-genre of mine), that is funny, and so well illustrated.  This is another book that makes a great read aloud for K-2.

 Bunny Cake

4. Bunny Cakes – written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

The boys love adventures with Max and Ruby!  The interaction between the siblings is priceless, and the gentle humor and preschool friendly illustrations make this a great toddler read aloud choice. (Baby-K)


5.  Knuffle Bunny – written and illustrated by Mo Willems

We are big Mo Willems fans, and this book is one of the tops.  It is fun for the grown-ups and kids alike.  The mixture of photographs and cartoon illustrations fascinates the kids, and we all love the humor. (K-3 + parents and caregivers)

so many bunnies

6. So Many Bunnies – written by Rich Walton and illustrated by Paige Miglio ♥♥♥♥

Walton and Miglio have collaborated on several wonderful books about bunnies with human characteristics, but right now the Littles love this one the best.  It is a rhyming and ABC book that works well as a bedtime read aloud.  My boys love seeing all of the places where the bunnies sleep! (Baby-pre-K)

  Bunnies Cover

7.  Richard Scarry’s Bunnies – written and illustrated by Richard Scarry

This is Little Z.’s personal favorite.  It is an old school Little Golden Book, but it definitely holds up for the toddler set.  It is very sweet and has subtle humor too.  It is a great lap book to read while snuggling a sweet toddler! (Baby)


8.  Too Many Bunnies – written and illustrated by Matt Novak

This book is funny and interactive and features a “fluffle” of bunnies who are trying to find larger quarters.  They hop from hole to hole only to fill each one to the brim.  The interactive features are much loved around here. (Baby-K)

 Bunnies Near and Far

9.  Bunnies Near and Far – written and illustrated by Sarah Jones

This is a wonderful concept book that features opposites and basic counting with a wonderful rhyming pattern.  Some rhyming books try too hard, but this one really works.  (Baby-K)

 The Bunnies' Picnic

10. The Bunnies Picnic – written by Leslie Jones and illustrated by Kay Chorao ♥♥♥

The Littles just had their first picnic a few days ago, and so this book about bunnies AND picnics is in heavy rotation.  The boys all love how the bunnies don’t give up when their delicious stew is ruined and they have to start over. (Pre-K – 1)

The bunnies are not in their beds 

11.  The Bunnies are Not in Their Beds – written and illustrated by Marisabina Russo ♥♥♥♥

 This book has a very inviting cover, the illustrations are fresh and fabulous, and features bunny kids who won’t go to bed no matter how exasperated their parents get.  It is a fun read aloud that features lots of fun sound words to spice up the engagement.  (Pre-K-1)

Pat the Bunny cover

+1 Bonus Bunny – Pat the Bunny written and illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt ♥♥♥♥♥

A classic (written in 1940), Pat the Bunny is the original touch and feel book.  The interactive qualities and the simple illustrations and text make an absolute must have, and a real winner for babies and toddlers.  We are on our fifth copy right now because each one has been well loved by children who really want to pat the bunny over and over. (Baby-Toddler)

If you now have bunnies on the brain and want to keep the bunny magic going at your house…you could try this super cute bunny rabbit “jumping jack” craft.

Did you know that there were so many books about bunny rabbits???  Do you have any favorites that you would like to recommend???  I’d love to hear about them!

Happy Reading!

 Tracy ;-)












A Halloween Treat – The Spooky Box by Mark Gonyea


Tomorrow is Halloween, so I thought it would be a nice time to share a fun book that has become a favorite at School4Boys this week.

The Spooky Box

Written and illustrated by Mark Gonyea

Henry Holt and Co., 2013


What is inside the spooky box? It could be spiders, rats, or evil puppets, but the author/Illustrator won’t tell. YOU, dear reader, will have to just imagine that for yourself.


This book is fun, interactive, and just a little bit spooky. Utilizing just three colors and very simple shapes, the illustrations are bold and graphically stunning. Partnering with those fantastic pictures the text uses a nervous narrator, and the building of tension to tell the story of a box with unknown contents. The book invites reader participation by using sly humor, questions, and the reader’s natural curiosity to make for a rollicking good time of trying to figure out just what is inside the spooky box, and then the ever smaller spooky nesting boxes that are eventually found to be inside. The Spooky Box lends itself naturally to the making of predictions and inferences, creative thinking, and fun reading extensions.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥.5


The Spooky Box has provided a springboard for lots of fun for us at School4Boys.


A. really liked this book, and requested that we read it several times. He was drawn to the cover, amused by the premise, and liked thinking of possibilities for the contents of the box. After finishing this book’s open ending, I asked A. what he thought was in the last spooky box. He said, “ more and more boxes forever and to infinity.”


After our initial reading we decided to make some spooky boxes of our own.   A. had shown interest in Modge Podge while making some Halloween decorations last week. This surprised me because it is goopy and got on his hands, but he wanted to try it again. We decided to decoupage our spooky box. I purchased some nesting papier mache boxes specifically for this activity because it made it easier. You could obviously collect cardboard boxes in different sizes too.


Making Spooky Boxes

Having done this type of activity before, and wanting to improve on my last attempt (don’t ask), I began by covering the large box with black construction paper and Elmer’s glue. This didn’t take long at all. Then I set out black bleeding tissue paper, Modge Podge, and foam brushes. A. was happy to work on this for a while, but soon his hands were getting goopy and discolored, and he was done. I finished the messy tissue paper part, and then when it was dry, he was happy to put the final coat on the project. By using construction paper under the tissue, I only had to cover the box with one layer of tissue and Modge Podge over the top to get good coverage and opaque color.


For the second box we used paint (far less goopy, so A was happy to participate.) I sealed the papier mache box with Modge Podge and let it dry before adding the paint, and I found that this helped cut down on the number of coats of paint that were needed.  Cardboard and papier mache can really suck up the paint!


For the smallest boxes, I loved that A. wanted to make them “happy, not spooky,” so he chose to make them yellow.


After the boxes were dry, we devised some fun uses for them.


For our second reading of the book, I placed some Halloween themed party favors in each of the boxes. As we read the story, and the boxes inside the boxes got smaller I let A. open the boxes one by one and pull a trinket out of each box when appropriate in the story. This was a hit! I didn’t do this on our first reading because I wanted A. to draw his own conclusions about what was in the box on the first go-round.  A. also had fun stacking the boxes in different configurations.  Then he did something that I thought was great (but I am his mom, so I might be biased).  We had put an orange plastic table cloth on the table for our Halloween party pn Sunday.  It was both festive and functional as a table protector during our crafts, so I left it on after the party.  Adam noticed that the boxes on the orange background looked like the cover of the book, so he took some leftover scraps of black tissue and squished them together to make bats, and then recreated the cover illustration.   I love when spontaneous things like that happen!  I am always amazed at what kids come up with on their own if they have the opportunities of time, space, and materials.


Spooky Box collage 2


After reading it was time to play an inferring game. A. has already shown strength in making inferences, so I want to build on that during read-aloud activities. For the game, I found objects of different sizes that would go in the boxes. I created clue sets for each object (a series of four clues moving from broad information to more specific information) and taped them to the appropriate boxes. Then I read the clues one at a time. After each clue I allowed A. to make two predictions about what was in the box. He really enjoyed this activity. So much so, that he wanted to play the game too. So, he then selected secret objects and put them in the boxes. He gave me the clues orally, and really came up with some really good clues. He asked to play the game again tomorrow!


Here are two examples of my clue sets:

I am round.

I grow in the ground

I am orange.

I have a face and a smile.

I am a jack o’ lantern.


I am a toy.

I am made of wood.

I have wheels.

I run on tracks.

I am a train.


You get the idea.


The Spooky Box was a really fun read-aloud book, and it gave us the opportunity to work on comprehension, do crafts (great fine motor work), and have a good time without feeling forced. Not a bad deal!


My friend Jodie at the terrific early literacy blog Growing Book By Book, created a super fun book-themed game to develop inferring skills too.  You can find it by clicking here. 


I hope you check out The Spooky Box and have some fun with it.


Happy Reading!

Tracy  :-)