142 – Where’s Wally Has Lore

This was supposed to be a short video about a good use of localization in children’s books and then I found out that Where’s Wally has far deeper lore than you would expect. And then my wacky imagination ran with it.

Lots of localization is annoying, because it’s done by publishers who don’t have confidence that children can understand foreign words or cultural references. This can strip away the flavor of a book, but the Where’s Wally series by Martin Handford is a really great example of localization because these books are not about plot so much as making a personal connection with the children who scrutinize the massive pictures full of funny little vignettes.

What’s Wally called where you live? Which one of the books or pictures is your favorite? Also, what do you think of my interpretation of the surprisingly deep lore of these characters?

101 – Dork Diaries

The Dork Diaries series  are hilariously true to the daily dramas of middle school life. They have special appeal to readers who are just about to go into middle school, offering a tantalizing peek into the agonies of tween life.

Written by Rachel Renée Russell and illustrated by her daughter Nikki Russell, these stories are very popular with host Chloë and her school friends at the moment. Find out why Chloë loves these stories and what she thinks they have to offer readers from about age 8 and up.

Activity: Rewrite a Diary Entry

Choose one of your favorite entries from Nikki’s diary. Pay attention to the characters who are in the entry, and consider how that person may have viewed the incidents Nikki writes about. Then write your own diary entry from the point of view of one of the other characters. The point of view, motives, and feelings may be similar or very different.

99 – Where the Wild Things Are Turns 60

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is turning 60 years old this week! Millions of children and their grownups have loved this book over the years, and it’s showing no signs of its age. You can help celebrate by drawing a picture, dressing up as a Wild Thing, or making your wildest face and sharing it online with the tag #HappyBirthdayWildThings.

Activity: Make your own Wild Thing

Draw your own “Wild Thing” by choosing different parts from humans and animals. You can combine any features you like – claws, scales, fur, teeth, tusks, noses – anything at all! Have students share their Wild Things with one another, explaining where each of the creature’s parts came from.

88 – A Defense of Dick and Jane

Dick and Jane used to be the kids who taught American kids to read. Now the readers chronicling their adventures are largely considered old fashioned because of the rise of phonics in the 1970’s as well as the emergence of an entire industry based around selling literacy curriculum.

Dick and Jane books are old fashioned. But sometimes old things stick around because they are tried and true. Although Dick and Jane readers make use of sight words, they are also fun. They also instantly build confidence, something that phonics-based readers are not great at. While phonics absolutely should remain a big part of early reading curriculum, sight word books like the Dick and Jane readers can go a long way toward teaching little ones that reading is fun and that anyone can do it. That kind of confidence and enthusiasm will help instill a lifelong passion for reading in any young child, especially those who have previously given up on reading.

85 – The Tyrannosaur’s Feathers

Co-host Chloë and I went up to Woolaton Hall in Nottingham for our first on-location interview with Dr. Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett, authors of The Tyrannosaur’s Feathers, a wonderful new picture book about how our understanding of the Tyrannosaurus Rex has changed over the years. This book is playfully illustrated by Stieven van der Poorten, and uses humor and fun to teach about how science works over time to gather new information and refine our understanding of the facts.

This book gets a wholehearted endorsement from The Children’s Literature Podcast. It’s a total blast to read, thanks to the wit and humor used as the Tyrannosaur’s appearance is corrected by a pedantic but still charming Velociraptor. The pictures and central story are engaging for all ages, and the sidebars are packed with fascinating bits of information aimed at older children and adults. The Tyrannosaur’s Feathers is the second collaboration between Jonathan Emmett and Adam Smith. They are also the authors of The Plesiosaur’s Neck, another book that is as fun as it is informative.

Chloë and I really enjoyed our conversation with Jonathan and Adam, which was held in the Woolaton Hall Library. We talked about fossils, how media affects popular understanding of scientific facts, and why the Tyrannosaurus Rex is just the coolest. When we were finished, the authors showed an interesting book about plesiosaur fossils from the Woolaton Hall library to Chloë.

Dino lovers everywhere can buy a copy of The Tyrannosaur’s Feathers when it hits shelves on August 3!

75 – Go, Dog, Go!

Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman is a lot of fun for two groups of kids – very little children who haven’t begun to read, and slightly older children who are just beginning to unlock the secrets of words. This book uses ingenious illustrations to support young children as they begin to connect confusing little squiggles with the meanings of words.


Activity: Sight Words

Learning a few sight words can really help new readers build some confidence and get going with reading, which will make it less intimidating to begin proper work with phonics. Sight words are words that are short and common enough for children to memorize, allowing them to be recognized at sight without having to be sounded out. While of course this method isn’t practical for learning an entire language, it is very helpful to get children excited about reading. It also helps kids feel very positive about their first efforts, and kids who feel happy about reading will put in lots of effort to do more reading and unlock stronger skills.

Keep an eye out for the following sight words as you read Go, Dog, Go! with your kids. Memorizing these common, short words will help children recognize words they are already comfortable with as they begin to sound out newer and more complicated words.


58 – Interview with Jonathan Emmett

Jonathan Emmett is February’s Leicestershire Author of the month! I really enjoyed our interview, in which we talk about his fun childhood spent using tools, his training as an architect, and how he blended his interests in problem-solving, design, and storytelling during his successful career as a children’s author.

Each month this year I will be featuring authors who are from Leicestershire or who live here, as my way of using the show and its growing audience to support writers in my local community. If this interview is any indicator of things to come, I’m going to have a lot of fun over the coming months speaking with really interesting people!

Jonathan grew up in Enderby, a village just on the southwestern outskirts of Leicester City. The librarian in Enderby fortunately had an eye for American authors like Maurice Sendak, P.D. Eastman, and Dr. Seuss, all of whom were a big influence on Jonathan as a child. His parents encouraged him not just to read, but to play with real tools, building and designing things from a young age. As he trained to become an architect, he learned that Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs were really useful in designing pop-up books, something he still does today.

This interview gives a glimpse into an interesting career, with sound advice for prospective authors and fun reflections on the importance of allowing just the slightest bit of danger into childhood.

You can learn more about Jonathan Emmett and the books he’s written at jonathanemmett.com. Follow him on Twitter at JonathanEmmett, Facebook at JonathanEmmettAuthor, and Instagram at jonathanemmett. He also has a YouTube channel and a Pinterest page.

Activity: Make A Pop-Up!

Jonathan Emmett doesn’t just write books — he designs them! His background as an architect helps him come up with clever designs for books that pop up into three dimensional pictures. Check out his page on how to make your own pop-up pages.

53 – The Midnight Panther

The Midnight Panther is a lovely book by Poonam Mistry, an author local to where I live in Leicestershire in England. Her images are inspired by her Indian roots, drawing on Hinduism and Indian textiles and interpreting them with a modern abstract sensibility. Many people assume that illustrated books are just for little ones, but this is one story that has quite a lot to offer to older children.

Like so many pre-teens and teenagers, the Panther in this tale feels badly about himself because he doesn’t look like the Tiger, Lion, or Leopard, who seem more glamorous. Panther tries to superficially imitate the other cats in the rainforest, but Nature itself tells him three times that he doesn’t need to pretend to be someone he isn’t. At last, Panther realizes that he is lovely in his natural form, and that it’s best to embrace himself for who he is rather than to hate himself for who he isn’t.

This story has a lot to offer pre-teens and teenagers who are bombarded by superficial and unsatisfying images they find online, showing airbrushed people living airbrushed lives. Attempts to disguise the true self or to imitate someone else will never  provide long term happiness. True satisfaction comes from accepting your natural self, and then making the most of who you are.

Learn more about Poonam Mistry and her beautiful artwork at poonam-mistry.com.

I have not been paid to endorse this book; I chose it for the podcast because I really think it’s something special and would like to support a new author who lives in my area. You can purchase a copy of The Midnight Panther at one of these links:




W.H. Smith


Activity: Accepting Yourself for Who You Are

After reading The Midnight Panther, encourage students to have a conversation about how each of us needs to accept and even love ourselves for who we are rather than trying to superficially modify our appearances to imitate someone we could never be. Where appropriate, discuss the ways that social media and online communities attempt to convince children that their natural selves are not good enough and need to be altered. Be sure to discuss the fact that it’s normal to experiment with fashion and fads, as this is part of finding a personal sense of style. But it’s very important that these choices are used to express one’s true self, not disguise it.