The Little Scarecrow Boy

Dear Friends,

In our second offering from Margaret Wise Brown, we thought this was the appropriate time to learn more about the author, and we were fascinated by what we discovered. So fascinated, in fact, that we encourage you to read her bio for yourself; her life story reads like a classic black-and-white movie. Although she is almost exclusively known for Goodnight Moon, she penned dozens of children's books, among which was The Little Scarecrow Boy. We hope you enjoy discovering more about this favorite children's author and the book we're sharing with you this week. 

 

The Little Scarecrow Boy

by Margaret Wise Brown

illustrated by David Diaz

The Little Scarecrow Boy - Off the Shelf

The Little Scarecrow Boy is Margaret Wise Brown’s tale of wanting to grow up too fast and how a parent’s love and guidance can make everything better. The little scarecrow boy so badly wants to go out in the field and scare crows away on his own. His father has spent a long time teaching the boy the scarecrow methods but feels his son is not quite ready to tackle such an important task on his own.

The Little Scarecrow Boy - Off the Shelf

Determined to prove his independence, the little scarecrow wakes very early one morning and sneaks out into the cornfield on his own. Young readers will love the adventure and excitement he has as he meets up with the crows and uses all the knowledge his father has given him.

The Little Scarecrow Boy - Off the Shelf

Caldecott Medalist David Diaz used watercolor, gouache, and pencil to create illustrations done in the palette of a sunny, autumn cornfield that truly transport the reader to the field setting. Contrasting against the light-filled landscape are the menacing black crows with beady eyes and open beaks, allowing readers to share the feelings of the little scarecrow as he faces the imposing birds.

The Little Scarecrow Boy - Off the Shelf

 

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The Little Yellow Leaf

 Dear Friends,

As much as we love October, we have to admit there is something extra special about the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. All of the ghosts and jack-o-lanterns are packed away, and we have a few turkeys set out, but this particular time seems more focused on the beauty of the changing leaves, the special autumn glow of the sun, and the beginning anticipations of the holiday season to come. The hustle and bustle of the holidays is right around the corner, so take this time to enjoy kicking through the leaves and reading good books with your young reader. 

 

The Little Yellow Leaf

by Carin Berger

The Little Yellow Leaf is a quiet book that upon first glance may seem deceptively simple but once you begin the story you will be quickly captivated by the little yellow leaf that is hesitant to follow his friends and leave the familiar surroundings of its branch and float to the ground below. Repeatedly the little leaf thinks, “I’m not ready yet,” or “Not yet, not yet,” as he watches all the signs of fall appear and then winter begin to set in. The little leaf feels very alone until something surprising happens to make the change seem not so scary. 
The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf
 
The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf  The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf

The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf

As equally captivating as the story, the illustrations will draw you back again and again as each page reveals collages done in graph paper, notebook paper, old receipts, and even newspaper, but crafted so beautifully that your eye will not initially recognize the individual raw materials, but only see the autumn landscape.

The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf

The Little Yellow Leaf - Off the Shelf

The Little Yellow Leaf is a true autumn classic that is sure to become a perennial favorite.

 

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Old Black Witch

Dear Friends,

There are certain books that just stay with you forever. For us, Old Black Witch is one of those books. Old Black Witch is so embedded in our family's Halloween traditions that Nicky, his mother, and Old Black Witch herself seem like members of the family that come visiting every year. While not specifically a Halloween book, it was always packed away with the Halloween decorations, so bringing it out at the beginning of October was a much anticipated occasion. 

You might know Wende and Harry Devlin from the Cranberry books, including Cranberry Thanksgiving and Cranberry Valentine. This husband and wife team's books are charming and comforting; although considered vintage books, they have a modern feel that appeals to longtime fans as well as young readers discovering them for the first time. 

Happy Halloween to you and your young readers!

 

Old Black Witch

By Wende and Harry Devlin

Illustrated by Harry Devlin 

“Bats! Crickets! And snakes’ knees!” That endearing phrase is only one of many the unlikely heroine of Old Black Witch mutters throughout the timeless Halloween classic. Originally published in 1963, Old Black Witch! is the story of how Nicky and his other buy the perfect old house to turn into the Jug and Muffin Tea Room and then discover the house comes with a tiny resident witch who enjoys zooming around on her dilapidated broom and causing all sorts of mischief. Entertaining and fun to read, Old Black Witch is more charming than spooky but has just enough spine tingling antics to make it lots of Halloween fun.

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Wobble the Witch Cat

Dear Friends,

As darkness arrives a little bit earlier each day and dusk lingers a bit longer, there's more time for imaginations to think of Halloween witches and their black cats. We decided this was the perfect time to revisit an old favorite, Wobble the Witch Cat by a favorite childhood author Mary Calhoun.

I originally fell in love with Mary Calhoun's books as a young reader following the adventures of Katie John. I imaginged visiting Katie John in her big red brick house and having lots of adventures together. The books became even more special to me when I learned that Mary Calhoun's hometown was just a few miles down the road from where I grew up, and that big red brick house is still standing. It was as if Katie John became a favorite playmate! We hope you enjoy Wobble the Witch Cat and, if you don't know Mary Calhoun yet, she becomes one of your favorites as well. 

 

Wobble the Witch Cat

by Mary Calhoun

illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

Wobble, the Witch Cat is a happy little black Halloween cat that belongs to sweet-natured witch named Maggie. The two have always gotten along famously and enjoyed many Halloween adventures together until Maggie ruined their peaceful existence by getting a new broom. Something very unfortunate occurs when Wobble goes out with Maggie on the new broom and has caused Wobble to become very cross and dread the approach of the spooky night of Halloween.

The fun little Halloween tale, paired the vintage 1950s feeling illustrations by Roger Duvoisin, is a perfect choice for young trick-or-treaters who prefer Halloween stories that cause smiles and not scares.

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Ghosts in the House!

Dear Friends,

Does it seem to you that Halloween gets more and more ghoulish every year? We enjoy a zombie-free Halloween zone: our pumpkins all smile, our ghosts are friendly, and our witches have neither green skin nor warts. The spine-tingling side of the holiday certainly has its place, but children can often find it a bit overwhelming and worry there really might be monsters in the closet once the lights are turned out. 

So in keeping with this approach, here's our second spooky by not scary book to enjoy during the magical month of October. 

Ghosts in the House

by Kazuno Kohara

Kid power is the theme of this wonderful, whimsical Halloween book. The young heroine of Ghosts in the House! is a confident little witch who knows just what to do with all the ghosts in the splendid house at the edge of town. With the help of her spunky little cat, she immediately takes charge of the situation and transforms the ghosts from haunting to helpful in a very clever way.

Full of stunningly simple illustrations with an almost tactile appearance to them, the book has a vintage look of children’s literature from the 195op0s when really the publication date is 2008. The colors are limited to black and orange and gauzy white, making the ghosts looks as if they could float right off the page. This is a book to be placed on the must read list and one that will be pulled from the shelf year after year to celebrate the Halloween season.

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Banana Ghost Pops

As fun to make as they are to eat, these cute little ghost pops are a healthier alternative to more traditional Halloween treats!

Banana Ghost Pops - Ghosts in the House! - Off the Shelf

Young Readers in the Kitchen

This no-cook recipe is perfect for little witches and warlocks to make with a parent's help. Every step in this recipe is kid friendly, depending on age and skill level.

Banana Ghost Pops

Makes 2; increase as desired

Ingredients

  • 1 Banana
  • Apple juice or cider
  • Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 4 Chocolate chips
  • 2 Wooden popsicle sticks
  1. Pour apple juice or cider into a small, shallow dish to a depth of about 1/2 inch.
  2. Spread some shredded coconut in another dish or on a plate. 
  3. Peel banana and slice in half. Insert one popsicle stick in each half. 
  4. Place banana in dish with juice and roll to coat banana. Transfer the banana to the dish of coconut and press so that coconut sticks to banana. 
  5. Insert two chocolate chips in each banana for eyes (and maybe another for a mouth!).
  6. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Enjoy!

 

 

Clothesline Ghosts

Inspired by the transparent inhabitants in Ghosts in the House!, these tissue paper ghosts keep little fingers busy creating their own versions to hang out to dry. 

Clothesline Ghosts Craft - Ghosts in the House! - Off the Shelf

Why We Like It

  • Tearing the ghosts, using the hole punch, and clipping the ghosts to the string are all wonderful for building fine motor skills.
  • Creating organic ghost shapes encourages imagination and creativity. 

Clothesline Ghosts

Supplies

  • White tissue paper
  • Hole punch
  • Hole reinforcement stickers
  • Black crayon
  • String
  • Mini clothespins (or paper clips)
  1. Tear a ghost shape from tissue paper. Repeat until you have desired number of ghosts. 
  2. Use hole punch to punch eyes in each ghost. Place a hole reinforcement sticker around each eye. 
  3. Use black crayon to give each ghost a mouth.
  4. Cut a length of string long enough to hold all of your ghosts. Clip each ghost to string with a mini clothes pin or paperclip. 

 

 


Bats at the Library

Dear Friends,

This week's book perfectly captures the sense adventure that a book can inspire in a reader. No matter what library we visit, the moment we walk in the door we have the anticipation of discoveries to be made. Are we bookaholics? Maybe. We do have a countdown until the next used book sale at our local historic home, and we do have the release of Jan Brett's next book in BIG LETTERS on our calender, we'll leave it to you to decide! How about you? Are you a bookaholic?

It's October, and this week marks the first of our Halloween books. Our picks this year, we feel, illustrate the best of Halloween, with just a bit of spooky, but never scary. Please join us throughout October as we continue with Ghosts in the House!, Wobble the Witch Cat, and Old Black Witch!

Bats at the Library

by Brian Lies

Despite the Halloween air to the illustrations done in dark colors and, of course, pages filled with bats, Bats at the Library is not specifically a Halloween book. It isspecifically a highly entertaining book celebrating the fun of reading, the excitement of good books and the adventures that can be found in the library. Through rhyming text and fanciful illustrations, author Brian Lees shows us how books and reading can inspire the imagination and ignite a reader’s curiosity

Bats at the Library

Bats at the Library

Adding to the appeal of this book is the unlikely choice of ambassadors of reading the author has chosen. We generally do not think of bats for this lofty title, but a colony of bats make the perfect choice to show readers what happens when a window is accidentally left open at the local library allowing the flying creatures of the night to take over. 

Bats at the Library

Making shadow puppets on the overhead projector, turning the drinking fountain into a batty swimming pool, and turning the photocopier into their own personal portrait studio are just of a few of the comical games the bats play until the magic of story time and becoming lost in a book take over.

Bats at the Library

Notice anyone familiar

Bats at the Library

How about here? For more about the numerous picture book references, check out this post from the Carle Museum!

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A Tree is Nice

Dear Friends,

Trees are the perfect childhood friends. How many summer days are spent playing in the shade of a tree? Or fall afternoons spent tramping in the the fallen leaves? In imaginative play, tree can be almost anything, from houses to spaceships, as well as base in a game of tag or the perfect place to climb. Although we sometimes take them for granted, this week's book helps us to take a few quiet moments to celebrate the many gifts that trees give us!

A Tree is Nice

by Janice May Udry
illustrated by Marc Simont

Winner of the 1957 Caldecott Medal, A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry is a timeless classic that has a feel that is both vintage and contemporary at the same time. Gently proclaiming a deep appreciation of the beauty and virtues of trees, the text is simple yet expressive and has a calming rhythm that entices readers in for factual reasons to love trees.

Gorgeous illustrations by Mr. Simont are perfectly matched to the poetic text, alternating between soft, lush watercolors and black and white illustrations that are quiet but never stark and cold. Simplistic but never dull, A Tree Is Nice compels readers to go for a walk and take the time to notice and appreciate the beauty of the trees that surrounds us.

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Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree

Bark rubbings and leaf rubbings are autumn activities that never get old. No matter the age of the artist, making these fall favorites seems to usher in the season of crisp weather, shorter days, and the excitement of the quickly approaching Halloween season. We decided to expand on the basic rubbings in order to further engage in the spirit of our book of the week. So get out the paper, crayons and scissors and get ready to create a little autumn magic.

Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree
Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree

Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree


Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree

Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree from Off the Shelf

Why We Like It

  • Fun activity for developing observational skills by discussing the size, shape, texture, and colors of the leaves.
  • Great way to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and make some fun art.

Crayon Rubbing Autumn Tree

What You Will Need

  • White paper
  • Crayons – wrappers removed
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Leaves – fresh are best
  • A tree


How To Do It

  1. Hold a sheet of paper on the trunk of a tree and, using the side of a crayon, gently rub the crayon over the entire sheet of paper to get a bark rubbing.
  2. Collect several autumn leaves. Place 1 leaf on a flat surface, textured side up, and lay another sheet of white paper on top of the leaf. Using the flat side of a crayon, gently but firmly rub across the leaf to make the image of the leaf appear. Repeat until you have several leaf rubbings.
  3. Cut a vertical section of paper from the bark rubbing to use as your tree trunk. Cut the remaining bark rubbing into strips to use as tree branches.
  4. Cut out the leaf rubbings individually.
  5. Glue the branches to the trunk and attach leaves.
  6. Lay flat to dry.

 

Leaves and Twigs Snack Mix

With dried cranberries and golden raisins in the colors of fall leaves, pretzels sticks reminding us of the shape and crunch of twigs, and flavored with two delicious gifts from trees, this is the perfect snack to enjoy on a beautiful autumn day while sitting under your favorite tree. 

Snack mixes are perfect for kids because they are portable, not messy, and easily customizable to picky eaters!

Leaves and Twigs Snack Mix from Off the Shelf

Leaves and Twigs Snack Mix

Granola adapted from Pumpkin Granola.

Makes roughly 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (see video below)
  • 1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup pretzel sticks, broken in half

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix together oats, applesauce, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon until well combined. 
  2. Spread mixture on an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  3. Let granola cool before scooping into a medium bowl, breaking up any large chunks. 
  4. Add cranberries, raisins, and broken pretzel sticks to granola. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Curious where cinnamon comes from? 


Apple Farmer Annie

 

Dear Friends, 

Welcome back to Off the Shelf! We are back after some time off to refocus, redesign our site, and discover some new treasures in the world of children's literature. We are also changing the format and schedule of our posts: Each Wednesday, we will publish all content for the book of the week. We feel that this will be a simpler way to present our content and inspire you and your young readers to discover and enjoy these great books.

Autumn is our favorite time of year, the time of fresh starts with a new school year and the shift in seasons. It is truly the season for the senses: the smell, sound, and color of rustling leaves, the aroma of spices wafting from the kitchen, and the delicious taste of apple and pumpkin in everything from soup and salads to pies and parfaits. Autumn also brings us a wealth of wonderful books to enjoy and spark imaginations. So come join us with the first of our fall book pick for this year!

 

Apple Farmer Annie

by Monica Wellington

Nothing says autumn like crisp, juicy apples and we have discovered a fun, little book that celebrates all things apples. Apple Farmer Annie is a charming and cheery book fill with bright primary colors, simple shapes and detailed pages that are fun to explore over and over again to discover something new.

Apple Farmer Annie 1

Set on Annie’s apple farm, readers have the fun of following Annie through her chores of harvesting, sorting, and counting apples; making delicious treats with her apples (recipes included); and heading off to market to sell her produce.

Apple Farmer Annie 2

Apple Farmer Annie 3

Monica Wellington has written a book that is both educational and entertaining and inspires young minds to think beyond apples as a simple fruit, to explore the many varieties, think about where they come from, and the many foods that can be made with them. Apple Farmer Annie is a wonderful addition to any fall reading list.

 

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Bear Has a Story to Tell

By Philip C. Stead
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The newest book from the husband and wife team who brought us A Sick Day for Amos McGee, this is a beautiful, circular story that takes the reader through the quiet process of hibernation and the gentle reawakening of spring.

We follow Bear on his slow, sleepy journey through the forest as he searches for his friends to hear his story. Bear has no luck in finding an audience but instead helps each friend he meets make final preparations for the coming winter months. Bear is the epitome of patience and friendship and you can’t help but feel cozy by the fondness the animals have for each other.

Once the others are settled and the snowflakes begin to fall, Bear snuggles into his den for the long winter sleep without getting the chance to tell his story. With the special joy that only spring sunshine can bring, Bear awakens and it once again ready to share his story. The earthy watercolor illustrations are magical, soft and muted, perfectly reflecting the tone of the story.  

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Bear Says Thanks

by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman

During a time of year when our thoughts turn to togetherness and being cozy, Bear Says Thanks is a perfect choice to pull off the shelf and enjoy with your young reader!

Bear is bored and lonely in his cave and decides that having a feast with his friends is a wonderful way to brighten the day. As each friend arrives with an addition to the feast, Bear says “Thanks!” until he remembers his own cupboard is bare and he has nothing to add to the gathering. His friends help him realize he has a very special gift to share that will truly make the party complete.

Bear Says Thanks

Wilson’s playful, rhythmic text and a repeating title refrain will have children engaged and participating in the story from the very first page. Equally as wonderful are Jane Chapman’s delightful autumn toned illustrations that bring the animal friends to life with sweet, expressive faces that glow with the joy of being together. This is an irresistible book for Thanksgiving, beautiful fall days, or anytime you want to smile.

Bear Says Thanks
 

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