Friday, July 18, 2014

Dogs, Cats, Birds, and More: A Sampling of Animal-themed KidLit @ Changing Hands by Kathy Halsey

My newest summer gig is book talking at Changing Hands, our fabulous, vibrant, indie bookstore in Tempe & now downtown Phoenix. Word is getting out. We were even featured in the "Things to Do" section this week in The Arizona Republic newspaper. 

 I book talked at both locations and my partner, a gifted teacher of 30+ years, Vicki Miles led the kids in a craft related to our feature story, BAD KITTY by Nick Bruel.

I'm sharing a few of our fav animal books with you today that informed my writing of picture books and may illuminate writing ideas for you, also. Enjoy. 

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth is an art lover's delight, not to mention its science implications. This debut picture book riffs on the old catalog of Sears & Roebeck days. The opening line gives us the news,"Birds today face many dangers. Some species are disappearing. Others are already gone. Not to worry!" In this fiction book with nonfiction sensibilities, the reader can create his/her own bird. My nonfiction WOW friends will adore this book. There are science, design, art & environmental connections here, too, for teachers.  Geared toward grades 4-7, younger children will just enjoy looking at the bird parts. Writer's take-away: mix fiction and bits of nonfiction if it enhances the topic. Think waaay outside the box on structure (catalog idea.)

Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall is a fun tale with plenty of layering for both kids and adults. Adults will identify with the Odd Couple characters and the hilarious text Chris hides in illustrations. Children will laugh out loud as Dog & Cat annoy each other in silly spreads. Dog rubs party balloons on the rug and attaches them to cat. Cat pops the balloons with her paws and gives Dog a near heart attack. The frenemies finally unite over the newest pet...GASP...a baby! Writer's take-away: write for the adult, too. Remember to go overboard on the hijinks. Use universal themes: sibling rivalry/new baby. (I actually had to read this one 6 times with grandson Tobin last week.)

Froodle by Antoinette Portis celebrates word play and nonsense words. This "circle" book begins with a cat & dog making normal cat & dog sounds and ends with them sayings, respectively, " Shmoodle!" and "Skerpoodle!"Little Brown Bird upsets the normal order, refusing to chirp. He'd rather say, "Froodle sproodle!" And so would I as a reader and so would the reader who has a ball repeating this nonsense. Crow "is not amused," but is finally persuaded to join in the fun. Writer's take-away: reading teachers/interventionists use made-up words to help struggling readers understand word families and sounds. Make up words and have fun. If the writer has fun, so will the reader. 

Check out your indie bookstore for these gems. Give them as gifts, buy them as mentor texts for teachers and writers and..."OOBLY SNOOBLY!" (Sorry, just couldn't help myself.)

Share your favorite kidlit books that inform your writing in the comment section. What did these books teach you as a writer? 


  1. Kathy, way to go! Terrific new titles await me come August! Thanks for sharing this with us and your community. Excellent work!

  2. Todd, this volunteer gig is teaching me so much and I get to "use" all these books for free. What a deal. TY for reading. the Aviary book is right up your alley & you'll want it for the li-berry.

  3. Hi Kathy, so glad to have Changing Hands downtown now. A great store for lots of reasons. By the way, I have published two books for kids aboutr ravens__one a picture book and the other a fact-filled overvcew for middle graders (and adult bird lovers). CH carries the latter title. Hope to see you at downtown store soon. Check out my website,

  4. Hi Diane, glad you enjoyed the post. Love the downtown store. Are you in the Greater Paradise Valley IRA? Or maybe I am thinking of the writer of the Gambel's Quail. Ravens are cool. Will check out your web site.

  5. Great post Kathy. Such a wonderful way to share your knowledge and love of books. The books you've shared look wonderful.
    Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago of books I used at the beginning of the school year (gr. 2 and 3)

    1. Beverly Bird, Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

  6. Those look like such fun books. Thanks for sharing! Glad you can participate in this adventure.

  7. Kathy: Your summertime volunteering at Changing Hands is a great gig! As a certified Reading Specialist and Reading Recovery certified teacher, the book that piues my interest is Froodle. This week during Mrs. Sue's Summer School, a soon to be 2nd grader and I were having fun making words with magnetic letters. The list included make believe words and real words. ~Suzy