Charity’s Review of Fancy Nancy: My Family History

Fancy Nancy likes to explore big words. In working with genealogy, a fancy word for family history, there are a lot of big words and concepts. Fancy Nancy encounters many of these concepts in her class assignment to write a report about an ancestor, someone in her family who lived a long time ago. However, in the process of writing her report, Nancy falls prey to the temptation that all family historians encounter at some point in documenting their family. She decides that the ordinary, every-day lives of her great-grandparents were not exciting enough for her report, so she decides to add some made-up parts to her report so that it would be more interesting. While it made her story sound better, it was not accurate (a big word for true), and she did, at the last minute, decide to just tell the real story without her embellishments.

In the world of family research, it is always good to find out as much as you can about each person you add to your family tree. It is a lot more interesting if you have more than just name, birth date, marriage date, death date, and locations lived. Those are good facts to start with, but they don’t tell the story of who the person was, fun details about them, or what made them real, beyond the dry facts.  Nancy was on the right track with telling the story rather than just the facts for her great-grandfather, but where she went off-track was in making up fancier parts of the story rather than telling the actual details.

Nancy started out well with interviewing her grandfather about his parents. This is a great first step in finding out more about your ancestors because some of your best starting materials are the older people in your family, the photos you may have, and other documents that may have been kept by family members. As a Local History and Genealogy Librarian in a public library, I work with people of all ages in how to get started with recording and researching their family history.

If you want to work with your kids (or get started in genealogy yourself), there are some great resources out there to help. Check with your local library, genealogy society, or historical society to see if they have resources or people who can help you get started. Some books that are helpful for beginners are:

Guide to Genealogy: Tips & Tricks on how to Uncover your Roots and build your Family Tree by T.J. Resler available from National Geographic Kids, Washington, DC, 2018.

Basic Genealogy for Kids by Bonnie Hinman available from Mitchell Lane Publishers, Hockessin, DE, 2012.

Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-Line Genealogy for Kids (the Official Ellis Island Handbook) by Ira Wolfman, available from Workman Publishing, NY, 2002.

A couple of websites that can be helpful for working with your kids are:

The Family Tree Kids section of the Family Tree Magazine website.

Family Search (largest, free, genealogy database in the world)  Kids resource pages.

The In-Depth Genealogist Kids Korner.

Within these resources and at your local library, you will find forms to help you organize the information you find, lists of questions to ask relatives, and a lot more. It always helps to start with yourself and gather your own information (birth certificate or announcement) and the information about your parent’s birth and marriage before moving back in time to your grandparents and great-grandparents.

Happy Researching!

Fancy Nancy: My Family History is available from Amazon in paperback, hardcover, Audible, and Kindle editions.

Charity C. Rouse is a Local History and Genealogy Research Librarian, here to share her professional perspective on Fancy Nancy: My Family History.

Guest Post: A House of Books

Guest poster Melissa Naasko invites us to a family ritual and the powerful reason she reads to her children. 

In a corner of my house is a round oak table that was the kitchen table my husband sat at as a child. It is where the teenaged children do their school work. Next to it is a set of bookshelves that house their books and my husband’s; these are the books that are expensive or fragile and ready for when they are needed, and the little children are not allowed to play with these books or really even look at them too hard.

On the shelf with the Theology books sits an incredibly battered book, its cardboard cover fraying badly at the corners and its binding taped back together in many places and only occasionally with any real skill. It’s a cheap book club edition of a children’s book with minimal investment in its printing costs, which explains the oddly orange hue to every page. It is worn and damaged and looks ready for the bin, but it is a prized book among my children. It is carefully placed on a high shelf near the canon law book and those of the history of the Russian Church. It is there precisely because it is fragile and valuable and ready for when it is needed.

The Calm

I have heaps of children, just heaps of them. There are eleven of them all in all, six girls and five boys. You learn a lot of things by having more children than you can count on both hands, and one of those is a sense of purpose in calm. I am not the kind of mother who seeks to make every moment of childhood this memorable, Pinterest-driven event “for the ‘gram’” because no one has that much emotional currency for that many kids. I think no one has that for any number of kids; it would be exhausting. I am not the woman who turns every event into a holiday. I am not a curmudgeon about things, but I do quietly sip tea as other mothers panic about their leprechaun and April fools brunches and think, “Uh, no.” Just no.

That said, there is one notable exception, and that is the first snow. Many years ago, now more than twenty, my oldest child came into the world on the first snow. It was the middle of September, because Colorado. I woke up one cold morning to find that while I slept my water had broken and with it came a rush of knowledge that nothing would ever be the same again. It was the beginning of a complicated and messy and beautiful story that is still unfolding to this day.

The Snow

While he was still tiny, while perusing and sifting through the books at a thrift store, I found one about a first snow. There is something about that first snow that begs us to hunker down and wall ourselves off from the outside. We want to be drenched in cocoa and thick socks and fluffy blankets. Thinking about how my first-born drove my insatiable need for domesticity, it seemed a perfect element that he was born on the first snow. It all comes together. I bought the book for a quarter. I only know it was a quarter because the price is still on it, and I cannot remember anything else I may or may not have bought that day because only this is lasting.

The Ritual

In this book, a mother rabbit and her wee little rabbit are looking for a winter home because the approaching winter is slowly taking their summer one – the leaves are falling off the bush that sheltered them. They look and look, but every inn is full and they are turned away at every knock, and so ultimately they have to make their own home. I won’t deprive you of the joy of reading this charming little book to learn how this happens, and I fully expect you to find it and read it. Let it suffice to say that when the snow finally comes, they can view it from inside their own cozy little home.

Since the very first time I read this book, I felt like the mother rabbit and her wee little rabbit and made their home in my heart. The very next first snow, I read this little book to my oldest child and I made tea and even cake. It has continued this way every first snow since. The ritual is not elaborate. We make something to eat and drink, and what we have changes and who does the baking does as well. There are years when one or another child has claimed this privilege. The only added complexities were the increasing number of children who sat around the table and listened to the book as they sipped tea or cocoa and snuggled down into their blankets.

The Reason

Now come the years when fewer children sit around the table than the year before. There are children who are grown and away at college or work and are not there to listen to the story. The ebb and flow of the conversation have changed because there are no more babies to quiet and no toddlers to wrangle. Someday we will come to the first snow when the youngest one of these children is too old to sit and listen to her mother read the book. Perhaps I will read it to myself? While a part of me grieves for this moment, this slow approaching shift in the plot line of my life, I know that the house I have built is sturdy and strong, and what is more is that they will know it, too.

The book is called Rabbit’s Search for a Little House, and it was published way back in 1988. It was written by Mary DeBall Kwitz and illustrated by Lorinda Cauley. I bought a copy for my oldest son’s twenty-first birthday to remind him of the stories of the day that he was born, when fallen branches had knocked out the power to the doctor’s office and the streetlights were out. I want him to remember the safe harbor that is my love and the love of his father and siblings and the home he can always return to when it becomes cold outside. This is why we read to children. We read to them to give them a place to come back to, one that can outlast us, one that they can then give to their children. We read to build a wee little, warm little, snug little house for ourselves and our little rabbits.


Melissa Naasko is the wife of an Orthodox deacon, the mother of eleven hungry children, and author of Fasting as a Family from Ancient Faith Publishing. She cooks, knits, and writes from the Upper Peninsula.

Our Tree Named Steve, by Alan Zweibel

Dear Kids, A long time ago, when you were little, Mom and I took you to where we wanted to build a house. . . . I remember there was one tree, however, that the three of you couldn’t stop staring at. . . .

After the family spares him from the builders, Steve the tree quickly works his way into their lives. He holds their underwear when the dryer breaks down, he’s there when Adam and Lindsay get their first crushes, and he’s the centerpiece at their outdoor family parties. With a surprising lack of anthropomorphizing, this is a uniquely poignant celebration of fatherhood, families, love, and change.

Our Tree Named Steve has to be a true story. It feels like one. I read the whole thing, standing up, in the public library where I saw it (it was standing up, too) on top of a book case in the children’s section. It almost made me cry. In the library.

The Art of Memory

David Catrow’s wonderful illustrations are as good as the text and embrace the sound and sense of it completely. I especially loved the children’s faces. Something about them reminds me of the way we looked, my siblings and I, in childhood. The illustrations are as fanciful as they are realistic, but it’s a familiar, friendly-dog-chicken-casserole kind of fanciful, not surreal or exotic. It’s the reality of memory – loving, a little goofy, depicting the feeling associated with an event more than its historical fact. This is what makes the characters and places recognizable, although we’ve never met them.

For the Parent

Our Tree Named Steve is written as a letter from a father to his children, and as it progresses, you realize the children are grown up, or nearly so. It’s what makes the story tug on your heart-strings as an adult reader. You recognize both perspectives in yourself – the father helping his children confront a loss and the children saying goodbye to a part of their childhood. I’d question whether the book is more for adults than children, except that children will easily relate to the humorous, comfortable voice of it and the everyday events it recounts. Some of the best children’s books reach the parent over the child’s head. It’s a children’s book with an adult book hidden inside it.


Our Tree Named Steve is a perspective on grieving and on finding resurrection in the midst of loss. Without spoiling the book, which builds to a surprising climax and resolution, I can say it’s unusual for the grief book genre. It’s one degree removed from the usual plot and character roles, and this could be helpful. One part of me never wants a children’s story to be sad. We all want childhood to be happy, and we instinctively resist confronting our children with sorrow. But life happens, tears happen, and I think this book would be effective for some children simply because it is not about a pet or grandparent. If your dog has just crossed the rainbow bridge, you may not want to read a story explicitly about a dog crossing the rainbow bridge. Some children need a story that matches their own. Some children need creative indirection to process serious grief.

Piggy Parallels

This book reminded me obliquely of my own upcoming board book, Piggy in Heaven. Both books center as much on the experience of the “person” we’ve lost as they do on the mourners. And both explore the comforting fact that although it changes form or place, life goes on.

Our Tree Named Steve is available on Amazon in paperback and library binding editions.

Grandmother Reflections: 70 Years with Picture Books

Today, I’m interviewing someone I love. Kathy is a retired educator, mother of four children, and grandmother of 11 grandchildren. She has read picture books, used them at work, and created some for her family. Today she’s sharing perspectives she’s gained from more than 70 years of picture-book reading!

Melinda: What is the first picture book you remember reading as a child?

Kathy: I remember having The Little Engine That Could read to me when I was very young.  In fact, it became a family rule of sorts.  None of us where allowed to say that we couldn’t do something.  We all had to say, “I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.”

Melinda: What was your favorite part of reading books with your children when they were small?

Kathy: I loved settling on the couch or bed with little people cuddled on each side and on my lap as we shared a fun adventure together.  Sharing a book with a little one is such a loving thing, and it expands their world beyond just home and neighborhood as well.  I especially enjoyed sharing with them the picture books I had loved as a child.

I also loved the way that books can teach life lessons by stories without being preachy.  It reminds me of how Jesus taught by parables.  He made us, and He knows humans relate to stories.  Also the stories are about someone else and not pointed at us, so it is easier to not be defensive and just learn from them.

Melinda: When you began sharing picture books with your grandchildren, how had they changed from the books you remember reading to your children?

Kathy: That is a hard question. There are certainly many more stories available.  I think there is more diversity now, in a positive way. And the production of books now is advanced, so some of the pictures are more sophisticated and nuanced, and less cartoony or simple.  On the other hand, some illustrators now do simple drawings to reach out to children, and those are great.

Melinda: What are some books that both your children and your grandchildren enjoyed? Why do you think they worked so well for both generations?

Kathy: I actually read some books that have worked for three generations – my childhood, my children’s childhood, and now my grandchildren’s.  I think there are some universal human experiences that resonate through the ages. An example, to return to The Little Engine That Could, is the experience of not having the resources many have and yet keeping a positive attitude and making the best of what you have.  This kind of approach is admired and appreciated by others, and it comes across in the story without being preachy.

Melinda: How did you use picture books as an educator?

Kathy: Many educators try to relate different subject matter to make a more connected whole of a concept.  When I wrote elementary math curriculum, we used picture books to get across ideas in an appealing way and to illustrate without making a point of it that math is part of everyday life.  For just one example, there is a wonderful picture book called The Doorbell Rang that worked very well for teaching fractions and, incidentally, sharing as well.

Melinda: How can authors and publishers make a picture book especially effective for classroom use?

Kathy: This is tricky. Many authors have tried this, and few really succeed.  I think many books like this are too conscious of trying to teach rather than just sharing a good story that can then be applied to a concept in some school subject.  I guess I would say to start with a good story you are excited about, and if it is true to life in reality or imagination, then it might easily be applicable in a subject.  For example, if you love quilting, write a  story about quilts.  There are actually already a number of good quilt stories that can be used to teach history about the Civil War and Underground Railroad, or about geometric shapes and repeating patterns.

Melinda: What is the funniest picture book you remember reading?

Kathy: I always loved Amelia Bedelia stories.  If you have never read one, give yourself a treat and find one at the library.  Amelia is a literalist who misinterprets the meaning of words because of the way they are used colloquially.  I chuckled all the way through each of them.  Words are such fun – used or misused, they are still fun.  Some of the funniest things I remember as a teacher were mistakes students made from misusing words – for example, the youngster who wrote about how effective “gorilla warfare” was.

Melinda: What is the most important picture book you’ve read? Why?

Kathy: How to choose?!  Well, we used many different Bible picture books with our children for evening worship each night, and these made the stories more real.  Since our daily life is not like it was in Bible times, something that helps us understand the meaning is really important.  Other than that, I think the story Beginning with Mrs. McBee by Cecil B. Maiden is outstanding as it demonstrates with humor and humanity the concept of passing good on rather than paying it back.  I have read this with our children and grandchildren and still love it regardless of how often I read it.

Guest Post: Teaching from a Love of Language

Guest poster Melissa Naasko shares this fascinating look at the way she’s teaching reading, writing, and a life-long love of good literature as she homeschools her 11 children.

I love words. I love the way that carefully chosen words capture scenes that are burned into my mind for years like tin-type photos, the way that they can draw up emotions from deep within like a bucket dropped into a well, and the way they melt onto my tongue and shape my own words as I quote them. I pore over phrases and specific word choices as I read books and articles and poetry. Simply put, I love words and I want my children to love them as much as I do. This means I want to cultivate a love of delicious, gourmet words in my children, so I work very hard to set before them a steady diet of quality literature. I cannot abide cheap, empty words, which means that I am exceedingly particular about the books I give my children.

How I Teach Writing

I teach my children how to write using quality children’s literature. I focus on books that use well crafted, memorable language, or sometimes words that are simple and pure but surprisingly evocative.

Children who are in the upper elementary and middle school grades use language of about the same sophistication. Using these books means that they can see how words cooperate with each other in different kinds of literary techniques, and they can imitate them for their own pieces.

Our Writing Workshop

Every month, we take a full day to have a writer’s workshop, and we push aside all other schoolwork and even most of the housework. I pick a theme, sometimes in cooperation with the teenagers who have their own favorite books and themes and techniques. I read aloud the books within the theme and focus on the words and the way that they play, and the children are not allowed to look at the pictures, which can sometimes be a distraction when we are specifically focusing on language. Sometimes we talk about the art, but that is a separate discussion, and while there is some overlap in my favorite books for words and my favorite books for art, there are pretty distinct books in both categories.

Sometimes, our theme is memorable language, phrases we can’t forget and find ourselves using again and again. Sometimes, it is realistic dialogue, wherein the words spoken by the characters flesh them out and give them depth. Sometimes, our theme is books that make us cry. Sometimes, it is books that make us ecstatic. Occasionally, it is the whole category of books that just make us feel anything intensely. One of the children specifically likes books that help her develop her sense of pacing because she likes to write suspenseful stories and tease out just enough information to keep her readers on the edge of their seat without frustrating them to the point that they leave.

Two Resources

I started teaching with this method after reading Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models. This amazing book gave me a starting point for the conversations I have with my children. Since then, we have expanded from the book and its suggestions, but it was invaluable in the beginning.

I also suggest that you give your children a chance to write for an audience. My children are in love with a platform called StoryBird. This website allows children to create profiles from which they write stories. One of the best things about this site is that it doesn’t allow children to use real names or create profiles that reveal contact information or can be contacted privately. All comments on stories are public, and both the stories and the comments are reviewed and culled as appropriate. Accounts are free, but it can take a couple of weeks for a story to move through the moderation process, and this is sped up if the child has an account, which is pricey at $60/year. As a parent, you can create a free space for your children to write for assignments which is moderated and reviewed by you. The same can be done by traditional classroom teachers, but these stories cannot be viewed outside of the class.

Favorite Books

There are loads and loads of wonderful books that work for this teaching method. I thought I would tell you about eleven different books, each of which is a favorite of one my children or myself.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

This evocative book never fails to make me cry. I have to read it slowly and breathe deeply because I cannot suppress the tears. It is about a little boy with four names who is friendly with the elderly residents home next door. He helps them remember things that they have forgotten. The language is simple and uncluttered but profoundly moving. When the author discusses an elderly woman who remembers her brother who went to war but did not come home it is what is not said that tightens my throat and makes my eyes well with tears. Simply writing about this book bring me to tears.

Rabbit’s Search for a Little House by Mary Deball Kwitz

This book uses simple, repetitive language to tell the story of a mother rabbit looking for a home for herself and her little rabbit as winter approaches. In our family, it is tradition to read it aloud with tea or hot chocolate and some home-baked treats on the day of the very first snow of the year. Our well-worn copy is very lovingly cared for by our children, and it holds pride of place in the house. We started this tradition with our oldest child, and now it is ingrained in the memory of our youngest as a pivotal celebration in the changing of seasons. My children recite lines from this all winter long.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This book beautifully captures the emotions of having a large, extended family coming to visit by touching on the physical aspects of it all. The author focuses on things like the sound of a house full of sleeping people breathing and being pressed in together in beds and on floors in makeshift sleep mats. The sensory aspect of this book is incredible. We had dear friends travel with their seven children to visit us, and many lines of this book were recited by my children describing having nine more people squeeze into our little farmhouse. It is a cozy, comfortable book worth reading again and again.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Sometimes, books make all families well off and comfortable with few-to-no wants. This book captures what it is like for other families. I grew up very poor, and while my mother worked very hard to give us all us a sense that we were lacking nothing for being wrapped in love, I noticed other children had more than us. This book reminds me of my childhood. Following a tragedy, this little family of a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother find that they lose everything they own, and all they want is a chair. The language is gentle and not heavy handed, but leads the child to compassion in a subtle way.

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

This is another book that always makes me cry. One of my children loves this book especially, and it probably started because a character shares his name. We live on my husband’s family’s nineteenth-century homestead, and there are many places here that are loved by different family members who are happy to tell my children about how they used to hide in the flour bin, the hoosier cupboard, or their favorite fishing spot at the creek. This book follows a family by discussing how their farm speaks to them. MacLachlan is a master of fleshing out characters in ways that are so delicate they are almost indiscernible, yet there they are.

Selma by Jutta Bauer

This book is very simply written, and it touches on what is the nature of happiness and the meaning of life, in discussing a little ewe. We raise sheep, so anything involving sheep interests my children, but this book touches on the beauty of a simple life. One time, we were in a group and the children started talking about what they would do if they had a million dollars and all the things they would buy. My son said all he needed was a little grass, a little lunch, a gossip with the neighbor, and he would be happy. This is the book I pull out when the little people are feeling a little greedy because it reminds us that we have all we really need.

The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff

My husband’s family immigrated from Finland at the very close of the nineteenth century and established this farm under the Homestead Act. In the upstairs hallway is the original deed signed by Teddy Roosevelt and copies of the Ellis Island manifest where they signed their names as they entered the country. I want our children to know what this meant, just what this process was. This book is an excellent way of showing it. The family in the book is entering the country and subjected to a brief physical exam, and it appears one of the children will be rejected and sent back home. Every time we read it, the children weep in fear for this child and sigh deeply in gratitude at the resolution. It is a book that they come back to when they talk about the needs of other children, and it is woven into their consciousness.

Roxaboxen by Alice McTerran

This book was chosen by one of the children but is a favorite of my husband in particular. He loves to read this book aloud to them. It is about a group of children who played town, like all children do. It is such a simple story, but it takes on a life of its own as our children think of the children as being like them and as we parents remember the children we used to be. When I teach the memoir thing, I ask the children to explain to me the way that they live their fantasies now. They don’t understand yet that these are the stories that shape the adults they will be and the ones that they will come back to when they need to know who they are.

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant

This book was chosen by one of the youngest children and by one of the oldest whom I then asked to name another book. This book uses self-conscious personification to develop the main character of the book, and it highlights her loneliness. Ultimately the book resolves well, but it is always a moving book for the children as they consider times they have been lonely. As they contemplate how they could have or would have alleviated the old woman’s loneliness, they stretch their little hearts and teach themselves how to love.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey 

This is a classic book, a giant in the canon of children’s literature. The story of a little bear and a little child becoming separated from their mothers and instead following the other mother is a classic. The world is big and getting lost happens, but how we find our way home is what counts. One of the things that my children like about this book is how the cub and child are similar, as are the mothers. The child who chose this book told me that it is fun to think of how we can be so different and so alike, and I think that is how we find our ways home.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This is a book that I buy for every little girl we know at some point in her childhood. I have spent a lot of money sharing this book over the years. This book is about a clique of unkind girls, including one who is reluctantly mean, and the way they taunt another little girl. The subject of their cruelty is poor and wears the same dress every day, and when asked if she owns another, she tells them that she has a hundred dressed lined up in her closet. The resistance of the main character and her regret over actions inspires such kindness in children. If I could buy a copy for every child in the world, I would. That said, despite the fact that little girls are more likely (in my experience) to happily read a book about dresses, this theme is important for boys, too. My boys have all read and enjoyed this book.

What books would you include in your list and why?


Melissa Naasko is the wife of an Orthodox deacon, the mother of eleven hungry children, and author of Fasting as a Family from Ancient Faith Publishing. She cooks, knits, and writes from the Upper Peninsula.

This post’s first photo is by Milan Popovic on Unsplash. Melissa and I chose it because we think it captures childhood.

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman

“Grace loves stories, whether they’re from books, movies, or the kind her grandmother tells. So when she gets a chance to play a part in Peter Pan, she knows exactly who she wants to be. Remarkable watercolor illustrations give full expression to Grace’s high-flying imagination.”

Word person that I am, I’m still going to talk about the pictures first for Amazing Grace. Caroline Binch has created an extraordinary work of art here, precisely because the pictures aren’t “extraordinary” in the usual sense. They are life-like. It’s not photo-realism, but it’s clear on every page that she must have taken the people in the book from life – she had models. You look at Grace and Mama and Nana, and you are POSITIVE that they are real people who agreed to pose for the illustrations. And Caroline’s genius is that she achieves this powerful sense without photo-realism. There are soft edges. You know it’s a painting. But the personhood it depicts leaps out of the page at you.

That’s especially important for this story, in which Grace is struggling to overcome the limitations other people want to set for her. Her own peers try to use her gender and her race against her, and just as the illustrations are life-like, the text is life-like too – undramatic, simple, and resoundingly true. Grace’s classmates aren’t deliberately cruel. They’re unconsciously giving voice to the prejudices that are accepted by the world around them. The same children are just as susceptible to Grace’s confidence and talent when she finds the courage to display them.

This is what makes Amazing Grace so powerful – the just-plainness of it, the way you immediately recognize it as truth despite the fact that story is fiction. The best art, in my view, reveals and reflects on truth. Mary Hoffman pulls it off, with both simplicity and depth. Where some stories can be funny for both children and adults, this story can be true and encouraging for readers of all ages.

This book is available on Amazon in hard cover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook editions, and a special 25th anniversary edition.

Froggy Learns to Swim, by Jonathan London

“Zzzziiiinnngggg splash!
Everyone’s favorite frog learns to swim!

Frogs are supposed to be great swimmers. “Not me!” says Froggy, who’s afraid of the water. But with a little encouragement, some practice, and the help of a silly song or two, Froggy becomes an expert frog-kicker!”

You have to read this book out loud. You can’t help reading it “in voices.” Froggy’s voice is very life-like (which is to say child-like), and if you are a parent, the voice of Froggy’s mother will come naturally to you. It’s the voice you hear coming out of your own mouth a dozen times a day.

“Say, ‘Bubble bubble,’ under water. Then raise your face for air and say, ‘Toot toot.'”

“I don’t want to,” Froggy whined.

“Oh come on, Froggy, just try it. Repeat after me: ‘Bubble bubble, toot toot.'”

Frank Remkiewicz’s illustrations are the best – the froggy facial expressions and body postures exactly match the querulous, bowdacious, very human moods and reactions of this amphibian family. The story is funnier because the characters are frogs, but also because those frogs are so much like people!

I must admit that part of me would adore a watermelon swimsuit and ruffly pink bathing cap, just like what Froggy’s mother is sporting. And of COURSE her name in the book is “Froggy’s mother.” Speaking as one who has also given birth (though not to a frog), this is how we are known. If Froggy’s mother ever had a name, you can be sure no one uses it now. She’s Froggy’s mother. You can’t blame her for the watermelon swimsuit. Not at all.

But with all this froggy fun at the pond, the book makes a good point. If you are hesitating on the brink, sure you can’t do it (whether “it” is swimming or another challenge), if you just keep breathing and working the routines you’ve been taught by someone who loves you, you’ll be surprised what you can overcome – even your own nervousness.

Bubble bubble, toot toot!

This book is available on Amazon in paperback, ebook, and school/library binding editions.