Flannel Friday: Blue Square House

Flannel Friday

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a long overdue Flannel Friday entry.  My goal is to eventually share all of the flannel stories that I’ve created, so with that in mind, I’m starting at the beginning of my flannel arsenal, alphabetically speaking.  Interestingly enough, I’ve yet to create a flannel that starts with “A.”

What You Need


The pieces for this set are pretty simple:  a square, a triangle, a rectangle, a circle, a star, and a crescent.  I created all of the pieces from simple clipart shapes that matched what I needed, sized to fit on top of each other like a house.  The most important thing is matching up the colors, because the rhyme relies on naming the shapes and colors while you build the house.

The Story


This rhyme was taught to be by one of my fabulous coworkers, Lara Barrett, at another branch of our library.  It goes like this:

I live inside a blue square house

With a green rectangle door.

It has a red triangle roof,

But look outside – there’s more!

In the morning when I wake up

The sun is in the sky:

A bright and shining orange circle

Way up high.

And when it’s time to go to bed

There’s a single yellow star

Beside a big white crescent moon

Looking down from so, so far.

Shapes and colors, come with me.

Let’s count how many we can see!

Credit:  Lara Barrett, W.O. Haggard, Jr. Library (Plano Public Library)

Tips for Use

I start by putting up the different shapes all over the board, in no particular order, while we name the colors and the shapes.  Then we sing the song and put the house in the correct order.  At the end, we count the shapes together as we take them back off the board again.  We’ve also used this as a transition in our sensory story times.  For those groups, we hand out shapes to each of the children who want to participate, and they get to bring them up as we get to the their shape in the song.  The house doesn’t always look like a house, but it’s a great way to get everyone involved!

Can’t Get Enough?

This week, our host is Kate McBright at Felt Board Magic.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  Happy Friday, everyone!


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Preschool Story Time: Family Heroes

Story Time Archives

Date presented:  Thursday, July 2, 2015

This story time was based on the theme suggestions from the 2015 CSLP Summer Reading Manual.  My goal was to have eight weeks of programming based on the theme:  “Every Hero Has a Story.”  To be honest, not all of those themes turned out to be great ideas.  Combined with the fact that these were some of the first story times I did, and we didn’t have much in the way of structure, well…let’s just say that you may have to be forgiving of some of the elements.  But, one of my goals for blogging about my story times is to include the good and the bad, so that hopefully others will learn, too.


When I presented this story time, I didn’t have much of an introduction set up.  Since the parents tended to be running late, I would spend the first five minutes or so talking to the kids and parents as they came in, and sometimes teasing what we were doing in story time that week.

Welcome Song

We used the same welcome song in preschool story time each week.  It was taught to me by my boss when I took over story time as the welcome song that families were used to, and I kept it as part of my story times.

Welcome, Everyone (Tune:  Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

Welcome, welcome, everyone.

Now you’re here – let’s have some fun.

First we’ll clap our hands just so.

Then we’ll reach and touch our toes.

Welcome, welcome, everyone.

Now you’re here – let’s have some fun.

Credit:  Adapted from Public Library Program Ideas

Letter of the Day

Each week, we had a Letter of the Day for story time.  For preschool  groups, I gave an introduction to the topic that we were going to do, and a hint about the important word or words before asking them to guess the letter.  Some weeks the kids could guess the letter on the first try, and some weeks we spent a little more time trying to figure out what the letter might be.  We showed two cards:  one that showed the letter of the week, and one that showed how to make the letter in sign language.  This week was F for Family.

iPad Technology

During this summer, we had hoped to incorporate technology into story time wiht our iPads.  When I was planning, I picked a Storybots ABC video for each week that corresponded with the letter of the week.  This plan should have included the video “F is Fun,” but after trying this in one or two story times, I determined that our setup didn’t really allow it to work.  The screen on the iPad was too small for most of the audience to see (we didn’t have a way to project it), and honestly, the parents and kids alike were confused by why we were doing it.  So, this technology ended up dropped out of the outlines.

Story Box

This summer I introduced something a little different for my preschool story times.  Instead of having the books and activities in a particular order, which is how I normally do story time, I wanted to make it more interactive.  So, I created Ms. Jaime’s Story Box, a wooden box that contained everything I needed for story time.  I would include the books that I planned to read, as well as any flannel stories I wanted to share, and wooden music notes to represent songs.  The goal was for children to pick something out of the box to start the story time, and then pick another element once we’ve finished the first.  I don’t remember now the order that we shared things in (the hazards of not blogging about story time when it happens), but overall, it got to be part of story time that the kids were really excited about.  It was sometimes crazy, and our story time was sometimes disjointed, but it was a lot of fun.  For the purposes of blogging, though, I’ll just list the books and elements in the order that I planned them.

1st Book

Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root – I picked this book because I just love the illustrations in it.  Seriously, the pages are absolutely gorgeous, and the rhyming text makes it such a great read for story time.  I love the anticipation of what the little bird will see next, and the hesitation that you can add while reading to see if the audience will help you “read” the story.


Our “Clap Your Hands” song was a staple for story time each week, and usually happened sometime after our first book as a transition to our next element.  Since the kids were usually excited about pulling out a book or a flannel story, the music notes didn’t really get selected as often.  As the weeks went on, I prompted them for when we would share a song, which let us work music in a little more regularly.  This is another song that I inherited from the previous children’s librarian, but it was such a hit with our groups that it was impossible not to include it each week.

Clap Your Hands

Clap, clap, clap your hands,

Clap your hands together.

Clap, clap, clap your hands,

Clap your hands together.

Clap a little faster now,

Clap along with me.

Clap a little slower now,

Clap along with me.

Continue with:  nod your head, shake your heads, stomp your feet, and (sometimes) shake your hands.

Credit:  Adapted from KIDiddles

2nd Book

One Hundred is a Family by Pam Muñoz Ryan – I picked this book because it showed a variety of families, and I wanted something that would appeal to the different types of family dynamics that might be present in my story time.  However, the book fell a little flat with the audience.  They weren’t interested in counting, and most of the concepts depicted didn’t really make sense to them.

Flannel Story

For this week, I had two flannel stories created:  Mommy’s Dresses and Daddy’s Ties.  Both are variations on the song “Mary Wore Her Red Dress,” and practice basic color concepts.  My thought was that we should have something to represent both the mommies and daddies of the families, so I created pieces for both.  Unfortunately, my dresses are apparently not up to preschool standards, since they were convinced that Mommy’s dresses were actually Daddy’s tank tops.  But, in terms of simplicity and color identification, they were a hit easily customized to the number of children in story time who wanted to participate.


I always included a second song or rhyme in my outlines for this group, although I very rarely included them in the story time session.  For this theme, I chose the simple fingerplay “Where is the Family?”  It uses the familiar song “Where Is Thumbkin?” to name the different family members on each finger.

Where Is the Family?  (Tune:  Where Is Thumbkin?)

Where is daddy, where is daddy?

Here I am, here I am!  (Hold thumbs up.)

How are you today, sir?

Very well, I thank you!  (Bend thumbs as if they are interacting with each other.)

Run away, run away!  (Hide hands behind your back.)

Continue with the rest of your fingers for the other verses:  mommy (pointer finger), brother (middle finger), sister (ring finger), baby (pinkie), and the family (whole hand).

Credit:  Adapted by Julie Dietzel-Glair in the 2015 Collaborative Summer Library Program Early Literacy Manual

3rd Book

What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff – I love Laura Numeroff’s books, and this one felt like the perfect fit for story time.  Our previous stories had talked about babies growing up and the different types of families, and our flannel stories got mommies and daddies, so I wanted something that covered siblings as well, especially since several of our regular families included siblings attending together.  This book is beautiful and simple, so the kids were able to relate to it and stayed intrigued in the story.  They loved the idea of a flip book, too – two books are always better than one!  The only hiccup with this one was that they were disappointed that the text was exactly the same in both stories.

Goodbye Song

We ended story time with our goodbye song, which is always the same each week.  We always sang “The More We Get Together” from the Baby Love Song Time CD.  The response varied from week to week.


For this week, I thought that making our own family trees would be a really cute craft.  On paper, this seemed like a really great idea.  I found an adorable 3-D family tree craft, and cut a bunch of trees and leaves out from simple templates ahead of time.  In practice, however, this craft was an epic failure.  Even though I made the trees out of construction paper, they weren’t sturdy enough to stand on their own (cardstock might have worked better).  The kids had fun gluing on the leaves, but they didn’t really understand the concept of adding the different members of their family to their tree.  Most of them ended up bored with the activity, and the parents ended up doing most of the crafting.

How It Went

Unfortunately, I did this outline before I started keeping really detailed story time notes, so I don’t have any details about specific reactions or attendance for the week.  Overall, this theme wasn’t a complete failure, but I would definitely make modifications before using this outline again.  The idea of families makes a great story time theme, and the kids did seem to enjoy talking about their families.  I’ve done the family theme with preschool since, using different books, and it’s been more successful than this outline was.  I’d count this one as a learning experience in picking better materials to relate to the audience.

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Preschool Story Time: July Themes

Story Time Archives

Recently, my library announced (to staff, anyway) that we will be moving to a year-round story time format in January 2018.  We’ll have story time 52 weeks of the year, with no breaks.  While the supervisors have started talking about the logistics for how this might work, I’ve decided it’s more important than ever to start going through my old story time outlines to really get a feel for what’s worked and what hasn’t.  So, I’m dusting off the story time outline binders, and breaking out the computer once again to *hopefully* start blogging regularly about story time.  For each month, I’ll post a placeholder that includes all the themes that I’ve done, and eventually, these will link to the individual blog posts about those story time as well.  I’m also working on some updates to the rest of my website to make it easier to find information.

Since we’ve just wrapped up July, what better place to start?  Here’s a list of the July themes that I’ve used in story time so far:

  • Alphabet (Sidekicks)
  • Birds/Owls
  • Bugs
  • Build It
  • Cowboys (Heroes throughout History)
  • Dragons (Heroes in Storybooks)
  • Family Heroes
  • Frogs
  • The Hero Inside Me
  • Imagination
  • Outdoor/Summer Fun
  • Play/Sports/Pretend
  • Zoo

Sometimes the themes related to the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme for the year, and sometimes the themes matched up well with programs that we were offering in the library that week.  What are your favorite story time themes for July?

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Flannel Friday: Happy Birthday, Moon

I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I posted!  Even more, I can’t believe that it’s Flannel Friday’s fifth birthday!  I’ve been so inspired by all the posts that I’ve read, and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.  Happy birthday!  As it turns out, I have the perfect birthday flannel.  At my library, we’ve done both space and birthday themes this session, and this flannel works perfectly for either.  So, here’s my contribution:  a flannel version of Frank Asch’s Happy Birthday, Moon.


I used these pieces to retell the story.  Since we co-present our story times, we had one person serve as the narrator and Bear, and the second person served as the Moon.  It turned out really cute!

The pieces are all from designed from various clipart pictures I found.  There is, of course, Bear and Moon, and a top hat (I did make sure it had a purple band like the one in the book – that detail seemed important).  There is a bare tree, a river, a canoe, a series of small trees together for a forest, and a mountain range.  I also created a miniature piggy bank and a pile of coins for Bear to buy the hat.  The pieces aren’t to scale (Bear is bigger than the mountains, I think), but I needed them smaller to fit on our board and honestly, they were easier to make that way.  The kids didn’t seem to mind, either.

Hopefully it won’t be as long before I share again.  In any case, I’ll be keeping up with the round-ups and getting more great ideas.  This week, our host is Mollie at What Happens in Storytime.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  Happy Friday, everyone!

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Flannel Friday: Ice Cream Colors

image (11)

I’m running a little bit behind today, but I am determined to get this post up in time for Flannel Friday.  Last year for Halloween, I did a Halloween-themed story time.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well at all with the parents.  So this year, I decided to switch things up a bit.  In honor of Halloween candy, we did a Candy and Desserts story time this week instead.  After looking at our book selection, I decided on an ice cream cone flannel story to add variety to the types of desserts we talked about.

Here are all the ice cream cones that I created.  I took the simplest clipart template that I could find and cut out the cones and tops and then glued them together.

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Here’s the rhyme that I used with it:

We have ice cream, the best in town!

Let us begin with chocolate BROWN.

This ice cream is lime and GREEN.

It is the creamiest we’ve ever seen.

YELLOW ice cream is lemony and tart.

We like it from the very start.

ORANGE sherbet is next, oh so sweet.

Everyone thinks that it’s a great treat!

Scoops of BLUEberry make this a lucky day.

We just want to cheer, hip, hip, hooray!

RED ice cream is a cherry delight.

This ice cream cone is a heavenly sight.

Vanilla CREAM (or WHITE) is a popular flavor.

It tastes very good to an ice-cream craver.

PURPLE ice cream really gives us a kick.

Good and yummy till the very last lick.

Now let us scoop some bubble-gum PINK.

It is sweet and yummy, the best we think.

Ice cream, ice cream, what a cool sensation.

We love ice cream in any combination!

I slightly adapted this rhyme from Fun with Friends at Storytime to work with the colors that I had.  Kathryn’s rhyme originally had mint ice cream, but I didn’t think that my green was very minty looking, so I went with lime instead.

With both my toddler and preschool groups, I handed out the ice cream cones and we waited our turn to put up the right color.  I loved that this turned out to be a great time for parent interaction, since the parents this week were great about encouraging their children to wait their turn to put up their ice cream rather than swarming the board.  With my preschool group, we also talked about what flavors we might be missing and what colors they should be in between putting up more ice cream cones.

This week, our host is the wonderful Storytime Katie, one of my favorite blogs for inspiration and ideas.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  Happy Friday, everyone!

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Blast Off! at the Library

In October, we hosted our first STEAM program at the library.  We scheduled the program for an hour and a half, taking the place of our regularly scheduled after-school craft program for the week.  Our theme:  space.  Our mission:  make learning about space fun and hands-on for each participant.

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Program and Room Set Up

Based on our past attendance at our after school programs, we planned everything for 24 attendees.  (This also worked out well in terms of dividing up supplies based on serving sizes and other considerations).  Our program was held in our meeting room, which gave us access to enough space for several tables and chairs, as well as the projector and sound system.  We set up a total of eight tables in a rectangle on one side of the room, with chairs only on the outside edges.  The center we left open to give us (the librarians) space to move around, help the children, and demonstrate concepts as needed.  The project screen is set up to display in the center of the room, and the other half of the room was left empty for our rocket launches later in the program.

We planned for a combination of technology, discussion, and hands-on learning.  We planned three major segments to the program:  moon craters, rockets, and comets.  When we were setting up for the program, we did as much prep as possible ahead of time so that we didn’t have to do it during the program (I’ll give more specifics about each activity later in the post).  At each place at the table, we put out any supplies that would be needed that were not sensitive to exposure.  This gave the kids some visual clues about what we would be doing, and also kept us from having to run back and forth setting up materials during the program.  Since part of program involved food, we prepped everything in the kitchen adjacent to our meeting room to be brought out when we were ready for the part of the program.

Program Introduction

We invited everyone into the room at once, and once everyone was seated around the table, we provided a brief introduction to the program.  Originally, we had planned to just describe the afternoon’s activities, but my colleague had the great idea of asking the kids to guess what we might be doing with the materials that they had before them.  We used those guesses to start our discussion about what we would be doing, and provided a few more details about the anticipated activities.

Interactive Technology:  Solar System Scope

Since we were talking about space, we started out with a discussion of what we already knew about the stars and planets.  Using our laptop and projector, we pulled up the Solar System Scope.  We started out by learning some facts about the earth and the moon, and then took suggestions for other planets to explore.  Rather than just delivering the information about each planet, we asked the kids what they knew about the planet or any questions they had.  We threw out ideas about the different planets and then consulted the information on the website to learn more.  I was actually surprised by how involved this portion was – almost every child present wanted to contribute information at some point or read facts from the website.  We kept this going until we covered all the planets and interest waned.

Hands-On Activty:  Moon Craters


  • Salt map dough (pre-made at home and put into individual Ziploc baggies)
  • Rocks (large and small, purchased in bags from Dollar Tree)

After looking at some pictures of moon craters, we talked a little about what would form them.  We talked about different items that might find craters, and whether the distance or size of the object would impact the size of the crater.  Then, each child got to make their own moon craters!  We provided each child with an individual bag of salt map dough and a selection of rocks to drop and press to form the craters.  We purchased two bags of rocks (one of large rocks and one of small rocks), and divided them up into plastic cups the day of the event so that everyone had a few.  Some children made their own moons and planets by leaving the rocks in the dough, and some dropped or pressed rocks to make different shapes and craters.  One thing I would do differently in the future with this part is NOT putting the salt map dough out ahead of time.  Almost all of the children played with the dough in the bags during our introduction and discussion, so by the time they wanted to take it out, it was warmed up and very sticky.  However, we did get a lot of positive feedback from parents for using the salt map dough since it has all-natural ingredients.

Video to Share:  The Chemistry of Rockets

After moon craters, it was time to move on to our next component, rockets.  Originally, we had planned to show this short video about how rockets work.  However, since our salt map dough was a little messier than anticipated, we ended up dropping this activity in favor of a massive hand-washing expedition.  We sent everyone out to wash their hands and cleaned up some of the biggest mess from the moon craters, and transitioned right into the next activity, instead.

Hands-On Activity:  Straw Rocket Aeronautics


  • Pencil (purchased in package of 12 from Walmart)
  • Straw rocket template (printed on paper and pre-cut by teen volunteers)
  • Straws (purchased in package of 100 from Walmart)
  • Tape

Our next hands-on activity was creating our own rockets.  We found this great soda straw rocket template from NASA that we used for this portion of the activity.  The template includes all of the instructions, which was also a plus.  Since we had extra volunteers for a different program a few weeks before this one, we had them cut out the rocket pieces ahead of time to save time.  We gave each child the pieces he or she would need, and then talked about the steps to create the rocket.  We assisted with the taping as necessary, and most of the parents also helped in putting the rockets together.  After we created our rockets, we all lined up on the empty side of the room to launch our rockets and see whose would fly the farthest.  I think everyone’s favorite part from this was yelling, “3, 2, 1, Blast Off!”

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Video to Share:  How to Catch a Star Stop Motion Short Film

We planned to break up our rockets and transition to comets with this short film by Oliver Jeffers.  What we didn’t plan for was that rocket launching would be so exciting that we would have a hard time calming the kids back down for our next activity.  So, we admitted that we probably weren’t going to keep their attention with this one, and instead transitioned into our final hands-on activity.

Hands-On Activity:  Edible Comets


  • Instant pudding (1 box for every four children, we purchased store brand)
  • Milk (1 half gallon)
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Spoons
  • Add-ins like cookies, chocolate chips, and sprinkles

Originally, we had planned to do ice cream comets for the final portion of the program.  But, we decided that ice cream might be a little too involved, and we adapted to make pudding comets instead.  If you divide the pudding from one box into four cups, and add 1/3 cup milk, it makes a single serving of pudding.  Secret tip:  Put the milk in the freezer for about 30 minutes, and it will be slightly slushy.  This will let your pudding set up in 1-2 minutes instead of 5-10.  We had the milk and pudding already separated out prior to the program, so all we had to do was bring out the ingredients.

We gave each child a cup of milk and a cup of pudding mix and instructed them to mix them together.  We talked about the dust and debris that comets pick up, and then we added cookies that we crumbled, chocolate chips, and even sprinkles to represent our comets’ flight paths.  When we had all the necessary ingredients, we stirred everything together and watched it solidify into pudding.  The clear cups were great, because they let the kids see the entire transition from liquid to solid.  Then we got to enjoy eating our creations!

Program Evaluation

Overall, this program was a great success.  While we didn’t use all the elements that we planned for, the kids (and parents) had a great time and especially liked the hands-on components.  We spent some time talking about our favorite parts after the program, and the parents did some socializing before leaving.  I’m definitely glad that we did so much prep work ahead of time, because it made it so much easier to run the program.  I do wish, though, that we had taken more pictures throughout the program to document what we were doing.  Unfortunately, we were just too busy!  But, several of the parents took pictures, so at least the families have some documentation from our program.  The total cost for this ended up being about $1 per child, which was great.  We let them take home their dough, rocks, and pencils if they wanted, and of course, everyone had a comet to eat, too.  This was such a success that we are hoping to bring STEAM back again in January, with a snowman-themed program.  I can’t wait to share about it, too!

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Mountain Dog

Mountain Dog

Margarita Engle, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

ISBN:  9780805095166

I started out reading all of the 2015-2016 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees with the best intentions.  Summer reading derailed part of the reading, and now, our copies of the books are almost always checked out.  Which reminds me…I need to start on the 2016-2017 list earlier (maybe right away), although I am still going to try and read all of this year’s nominees.  Anyway, my most recent read:  Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle.  Of all the books I’ve read so far, this one generated some of the most complex emotions.  I alternately loved and hated it, but it’s definitely one not to miss.

Summary:  When Tony’s mother is sent to jail for dog fighting, he goes to live with a great uncle he didn’t even know he had.  He is so used to fear and anger from his old life that he is very hesitant of this new one, made even harder because there is nothing in common between the two worlds.  With the patience of his uncle and his uncle’s search-and-rescue dog, Gabe, Tony slowly learns that there is good to be found in the world, often in unexpected places.

What I Liked:  This book has a beautiful plot.  Tony’s story is heartbreaking, and yet all too realistic.  As I read, I couldn’t help but think of how many Tony’s might be out there without a loving uncle to save them.  I also loved the use of two perspectives:  both that of Tony and of Gabe.  While Tony’s segments teach us about his struggles to embrace his new life and to find trust and love again, Gabe’s narration provides us deeper insight into the complexity of this struggle.  Gabe’s simple happiness provides the perfect foil to Tony’s emotional turmoil, and through his dedication to loving Tony and proving that happiness exists, we can easily see Tony begin to open his heart again.  What I think I loved best about this book is that the emotions are raw and real.  Yes, there is happiness and love.  But there is also anger, and fear, and resentment.  Engle does not shy away from any emotion, and has a more realistic, meaningful story because of it.

What I Didn’t Like:  At first, I wasn’t thrilled that this book was written entirely in free-verse poetry.  I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but from the book’s summary and even the cover, I guess I was anticipating action-packed chapters.  Which, to be fair, this book does provide.  While I initially thought that having the book written in such a poetic format did a disservice to its plot, in reality, I think it provided for a sense of drama and intrigue that focused on the emotions in a way that more traditional writing might not have allowed.  While it did take some getting used to, I didn’t find reading poetry to be nearly as distracting as I thought it would be.  My only other complaint would be with Gabe’s chapters.  While I love his as a foil for Tony’s emotions, at times I thought that he was included too often and without offering anything additional to the plot, as though he were merely repeating ideas from previous chapters.

Overall Feeling:  When I started reading this book, I thought that I would hate it.  By the time I finished reading it, I loved it.  It was actually one of my favorite titles that I’ve read from the list so far.  This book has it all:  emotion, character, drama, and intrigue.  It addresses hard topics fairly, but without shying away from the realities of the situations.  It forces you to think, and, more importantly, to feel Tony’s story as you read it.  I will, however, admit that this book isn’t for everyone.  The poetic writing style may be a turn-off for some readers and discourage them from fully enjoying the text.  I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction or animal stories.  However, given the complexity of the emotions described and some of the situations Tony encounters, I would recommend this title to the older end of the Bluebonnet audience from a maturity standpoint.  Still, this is one you absolutely MUST read from this year’s list.

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