Angels and Rats

Before my mom retired, she taught third through fifth grade for about twenty years. When she was packing up her classroom a couple of years ago, she gave away a lot of things but made sure to keep the books my siblings and I grew up with, like The Babysitters Club and The Boxcar Children, for our kids to enjoy. We’ve read many, many of those, two of which were some Jerry Spinelli gems, Third Grade Angels and Fourth Grade Rats.

Both chapter books were just as fun and silly as I remembered, showing real problems faced by elementary school kids and showing support from parents and teachers. Who could forget Suds, who earned his nickname because his anxiety was calmed by bubblebaths?  Here’s what Max thought of Fourth Grade Rats:

Fourth Grade Rats is by Jerry Spinelli. It is 84 pages, and the characters are Suds, Joey, his teacher, his mom, and Jody Billings. The setting of the story is in his house and at his school. I love it! I bet you would too. Suds really loved being an angel but hated being a rat. Joey talked him into it, but they got in trouble so then they stopped. I give Fourth Grade Rats five snacks:

Snacks for Max 5 snacks

Opening Day is coming!

Last year was the first year Max played baseball, and I was shocked at our first game, which was Opening Day for our league. When I was little, our baseball league was several teams with three fields, one of which was down the hill and rained out any time it sprinkled. Where we live now, baseball is a BIG deal. Opening Day started off with a fly-over (what?!) followed by high school choir and JROTC team performances, and it boasted bounce houses, a rock wall, a band, and food trucks. It was insane!

It might have been because of how awesome Opening Day was that Max decided baseball is life. This year’s Opening Day is still a few weeks away, but in the meantime we have been reading any and all baseball books we can get our hands on.

Two books Max received for Christmas are part of Cal Ripken, Jr.’s Hothead series: Hothead and Out at Home. Here are Max’s thoughts on each of them:

Out At Home by Cal Ripken, Jr. is 208 pages. The main characters are Mickey, his team and coast, Abby, and his dad, who is his coach. The setting is the baseball stadium and Mickey’s house. Mickey is a catchr who loves baseball. His pitcher hurt his arm, so his coach found a new pitcher who called himself Zoom. But Zoo was a big idiot/jerk. So the coach benched him so then Zoom realized that he had to be a team player. I love this book so much!

Max gives Out At Home five snacks:

Snacks for Max 5 snacks

The other book I read was Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr. It is 144 pages. The main characters are Conner, his team and coach, his dad and mom, and Melissa. The setting of this book is on the baseball field and Conner’s house.

Conner has a very small temper, so when he fails on the field he flips out. Eventually, his coach says that if he flips again then he’s off the team. He’s about to do it! But he saves himself and they win.

Max gives Hothead five snacks:

Snacks for Max 5 snacks

As a special treat to celebrate baseball season, enjoy a free printable Baseball Word Search, courtesy of

Click the image to download the PDF, and click here for the answer key.

This baseball-themed word find worksheet will be a home run with kids! Word finds are great for spelling practice and word recognition. For more even more educational resources that will knock it out of the park with your kids, visit

Meet the Max of Snacks For Max

When I started the Snacks for Max blog in December of 2011, my son Max was nine months old. I could tell his preferences by whether he screamed or smiled, but I always wanted to know what he was thinking. These days, Max is in second grade, and I get to hear what he’s thinking whether I want to or not!

When Max was little, I read to him every night, but now that he knows how to read (which felt like it happened overnight when he was in Kindergarten; one of the coolest things ever was watching him learn), we take turns reading to each other. His favorite books are mysteries, though he also has a penchant for nonfiction since his Team Read sheets at school let him skip a couple of categories with nonfiction books.

If you’re unfamiliar with Team Read, it’s a program at his elementary school that rewards students for reading, similar to the Book It! and Accelerated Reader programs my schools participated in years ago. For Team Read, students fill out a sheet about each book they read, and the pages add up to advance them through the levels of the program. At our parent teacher conference in the fall, Max’s teacher said she knew that he read a lot at home from talking with him, but he hadn’t been turning in his sheets. He and I spent his fall break filling out sheets for five or six books he had read to me before bed over the previous two months, and when he took them to school, they added up to already push him into not the first or second but the third category of readers!

Here is Max’s review of one of Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries:

a to z mysteries deadly dungeon ron royTitle: A to Z Mysteries: The Deadly Dungeon

Author: Ron Roy

Illustrator: Ron Roy

# of Pages: 86

Characters: Dink, Josh, Ruth Rose, Wallis, Walker

Setting: The setting of this story is a castle and the time is a few days.

Summary: They got on a bus so they could visit their friend Wallis and her brother Walker. Walker took them lobstering when they got there. He told them a ghost story. When they got back to the castle, they heard a scream like a ghost. They got hungry so they had a picnic and then they found a trap door. In the trap door they found two parrots. It had to be a poacher, and it was, so they caught him and the parrots went back to where they came from.

I rate this book a 4 because the bad guy pretended to be their friend, but he really isn’t. I like that there is a castle right next to the ocean.

Snacks, Gerber

The series about Dink and his friends is one of my favorites. I would give the series as a whole 5 snacks.

Snacks for Max 5 snacks

An elephant, a pig, and our first (documented) fan fic

Max is three years older than his brother, so when he was first learning to read, his little brother was just starting to sit down and listen to stories. Little brother’s early favorite has been Mo Willems‘ Elephant & Piggie series. At first, I read them both the stories. Then, I would voice Piggie while Max would voice Elephant. We still do that sometimes (over Thanksgiving Mamaw and Papaw voiced the characters), but more often it is big brother reading to little brother, complete with silly voices and expressions.

It. Is. Adorable.

Last year for Christmas, Mason got several Elephant & Piggie books, and we soon had them all memorized. A few favorites are “There is a Bird On Your Head!” and “Let’s Go For a Drive!

I love to encourage reading and a love of books, so one of the car games we play is Story Hot Potato, where each person takes a turn making up a sentence of a story. Max and I started this when he was little and loved Dora. I would make up Dora stories following the Nickelodeon pattern (Hi, I’m Dora! And I’m Boots. We have a problem! Map will help us solve it. Get past three obstacles. We did it! Problem solved!), and he quickly learned to do the same. Sadly, we didn’t capture any of these stories (some were hysterical, and I wish I’d recorded them).

I didn’t realize fan fiction is what we were doing then, and I honestly just realized that’s the term for what we did recently when we wrote our own Elephant & Piggie book in the style of Mo Willems. However, I just saw an actual definition of fan fiction, so I guess that’s what we can call it.

To further our love of Elephant & Piggie, Max thought up this story and wrote the words, and I did my best to illustrate it by copying the characters’ poses in Willems’ different books. Max is quite proud of it. I hope you enjoy it!

elephant and piggie fan fiction

I See A Monster! By Max Shook Illustrated by Jaymie Shook in the style of Mo Willems

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“Where’s Gerald?”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

(Looks left, looks right)

elephant and piggie fan fiction


elephant and piggie fan fiction

“I think…I’m alone. It is getting dark.”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

(Creak) “Gerald?”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“It’s a…A MONSTER!”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“Save me Gerald!”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“What’s wrong, Piggie?”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“There was a monster!” “A monster?”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

Really? thinks Gerald. “A scary monster!”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

(Both see a monster.) “Aggghhh!”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“You were right, Piggie!” “I was.”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“Hi, guys. Did you see my shadow?” “Your shadow?!”

elephant and piggie fan fiction

“Bye bye!” (Plink) (Plonk)

elephant and piggie fan fiction

The end.





Sit still before Mommy screams!

Back in October, Max and I received and reviewed two books in the Mini Myths series by Joan Holub, illustrated by Leslie Patricelli (and gave them both 5 snacks!). One was about Hercules and being gentle, especially with little kids, which is an excellent lesson for a new big brother like Max. The other was about Pandora and being patient, which is an excellent lesson for … pretty much any preschooler, including Max!

We were lucky to recently receive the two new additions to the Mini Myths series from the author in exchange for an honest review: Brush Your Hair, Medusa! and Make a Wish, Midas!

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.10.23 AMMake a Wish, Midas! equates the king of myth with a little boy who can’t get enough of the color yellow. When Mommy picks out a blue shirt and jeans, he finds his own yellow t-shirt and pants. He draws a yellow sun, a yellow house, and even a yellow Mommy! Midas’ best friend is a green dinosaur, which is a problem. He wants to be surrounded by yellow! He figures out a way to turn Dinoboo yellow, but it doesn’t work out how he thought it would, and Midas is sad.

Luckily, Mommy is able to fix Dinoboo, and Midas learns to appreciate what he has rather than wishing for something else. Great lesson in our world full of materialism!

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.10.09 AMIn Holub’s other tale, Brush Your Hair, Medusa!, Medusa is a little girl with crazy hair. Her curls stick out in a wild wave around her head, and she puts off using her hairbrush anyway she can. (Can’t really blame her: I wouldn’t want to try to get a brush through those tangles either.)

I struggled with finding a lesson out of this story. I would say that Medusa learned to listen to grownups, but at the end you can tell from her mischievous grin (which is super adorable) that she didn’t plan on letting Dad brush her teeth anymore than she allowed him to brush her hair. What I finally landed on was using Medusa’s experience to explain consequences for not doing what parents ask you to do:

Because Medusa wouldn’t let her daddy brush her hair, they had to cut it off!

Make a Wish, Midas! deserves 5 snacks for the beautiful illustrations that elicit so much emotion from the characters and the lesson to appreciate what you have.

Snacks for Max 5 snacks

Brush Your Hair, Medusa! deserves 4 snacks for the cute depiction of a well-known myth.

Snacks, Gerber

Why literacy is so important (and how you can help)


You can help!

Go to and donate to First Book before Friday at 8 pm EST. We’re in the top left quadrant of the bracket. Follow the directions on the page. Thank you for your support in giving books to low income Indy area kids!

Please share to raise awareness about Team First Book and the Brackets for Good competitive giving challenge.

Saving, spending, giving – for kids!

An author I’ve worked with in the past reached out to me recently about her new children’s book, “Nana’s 3 Jars“, so I was thrilled to accept a copy for review. Carol Round’s previous book I’d worked with her on was “Journaling with Jesus” about prayer journaling for adults. I took part in her challenge – journaling daily during Lent – and saw a huge difference in my thinking as I did so. So, when Carol asked me to read her book with my boys, I was happy to do it!

3 jarsEven before we opened the book, Max was excited. “It’s for 3 year olds!” he said (because of the 3 on the cover). Once we opened it and started reading, he immediately related to the boy and girl in the story who were on their way to Nana’s house to spend the day. Our boys spent two nights with my parents recently and did all sorts of fun things – including playing with all the big kids at church who my parents teach in Sunday school. Max loved it. (Mason is happy anytime people smile at him, talk to him, or hold him, at this point, which means he’s a very happy baby!)

In the story, the sister and brother learn from Nana what it means to set apart money for spending, for saving, and for giving. This financial lesson is one that I’m convinced we all need. I love the idea of teaching it right from the beginning of a child’s understanding about money. One way the children in the story internalize the lesson is by using some of the giving money to buy ingredients and make cookies, which they then take to share with veterans.

One of Max’s favorite things to do is help make dishes in the kitchen. We’ve been on a waffle kick lately, since my waffle maker is so easy to use. He loves pouring in each ingredient, stirring, and watching the ingredients become a meal or a “dessert item” as he calls them. That has to come from the babysitter 🙂 Carol includes a chocolate chip cookies recipe that I’m dying to try!

For the financial lesson and the recipe especially, “Nana’s 3 Jars” deserves 4 snacks:

Snacks, Gerber

What books to buy kids this Christmas

Now that Halloween is over, Christmas takes over. Decorations come out, carols come on, and kids’ list grow and grow. To help with your gift giving, below are links to our 5 snack reviews from the past several months:

These books are great for boys and girls from birth to preschool. Will you promote literacy this holiday season? Let me know what books you give as presents!

Halloweensie Challenge: No Tricks, Just Treats

Susanna Leonard Hill is offering a writing challenge for Halloween, with plenty of treats for several winners. The challenge? Write a story 100 words or less, including the words “pumpkin”, “creak” and “broomstick”. Then paste your blog link in the comments of her post by midnight after you trick or treat this Friday. Read more on her blog.

My entry:

No Tricks, Just Treats

Max loved movies. One day, Max watched a movie about a pumpkin and got an idea.

He tiptoed around the house, collecting what he needed. First, he gathered a piece of orange paper and a hat. Then, he found a broomstick. Last, he grabbed the iPad.

Later, Max displayed his movie. Daddy smiled when the pumpkin dressed as a witch, gasped when a creak frightened her hat off, and chuckled when she lost her broom. Best of all, he hugged Max when another pumpkin helped pick up the hat, find the broom, and offered a Halloween treat.

Max loved movies!

If you participate in the challenge, please leave your story or link in my comments too, so I can be sure to read it. Happy Halloween, friends!

A cupcake a day keeps the whining at bay

Some lessons you just HAVE to teach your kids. Being gentle with babies and small children, waiting for turns quietly rather than screaming and throwing fits, and learning to love reading are three top ones, to me.

Mini-Myths-Holub-1024x789Knowing Max needs to work on these things, I was thrilled to receive for review two board books from Joan Holub’s Mini Myths series, “Be Patient, Pandora!” and “Play Nice, Hercules!”

We started off with Hercules, first because it featured a boy, second because Max loves the Hercules Disney movie, and third because I’ve found myself saying “play nice” quite a bit since May. Luckily my five-month-old is laid-back because his brother likes to play rough. The board book format is perfect because I can read it to both boys at the same time and not worry about the baby ripping or drooling all over the pages; rather, the only problem is the possibility of Max throwing the books at nap time or bedtime because he’s “NOT TIRED” – yeah right – but I digress.

In “Play Nice, Hercules!” the character, just like my toddler, plays a little too rough with his little sibling. Hercules’ father has eyes in the back of his head (or just knows the nature of toddlers) and asks when he walks by, “Are you being nice, Hercules?” This is enough of a reminder to Hercules that he starts to play nicely with his sister without threats from Dad. Perhaps rereading this book a few thousand times will teach Max that lesson!

Next we moved on to “Be Patient, Pandora!” which also fit in well with our household experiences. Little man doesn’t wait well. I’ve been trying to teach him with the mantra “What is being patient? Waiting without whining!”

In the book, the little girl finds a wrapped present that her mom tells her to leave alone. While Pandora keeps herself from straight out opening the box, she gets a little closer to it, nudges it, stands on it, and jumps on it. When she jumps on it, the box opens by itself, and ruined cupcakes fly out. Pandora is worried that her mom won’t love her anymore, but of course Mom banishes that thought quickly. Great lesson, though. Next time Max starts to whine, I just have to remind him that he might ruin the cupcakes!

At the end of each story is a page that summarizes the myth. While it’s a lot of text on one page for my boys right now, I do love the introduction to Greek mythology. It was one of my favorite concepts to learn in elementary school!

Joan Holub’s Mini Myths earn five snacks:

Snacks for Max 5 snacks