An Evening with Author/Illustrator DAV PILKEY


How does an evening with children’s author Dav Pilkey begin? (well,after waiting in a looooong line wrapping all the way around Headquarters library…)

Waiting for Captain Underpants

Waiting for Captain Underpants

With, of course, a loud “Tra-la-laaaa!” yelled in unison by all the kids (and many of the parents) in the audience. It’s Captain Underpants’ typical call to action.

I had the fun opportunity to be part of this attentive and rambunctious crowd last night at the St. Louis County Library’s Author Event, celebrating the release of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE SENSATIONAL SAGA OF SIR STINKS-A-LOT. (# 12 in the series)

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants

Screen Saver for Captain Underpants



Dav Pilkey, who will have 60 books to his credit with 2016’s THE ADVENTURES OF DOG MAN, has revolutionized reading for boys especially. USA Today called him the “savior of the reluctant reader.” His short, graphic chapter books with their silliness, fast pace, and bathroom humor are a perfect fit for young readers. The kid-friendly author creates his tales based on his own elementary school experiences.

The Adventures of Dog Man

The Adventures of Dog Man

As a child who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia, he understood the power of pictures to tell a story. Even though he often found himself doing hallway detention for drawing in class, he couldn’t resist making more clever comics—to the delight of his fellow students and the dismay of his teachers.

“Underwear is not funny!” said Mr. Pilkey’s second grade teacher. “Grow up!” she cautioned him. “You can’t spend the rest of your life making silly books!”

Drawing favorite characters

Drawing favorite characters

Oh, how little she knew, and how very far Mr. Pilkey has enriched young readers with the delights of his underwear crew.

Some of his other titles include:

The Ricky Ricotta Series 

Dog Breath

Paper Boy

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk

Super Diaper Baby



Nowadays, the author prefers drawing in more natural spots, like along the beach in Japan when visiting his wife’s family. But even there, he still suffers criticism—from some monkeys that is. Mr. Pilkey shared a video of himself at work sketching, while several monkeys attempted to confiscate his pens and offer vocal commentary on his work-in-progress.

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics

Dav Pilkey Attempts to Draw Despite Monkey Antics




At the end of his presentation last night, Mr. Pilkey made a point about perseverance. He showed a picture of a scowling egg and a happy potato in boiling water. “Don’t let adversities overcome you,” he said. “Rather use them to build on. In boiling water, a potato softens but an egg becomes hard.”



Many young readers in the crowd wore red capes, similar to Captain Underpants. On back of the capes was the message, “Reading is Power!” Thanks, Mr. Pilkey, for enhancing children’s literature with your comic characters and delightful illustrations and proving that strong reading muscles really do rock!

Raising a Reader

It is always a mission of mine to stress the importance of reading to, with, and by children to help them be successful in school and in life. RAISING A READER is a national nonprofit organization whose goal is the same, and it is meeting with great success in locations across the U. S.

One such location is the Seattle Public Library, where young readers experience the joys of reading and libraries.

My hat is off to Raising A Reader and all the libraries across the U.S. who have helped make summer reading possible for so many children!

ZeBee’s Virtual Summer Zoo Camp for Children

Too Dog-Gone Good to Miss

Just in time to beat summertime boredom–

An online cybercamp for children 5-8
Fun, educational activities–starting TODAY!!!
Eight weeks of zoo animal adventures
Prizes, games, animal trivia, arts & crafts, puzzles
July 6-August 28


St. Louis Writers Guild and Build-a-Bear Workshop Foundation are sponsoring THE BIG WRITE, a writing contest for both elementary and middle school students. This contest will be a part of THE BIG READ literary festival in Clayton, Missouri on October 11, 2008.
Six winners–three in each of two grade levels for 4th & 5th and 6th through 8th. Student should enter the contest as the grade they will be in for the fall of 2008. Prizes for the contest include: cash, award certificates, and Build-a-Bear merchandise. Winners will be announced at the festival, and the winning stories will be published on The Big Read website. There is no limit on the number of entries. For more information: Contest Guidelines. The deadline is September 12.


As promised, here are some additional notes from Mem Fox’s book, READING MAGIC.

  • When reading be expressive—have fun! (As I like to say, feel the words.) Voice variations can be loud/soft; fast/slow; high/low; and pause.

  • Playing games with the words/letters in a story is encouraged also sometimes. As is using word magnets on the refrigerator, etc. And scribbling (writing) for the child. This helps him learn to read—associating the symbols with the sounds/words.
  • Mem suggests telling the child an unknown word if it is taking much time for the child to sound the word out—encourage the child to recognize words at sight. While she still acknowledges the need for phonics in reading, the author warns that many children will become discouraged when words are difficult to decipher with only these clues. Too many words in the English language do not follow the norm and must be learned as sight words.
  • Mem also encourages the reading of rhyming books/poems/songs. “Rhymers are readers,” according to Ms. Fox. Studies have shown that students who know 8 nursery rhymes by the time they are four-years-old are usually among the best readers by eight-years-old.
    The use of rhythmic, rhyming, and repetitive readings encourages the child to learn how to SKIM by guessing from clues in the patterns of the reading. This is a great advantage in mastering reading. When Einstein was asked by a mother how to help make her son more intelligent, he told her to read Fairy Tale stories to him.

Following is a list of additional titles on the subject of reading aloud:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reading with Your Child by Helen Coronato.

Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words by Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.


If you don’t know by now, I am passionate about instilling a love for reading in children. Apparently Australian author and Literary Studies professor, Mem Fox, and I share the same passion. She is the author of several nonfiction books for adults–as well as many wonderful children’s picture books. I’d like to share some of her insights offered in READING MAGIC: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.

  • The secret to fostering reading (and the love for literature) is quite simple: reading aloud to children from birth onward. Experts suggest 1,000 stories read aloud before the child begins to read.
  • Only 25% of a child’s brain is developed at birth, but within the first year, a child learns all the sounds in her native language.
  • Passive sounds/words (such as those heard from a television) don’t work as well as conversation to help foster language development. To encourage language and reading skills “for life,” children need to “talk back” to someone.
  • The day a baby is born is the time to start reading aloud to him. Try to have a routine for reading aloud built into the child’s day—but also make books & reading available whenever the opportunity arises. The more a child has access to books, magazines, newspapers, etc. and sees his parents using them the more likely he will become a good reader.

That’s enough reading secrets for today. I’ll share some more tomorrow. But I’d encourage you to visit Mem’s online site as well. Here’s a link to her “Ten Read Aloud Commandments:

A Morning with Constance Levy, Poet Extraordinaire

I had the great fortune to attend a workshop today given by Constance Levy, St. Louis’ own children’s poet guru. She spoke to OASIS reading tutors for the Rockwood School District on ways to interact with children using poetry.
“Poems don’t have to rhyme,” she said. “But they do need to flow and to have rhythm.” She explained that children should be encouraged to “write in a natural way.” She cautioned that teachers and tutors shouldn’t “squeeze the juice out of creativity” by restricting children’s poetry to a set subject or style.
“William Stafford (another Midwest poet) said a poem was ‘talk with a little luck in it’,” Ms. Levy said. She suggested reading several poems to children and asking them which one they liked best and why. Discuss with the children “who is talking in this poem, and who are they speaking to?”
Ms. Levy encouraged the OASIS tutors to help children take chances in poetry by using wild and crazy words–to have fun. And for elementary students, she talked about helping them learn “to break lines.” At school children are taught to write sentences and fill up each line, only breaking for paragraphs. But when writing poetry, the children must be re-taught to listen for phrasing and how to construct a poem.
Ms. Levy had all of us brainstorm for a few minutes on FOG, jotting down words and phrases which came to our minds. We were encouraged to be inventive, to think in colors and metaphors. To be open to the senses. Later after briefly discussing haikus, we were encouraged to try one–but not necessarily strictly limited to the 5, 7, 5 syllables in each of the three lines if that didn’t quite work for our poem.
Here is my morning haiku created with help from the earlier brainstorming session
A shrouded ghost mist
swallows me up as I walk
into its mystery.
Give yourself a treat and visit your local library where you’ll find copies of Constance Levy’s poetry books: A TREE PLACE,
To find out more about Ms. Levy, you may visit this biography link at Pennsylvania State University, compiled by Pam Goldberg.

Every Day Can Be A Snowy Day!

A PAPER snowflake day, I mean!

Here’s a link to Paper Snowflakes for Children where there are directions for making all types of paper snowflakes:

This next link takes you to a page with the photograph of Snowflake Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes.

Here at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration you’ll find page after page of Snowflake Bentley’s snowflake photographs. You won’t believe your eyes at all the different designs.

You can also check out my speedy snowflake directions here on my website:

Two great books to go along with your paper snowflakes are The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
and Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!