Book Review: Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet

Monthly Book Reviews

Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs
From Miss Caroline at Main

Ever since the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books became popular, there have been many books written and illustrated about the middle school crowd.  There are series like the Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce, Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton, and Dork Diaries by Renee Russell that are hard to find on the shelves because it seems like everyone wants to read them.  Like the Wimpy Kid books, both girls and boys enjoy these illustrated chapter books.

What happens, though, when your gradeschoolers have read and reread every one of the books in those series?  It may just be time to try a new one!  One series that is definitely worth reading is My Life as a Sixth-Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs.  There are currently 4 books in the series, which follow young Danvers Blickensderfer as he undergoes a “muppetmorphosis” from a Gonzo-loving 6th grader into an actual muppet.

sixth-grade muppet collage

From the publisher’s summary:

On a scale of one to ten, sixth-grader Danvers Blickensderfer’s life is a solid minus two. But he really hits rock bottom when he auditions for the local talent show: his death-defying hula-hooping-ninja tribute to Gonzo the Great is beat out by the world’s most obnoxious middle school boy band, Emo Shun.

With his daredevil dreams dashed, Danvers goes to bed… and wakes up feeling a little fuzzy-literally! He’s turned into a Muppet!

Fortunately, there’s an internship open at the Muppet Theater and Danvers has a chance to meet his long-nosed, stunt-lovin’ hero! All aboard The Electric Mayhem bus as this misfit makes good and joins the zaniest crew ever: The Muppets!

While this book may have originated as a tie-in to Disney’s 2011 movie release of “The Muppets,” the series has taken on a life of it’s own and is a great way to introduce children of a new generation to the muppets that many adults themselves grew up enjoying as children.

Marketed toward children ages 8 and up, the Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet books should appeal to both boys and girls of all ages.  Sure, they’re silly, not particularly great literature, and kind of juvenile, but reading should be fun, and books like My Life as a Sixth-Grade Muppet and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are seriously entertaining and can actually draw in reluctant readers.

Find all of Kirk Scrogg’s books in our catalog.

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Exercise with Your Child This Week

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The week of August 4-10 is National Exercise with Your Child Week.  Here at the library, we’re all about encouraging children to exercise their bodies as well as their minds.  Many children today are often stuck inside glued to the TV or computer screen, and sadly, lots of parents struggle to get their children outside.

While we don’t encourage running in the library, we do have resources to help you get your child interested in various fun outdoor games or sports!  Many times children just need one activity or sport that they love, something that will make it easier for them to get out and play.

If you’re rusty on how to play childhood games like kick the can, tag, hide-and-seek, leapfrog, hopscotch, and marbles, you can remind yourself with Let’s Play: Traditional Games of Childhood.  This book gives clear instructions for these games and activities, many of which are more than a hundred years old.  Brush up on the rules, and drag your children out, and play until the sun goes down (and then play some more!).

let's play traditional games of childhood

For football fans, the book Family Huddle, is a charming story featuring young brothers Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning, who along with their father, retired NFL pro Archie Manning, spend lots of time practicing and playing football, and playing sports trivia games while on a family trip to visit both sets of grandparents.  Other football books written by or about pro players include End Zone, Red Zone, and Wild Card, featuring twins Tiki and Ronde Barber as youth.

family huddle


From learning ballet to jumping and hopping around to loud music, dance is an activity the whole family can enjoy, either indoors or out.  The book Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art! takes a look at Capoeira, a mixture of a game, a dance, and a martial art that originated within the slave culture during the 1700s in Brazil.  This centuries-old Brazilian martial art incorporating traditional movements and rhythmic music is popular today as an energetic game played throughout the United States and around the world.


The best thing you can do to encourage your children to be active and exercise is to do it with them.  So this week, and every week after that, find an activity, exercise, or sport you all enjoy (even if it is just walking around the block, taking a bike ride, or playing cornhole) and get those young–and old–bodies off the couch and moving!

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Crafting with Kids: Melted Crayon Rocks

Crafting with Kids

Our “Dig Into Reading” theme for the Summer Library Program (SLP) has been lots of fun.  From digging for dinosaur bones to exploring the dirt underneath our feet, there are many ways for children to investigate the natural world around them.  Many branches offered a program that let the participants touch and feel different kinds of rocks, including some gems and minerals.  After the program, the children got to make their own awesomely decorated rock with a few simple materials.

So this month, our featured craft will be Melted Crayon Rocks.  Keep reading to find out how to make them!

crayon rocks collage2


  • Old crayons
  • Zip-to-close plastic bag
  • Wooden or rubber mallet
  • Smooth, flat rocks about the size of your fist
  • Aluminum foil or an old pie tin
  • Felt scraps
  • Scissors
  • White glue



  1. Choose crayons in three or four light or bright colors.  Dark crayons will make the color on the rock look muddy.
  2. Peel the crayons, put them in the zip-to-close bag, and seal it.
  3. Place the bag on a hard surface such as a floor or sidewalk.  Using the mallet, pound the crayons into small pieces.
  4. Place the rock in the pie tin or on a sheet of aluminum foil in the hot sun.  Sprinkle it with the crayon pieces.

When the crayon pieces have melted, but before they reach the point that they run off the rock, take the rock out of the sun to cool.  The crayon will quickly harden and form a colorful and waxy coat over the rock.  Cut a piece of felt to glue to the bottom of the rock to keep it from scratching the table.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the rocks on a foil covered cookie sheet and put them in the oven for the children.  Keep an eye on them because the crayon melts quickly. It will re-harden within seconds of taking it out of the oven.
  2. To do outside — this project needs hot, direct sunlight.
  3. If you’re unhappy with the color of a crayon-coated rock, just reheat the rock and allow the crayon to melt to the point where most of it drips off the rock and onto the foil under it.  Cover the rock with a new selection of crayon bits and see if you get a swirl of color you like better.  Remember to avoid dark colors.
  4. A goal is to get it looking like a tie-dyed rock!  The distinct lines of color can be very beautiful.  Because the rocks can be easily redone, remember not to place the completed ones that you like in a sunny window or direct, hot sunlight because they will re-melt.

Thanks to Miss Heather at Butler and Lucas for the detailed instructions!  This rock craft is something that anyone can do with minimal supplies and time (’cause nearly everyone has rocks and old crayons lying around, right?).

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Book Review: Oliver

Monthly Book Reviews

Oliver by Birgitta Sif
From Miss Melanie at Main

This picture book is a sweet look at a boy who is different and who always plays by himself with his imaginary friends until one day he meets a girl who is also different.  The illustrations are great and show Oliver in his fantasy world.  The pictures would be great for encouraging dialogue between the adult and child.


Check out this video interview with author and illustrator Birgitta Sif!

Oliver is Ms. Sif’s first book. She says creating this book was “the beginning of the best journey I’ve ever taken.”

More On the Web

  • Check out Ms. Sif’s Facebook page!
  • Ms. Sif also maintains a blog full of illustrations, ideas, and messages!
  • To learn more about this talented lady, read this interview from Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog.
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Author Spotlight — Jane Yolen


We’re finishing out the second-to-last week of our Summer Library Program (SLP) for children, teens, and adults.  We’ve loved the “Dig into Reading” theme and have had lots of fun with burrowing animals, rocks, trucks and diggers, archaeology and paleontology, gardening, and dinosaurs!

Some of our favorite dinosaur books come from Jane Yolen, a prolific children’s book author.  The classic bedtime story, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? is one we all like to use, but the others, including How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? are great for story time as well.

how do dinosaurs collage

Born to be a writer, Ms. Yolen was an editor and originally wrote poetry and journalism pieces, and it wasn’t until her 22nd birthday that she sold her first picture book and became a children’s author.  Since then, she’s gone on to write over 300 books of all different types.  Although she doesn’t illustrate her own stories, she’s been paired up with great artists such as Mark Teague, Bruce Degen, John Schoenherr, and David Shannon.  She has also worked with her own children; Jason Stemple, has taken photographs to accompany many of her poetry anthologies, Adam Stemple has written and arranged music for some books, and Heidi E.Y. Stemple has helped to write several others.

In addition to the dinosaur series of picture books, Ms. Yolen also has authored other picture books like Owl Moon (the  1988 Caldecott award winner), Dimity Duck, and Off We Go!, several poetry collections, some fiction chapter books, and a number of other non-fiction titles.  For a complete list of books by Jane Yolen, visit our catalog.

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Story Time Starter — Picnics

Story Time Starter

The weather outside is NOT frightful, so we’re going to celebrate by having a picnic-themed story time!  The sunny summer days are ideal for packing up some food and scouting out that perfect picnic spot–whether it is at the beach, the park, in the woods, or at home in your very own backyard, any choice will do.

Before you go, you might want to read some great stories to get ready.  We’ve picked some of our favorites, but it was hard, because we have SO many favorites!  From a single giant bear to hundreds of tiny ants, there may be some welcome and unwelcome guests at your picnic.  Be sure to bring the bug spray along just in case!

picnic collage

Picnics Booklist (Word Document/.doc)

Music is next, so be sure to check out some of these terrific songs:

Finally, how about some crafts that are just right for little hands?  Here are some of our favorite crafts with a picnic theme:

We hope you are enjoying the awesome summer weather and have lots of opportunities to go outdoors to eat, play, explore, and read!

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Summer Fun Around Town


Even though the weather has been very rainy, summer is in full swing! Here at the library, we are over halfway through our Summer Library Program. Kids are finishing their reading and earning free books! We are so excited that over 4400 kids have joined this year’s Library Program! There are still two and a half weeks left, so keep reading!

Embedded Squirrel with books

Hopefully everyone was able to enjoy some Fourth of July activities last week. Even though Independence Day is over, there are still plenty of things to do! Aside from all the cool things we have going on here at the library, check out these activities that are happening this summer around town:

And don’t forget old favorites such as the Richland Carrousel Park, Malabar Farm State Park, and Kingwood Center.

If you are looking for fun things to do at home on your own, we have plenty of books with tons of ideas for summer fun! For seasonal crafts, check out Summer Crafts:20 Projects and Activities for Camp, the Car, and Beyond! The book Summer Fun! 60 Activities for a Kid-Perfect Summer has all kinds of ideas for summertime cooking, crafts, games, and activities. The Summer Bucket List for Kids contains great activities like how to make paper flowers and a button hummer, and how to play spoons. And for some camp songs and rhymes, try Mosquitoes Are Ruining My Summer! And Other Silly Dilly Camp Songs.

Summer Fun Collage

For even more summer activity ideas, check out this post from our archives! Have a great July!

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Book Review: We Rode the Orphan Trains

Monthly Book Reviews

We Rode the Orphan Trains by Andrea Warren
From Miss Melanie at Main

This book caught my eye and just happened to be a subject about which I knew nothing.  I was fascinated by the stories each orphan train rider told about their experiences finding new homes away from their birth parents. Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 homeless children, mostly from New York City and other cities of the eastern United States, were put on orphan trains to every state in the nation in hopes of finding families who would love and care for them. Some were lucky and others, not so much.  Some people were just looking for indentured servants and treated the children horribly.  The aid societies in charge of placing the orphans were supposed to check up on them once a year but, of course, some abuse went undiscovered.  Where it was found, the children were taken out of the homes and placed elsewhere.

We Rode the Orphan Train
Most of the riders remembered the shame and humiliation they felt when the trains stopped at designated cities to show off the children.  Everyone in town came out to inspect the ‘cargo’. People looked at their teeth and felt their muscles.  One rider said that it must have been similar to a slave auction.  Sometimes siblings were split up and never reunited.  As the trains moved to the next town, with fewer and fewer riders, the children feared that no one would pick them and they would have to go back to the orphanage.

Older school-age readers up to adults would be the recommended reading age for We Rode the Orphan Trains.

For more information on the history of orphan trains, check out an episode of the PBS series American Experience featuring orphan trains. The show’s webpage gives a summary, transcript, book list, and teacher’s guide to go along with the show.

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Summer Library Program Progress

Featured Article

Wow!  We’ve been so busy this last month, so after having a chance to catch our breath and take a look at some numbers, we’re pleased to say that our Summer Library Program (SLP) is, once again, a smashing success!

Here’s how it all breaks down for the main library and 8 branches in our system:  As of Tuesday afternoon (July 2nd), we’ve registered over 4,430 children for the SLP.  Those children have turned in thousands of reading records and have received thousands of prizes.  This week begins the 5th week, the first week that children can finish their reading and visiting, and pick their free prize book for completion of the program.

DIG into Reading Logo

While we don’t have the total number of minutes read yet, we will have that information at the end of the program.  Not every child that signs up actually finishes, but each child needs to complete 5 reading records, with are worth 105 minutes apiece.  We’ll just say that that is potentially a lot of minutes of reading being done this summer!

In addition to the reading, each branch has had numerous programs and performers drawing in hundreds (if not thousands) of customers to the cool (and dry!) library locations across the county.  The first performer was Chip Richter, and he presented a family concert full of music and audience participation.  The second performer was Mike Hemmelgarn, a comedian, juggler, and ventriloquist all rolled into one.  Last week we enjoyed Mark Wood, a cowboy magician, who garnered many laughs from the crowds of young children in the audience.


The next few weeks bring us more programs and performers, including Jungle Terry and his animal friends, West African drumming with Sogbety Diomande, and local magician Dave Lehman.  If you haven’t stopped in yet, don’t worry: it’s not too late.  Our SLP runs through July 27th, so be sure to visit your local library location and sign up for some fun this summer!

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Author Spotlight — Byron Barton


We’re still going strong with our 2013 Summer Library Program (SLP) as we “Dig Into Reading,” so this month we are going to spotlight an author/illustrator with books that fit perfectly with the theme.

There are a great number of people who write and illustrate children’s picture books.  The ones that we love tend to be simple with large pictures and easy-to-read textByron Barton is one of our “go-to” picture book authors for books that are perfect for reading to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers at story time.

Mr. Barton has authored and illustrated many books, and some he has illustrated for other people.  From building and construction to things that go, these books are usually always checked out.  His retellings of The Three Bears and The Little Red Hen bring a fresh vibe to classic stories.  The stories that go along with our SLP theme include Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs; Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones; Machines at Work; and Trucks.  Check our catalog for all of his other available titles.

byron barton collage

Unfortunately, not much background information exists on Byron Barton, but The University of Minnesota libraries has several boxes of ink sketches for 8 of his books, which were published in the 1970s, and are housed in their special collections.  There are, however, several apps that are available to download that are based on the books Trains, Planes, Boats, and Trucks.  Produced by Oceanhouse Media, these apps make the stories truly interactive and are ideal for little fingers.

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