Book Review: Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet

Based on the creation of Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
by Lori Haskins Houran, & pictures by John Nez
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 25, 2013)
Source: Purchased Copy
Keywords: Fiction,

Description from Publisher's Page:
Children already know and love Worm from the hilarious bestselling picture book by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. Worm is all about having fun, respecting the earth, and never taking baths. Now he’s the star of a series of I Can Read books with full-color illustrations.

In Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet, Worm makes a surprising discovery—teachers have birthdays! That means Worm and his friends have to find the perfect present for their teacher, Mrs. Mulch.

Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is a Level One I Can Read book, which means it is perfect for kids learning to sound out words and sentences.

My thoughts on this book:
Since I am a fan of Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm, I was interested in seeing the transition from picture book to early reader.  Similar to the original version, this early reader follows the same diary format. When I went back to look at the picture book in comparison to the early reader, I was surprised by how similar the two (picture book and early reader) were.  Lori Haskins Houran and John Nez have done a nice job in maintaining the same look, and story feel as the picture book series created by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.

Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is part of HarperCollins' I Can Read Early Reader Series.  I was curious to know how the reading levels for the I Can Read books were established.  HarperCollins has set up a website for parents and teachers, which provides information and activities.  On the Educators tab, teachers can find out information about reading levels. According to the site,  Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is labeled a Level 1: Beginning Reading.  See below for what that means...

Now back to Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet.  When Mrs. Mulch is out of school to celebrate her birthday, the class decides to hold a birthday party for when she returns.  Worm feels like everyone has ideas for birthday gifts, but what should he give.  His family and friends try to generate a list of gifts.  Of course Spider's suggestion of a slippers won't work for a worm, and maybe the dung ball suggestion from Fly would be better appreciated by another fly.  However, with the help of Fly and Spider, Worm finds the best birthday gift ever for his teacher.

Early readers who became friends with Worm, Fly, and Spider through Cronin's picture books will enjoy a chance to continue the friendship while learning to read.  This one gets a thumbs up from me. I will be looking for more stories with this trio.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Nelson Mandela

Author: Kadir Nelson
Paintings by: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books (January 2, 2013)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th
Biography * South Africa * Political Leaders

Description from GoodReads:
One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country's capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.

Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy's determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela's triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

My thoughts on the book:
Over the past few years, Kadir Nelson has focused on what he does best - picture book biographies.  Kadir Nelson has taken on the former South African president Nelson Mandela as the focus for his latest book.  It is quite conceivable that someone would want to purchase a book by Kadir Nelson simply for the artwork.  The oil painting portrait of Mandela on the cover captures the illustrious leader with warmth and power.  Each two page spread demonstrates Nelson's ability to communicate deeply through his paintings which convey emotion and strength.  Yet, Nelson's choice of words including the verse-like style of text is perfectly suited to relay to the reader the story that is Nelson Mandela.

Kadir Nelson has created a picture book biography on Nelson Mandela that will provide young readers with an introduction to the South African leader from his childhood to the end of apartheid.    The author's note and additional bibliographical information at the end will provide readers with some further details about Nelson Mandela.  Whether you choose to pick up a copy of this book because of the amazing illustrations or as an addition to a school or classroom biography collection, Kadir Nelson's newest book Nelson Mandela is an excellent choice. 

For additional books to consider, check out the New York Times post Black History Greats.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction book reviews below:

As Agatha Swanbourne Once Said...The Unseen Guest Blog Tour & Guest Post from Maryrose Wood

About the Incorrigible Blog Tour: Each stop features an exclusive excerpt and guest post from Maryrose Wood, offering a special look at the wise words of her heroine’s mentor, Agatha Swanburne.

"Whatever will do in a pinch will do." - The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, 
Book 3: The Unseen Guest

More than a decade ago I was invited to spend two weeks at a prestigious writers’ conference. My two kids were very young then, and I was a newly single parent, so the logistics were daunting. Still, I thought, it was summer, and the conference was walking distance from a beach, so why not just bring the little moppets with me? I ran the idea by the conference people, who were cautious at first, but in the end they said yes.

I’d be working fulltime for the duration, so I hired a babysitter to come with us. Her salary would be more than double my honorarium for attending (oh, the glamour of the writer’s life!), but the conference was kind enough to throw in housing and meals for her and my kids as part of the package, so I counted myself lucky and got out the suitcases.

Now, if you’ve ever dragged two small children along for a two-week stay in a place not particularly oriented towards kids, you know how easy it is to go overboard with the packing. What if they want to play Uno? Uno deck packed, plus a few board games just in case. What if they need goldfish crackers and there’s no place to buy them? Two weeks’ supply of goldfish, packed. What if they get bored (will twenty picture books and a case of art supplies be enough?) or homesick (should I bring their pillows from home?) or outgrow their shoes halfway through, or it rains the whole time…. what if what if what if?

What I really needed to pack was a cure for my neurotic worrying, but I’d need a moving van to carry that much baggage. So I stopped trying. It was summer, and there was a beach. Bathing suits, a few changes of shorts and t-shirts would suffice. A couple of books, a box of crayons and some paper for rainy days. We’d have to trust the sun and the waves and the sand and the fun of being in new place to provide the bulk of the entertainment. And I remember thinking, as I zipped up our one medium sized suitcase, slung my laptop case over my shoulder, strapped the toddler in the stroller and took my kindergartner by the hand: if the house disappears while we’re gone, we’ll be okay. I have my kids, a change of clothes, and all my work on the computer. We could go anywhere now and start over, and we’d be just fine.

I think about that moment from time to time. For most of us, what we actually need to survive is only a tiny fraction of the stuff we’ve accumulated in our lives. “Whatever will do in a pinch, will do,” said Agatha Swanburne. In a pinch, we can make do with very little. And that very little is a good reminder of how much we actually need.

What stuff do you think you really need in a pinch? What could you do without?

Thanks so much to Maryrose Wood for being our guest blogger today!

Maryrose Wood is the author of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series for middle-grade readers.  You can find her on-line at and on Twitter: @maryrose_wood

Don't forget to check out the next stop on the Incorrigible Blog Tour:
Hooked on Swanburnisms? On March 26th, visit for more pithy wisdom.

About the book:
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Since returning from London, the three Incorrigible children and their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have been exceedingly busy. When Lord Fredrick's long-absent mother arrives with the noted explorer Admiral Faucet, gruesome secrets tumble out of the Ashton family tree. And when the admiral's prized racing ostrich gets loose in the forest, it will take all the Incorrigibles' skills to find her. But once back in the wild, will the children forget about books and poetry and go back to their howling, wolfish ways?

Learn more about the series at

Getting Caught Up: The Gathering + Giveaway

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Published: Harper Collins (April 12, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: For Review
Young Adult  * Paranormal

Description from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn't finish reading Kelley Armstrong's previous trilogy (The Darkest Powers trilogy), so this review won't strictly be a comparison of the two series. There were several things I liked about The Gathering, the first book in Armstrong's new Darkness Rising trilogy. I loved the creepy atmosphere of the novel. I loved the idea of an incredibly small town living on an island dedicated to medical research. The backdrop of the medical research community, foreign doctors flying in for annual doctor's visits, and a history of unexplained behavior and strange deaths on the island made for a great setting for the story. It was a very different environment for a story. From the prologue, where an unexplainable  accident occurs, the tone is set for a good creepy start to a new story. I also liked that some of the paranormal elements seemed to be derived from Native American folklore. There is a considerably smaller presence of Native lore in young adult novels, so it made some of the paranormal creatures/aspects that readers are familiar with seem more unique and original.

I had difficulty connecting with the protagonist, Maya, but I loved secondary characters Rafe and Annie. Their relationship was interesting and they both had very interesting character histories. I look forward to seeing more from them especially in future books in the series. Characters like Sam and Danial, among others, were fascinating, because there were so many suspicious or different behaviors that they showed, which suggests that they might not be who they seemed either.

The Gathering raised many interesting questions and conundrums, but didn't provide many answers which could leave readers either very excited or very frustrated. The ending was very much a cliffhanger. The last few chapters were fast-paced page-turners, with things building to a great climax at the end. I look forward to future books explaining all of the fantastically creepy elements. Fans of Kelley Armstrongs previous YA series and YA paranormal suspense, will not be disappointed.

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay. All efforts to make her produce "normal" stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She's the author of the NYT-bestselling
Women of the Otherworld paranormal suspense series and Darkest Powers young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets. You can follow her on twitter: @KelleyArmstrong

Her official website is: 

Complete the form below for a chance to win a hard cover copy of The Gathering. Please read contest rules carefully.


1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (it will be deleted if you do), you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2. The contest runs from August 11 to 11:59 PM Pacific Time on August 15, 2011.
3. You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
4. If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail. If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
5. This contest is open INTERNATIONALLY!!

HarperCollins Presents: The Dark Days of Supernatural Contest

Brace yourself for the Dark Days ahead.
Paranormal thrillers. Supernatural romance. Otherworldly adventures.
Discover new books from acclaimed authors Ellen Schreiber, Claudia Gray,
and Kimberly Derting, as well as from debut authors Cynthia Hand and
Courtney Allison Moulton, on tour this winter.
Darkness falls this winter. Be prepared.
Here is your opportunity to win a copy of all 5 books being featured in this tour.  Click on the photostream to see the 5 books being featured.  For more information about The Dark Days of Supernatural Contest, please click here.

One winner will be selected out of all of the submitted entries.  This contest is only open to residents of the United States.  Please note that Harper Collins will be sending out the prize pack to the winner in March 2011 after the release of AFTERLIFE by Claudia Gray.  

The contest will run from Sunday, January 23rd to Sunday, January 30th at 11:59 p.m PST. 

All contestants must be 13 years older to enter and must complete the entry form below.  Though comments are nice and appreciated, adding personal information in the comment section will result in a comment being deleted.