Storytime: Worry

The very first storytime I did after a too long hiatus from groups of young kids on carpet squares was in the summer of 2020 via zoom, so is it any wonder the books I gravitated to dealt with worry? We were all worried as we settled into our new “normal” of masks and social distancing and wondered how long it would last, and braced ourselves for each day’s new numbers? What better place to find some comfort and brief respite than between the pages of picture books? And so began our Tuesday morning zooms. Each of these stories somehow touch worry, and show kids (and adults) there’s a way to deal with it and carry on with a hug, some pizza, and maybe a nice wallow in the mud.

Mrs. Potter’s Pig by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Russell Ayto

In this book Mrs. Potter likes everything clean but her baby is messy. One day on a walk, her baby sneaks out of the stroller and into the pigpen, and a little piglet sneaks into the stroller. Chaos ensues! Throughout the story Mrs. Potter worries about getting messy and then deals with the much bigger worry that her baby has turned into a piglet, but eventually learns to embrace the mess (at least sometimes).

The Lady with the Alligator Purse adapted and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Sing this one 🙂 Everyone is worried about the baby who drinks up all the water, soap, and tries to eat the bathtub (but it wouldn’t go down his throat). They call the doctor and the nurse, but it’s the lady with the alligator purse who saves the day. Even the littlest ones love to sing along to this one and I like how the illustrations add funny details like the button popping off the doctor’s jacket.

Hug by Jez Alborough

Baby gorilla can’t find his mother and he’s sad and worried, especially when he sees all the other baby animals hugging their mommies. In the end a kind elephant reunites the baby and mommy. This one makes me go “ahhhhhhh,” every time. Just try to stop yourself from hugging this book, I dare you. This book is great for all ages, very minimal text. After reading this via zoom we did a “hugging” activity/stretch where we got up and stretched our arms wide and gave ourselves big hugs.

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It’s Time for Storytime

I was recently zooming with another writer who asked me about my blog and so I screen-shared to give him a look at it. I was surprised to see entries going back all the way to 2011. I was blogging way back then? And then there’s the link to Faces in the Street in the right hand corner that takes you to our old 2007-08 website, so I was blogging even earlier than that!

Definitely a blog-worthy moment in London!

Over the years I’ve primarily used the blog as a place to keep people posted when “big” things have been going on in our life. The Big Trip we took around the world, our attempts to adopt, the year Rebeka lived with us, and the story of Her Own Two Feet, the book I co-wrote with Rebeka that was published in 2019. More recently, the blog was added to an updated website with great resources for the book, and then I added a “bookshelf” to the blog and website so I could start talking about some of the favorite books on my shelves.

Since then some pretty huge things have happened in the Davis household that I haven’t blogged about. Beyond Covid, which has impacted all of our worlds, we’ve acquired a puppy who is now a year old, and we moved downtown.

We also sent our youngest off to college . . .

married off our oldest . . .

credit to Courtney Cope Media for picture

and waved goodbye to the newlyweds as they set off to travel the US in the van they spent six month renovating. You can follow their adventures at:

Thank you Courtney Cope for one of my all time favorite family pictures ever!

I don’t know why I didn’t blog about any of that. Maybe I’m still processing it all and it will spill out over the next year, sort of a storytime in retrospect. I’m writing this post to introduce a new series of posts about Storytime with a capital “S” because I am back in the saddle and getting to do Storytimes with little kids again, and it is filling me with great joy and also a new idea.

Each week I’m pulling a stack of read-alouds and grouping them in themes that I read over zoom to the sweetest group of kids you ever did see, and it started me thinking. I should share them online so other storytellers could use the lists as a resource. I reached out to  Miss Anastasia who does storytimes for The Twig in San Antonio. She once worked with me at Toad Hall, and we reconnected during a book signing for Her Own Two Feet last year when The Twig supplied the books.

She shares her lists on her instagram account and there’s lots more out there, too. I hope to be a hub and share links to storytime resources for everyone, young and old. I am a firm believer that you are never too old for storytime. Just ask my kids, who are often corralled so I can read them a picture book. I just read one to Nate today. He’s twenty-two, and I read him Can I Be Your Dog by Troy Cummings.

I first heard it being read online during Bookpeople’s live storytime on instagram, and it’s a great story for anyone on a job search, or submitting manuscripts, basically anyone who’s heard some “no’s” and is waiting to hear a “yes.” It’s about a dog named Alfie that just wants a home. He sends letters to a bunch of likely prospects but gets no after no until it looks like all is lost. But all is never lost in the world of picture books. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. Maybe that’s why I like storytime so much. It is a happy place.

So this post is a catch up, and an introduction. I’ll still blog about the big things that come along in the Davis family, but I’ll post on the bookshelf and soon on the new storytime page, too. They feel like conversations about books, one of my most favorite conversations to have.

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Bookshelf: Fauja Singh Keeps Going

I first found this picture book through Betsy Bird’s excellent blog for School Library Journal called Fuse 8, in a post she did as part of her 31 Days, 31 Lists series. For this post she listed 2020 Nonfiction Picture Books. The field of children’s literature is wide and deep and rich, and how wonderful are the people who make lists like this for us to mine and discover new treasures? If you haven’t found Betsy Bird and her blog yet, I highly recommend it. Your library cart will always be full and your bookshelves will sag with goodness.

Why does Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon by Simran Jeet Singh and illustrated by Baljinder Kaur have a spot on my bookshelf? Why did it give me goosebumps the first time I read it? Not only is it an incredible story, but it has some uncanny similarities to the book I coauthored with Rebeka, Her Own Two Feet. In Fauja Keeps Going, he is born in a small village unable to walk, just like Rebeka. In one of the first illustrations of the book, Fauja is pictured sitting under a tree eating a mango. In our book, we talk about Rebeka sharing a mango with her sister, Medeatrece.

Fauja’s mother encourages him with the words “Today is the chance to do your best,” a refrain that comes back later in the text. In our book, Rebeka’s father tells her “Chance comes once,” a phrase that is also repeated throughout the book. After years of crawling on the ground, Fauja teaches himself how to walk, just as Rebeka teaches herself how to walk. In the illustrations, a butterfly flutters around Fauja as he takes his first step, and then another, and that butterfly appears at the end of the book as well. A butterfly is a powerful symbol in Her Own Two Feet! In both books, Fauja and Rebeka fly across the ocean to countries where they don’t speak the language and encounter hardships they eventually overcome as they make new friends and learn new skills. Are you catching all this? The “chance” refrain, learning to walk, butterflies, flying across the ocean . . . do you have goosebumps?

Both of our books have themes of resilience, perseverance and strength. They deal with overcoming rejection, and the importance of faith. I can’t wait to share Fauja Singh Keeps Going with Rebeka next time I see her. One significant difference is that the picture book doesn’t stop when Fauja is still young. As the subtitle explains, the book shares the story of how Fauja leaves his village for the first time at age 81, runs his first marathon at age 89, and finishes the Toronto Marathon at age 100. Rebeka is just 18 years old, and her future spreads before her with great promise and possibility. What a wonder to find a book with so many similarities, and what a delight that a Sikh man born in India, and a Christian girl born in Rwanda, would share so much in common. If only they could meet over a cup of tea and a plate of ripe mango, the friendship that would bloom and the stories they would trade!

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How’s the Book Doing?

I reached into the front pocket of my purse a few weeks ago and pulled out a little stack of postcards advertising the launch party for our book, a year ago! (It’s been a while since I cleaned out my purse!) People often ask, “How’s the book doing?” and on this day, a year after the launch party, it feels like a good time to reflect. How do you judge how a book is doing? After six months it sold over a 100,000 copies and earned out. That means Rebeka and I earned back our advance, something that can take years and sometimes (often!) never happens in the publishing world. So, if you judge this book by the numbers, it’s doing really great.

But I have never been a numbers person. Recently someone asked me for the last four digits of my phone number, and I gave them the last four digits of a phone number I haven’t used for over seven years. I am a word person, and I have many more words than anyone would ever care to read about how great the book is doing, but I’ll just share a few. For one, Her Own Two Feet gave me the chance to gather people from all the many circles in my life at the launch party, the writers and family and neighbors and friends. That little bright yellow book gave us a common story to celebrate, a story of courage and resilience.

It’s given us the chance to reach people across the country. The first time I heard from a teacher that her class was reading the book was such a thrill, and that thrill doesn’t change as classes continue to find our book and get inspired by Rebeka’s story.

There are kids who have also been bullied, or had club feet, or who have dealt with other disabilities or hardships who tell us Rebeka’s story encouraged them to be strong and take chances to change their lives. Sometimes they send pictures or letters. Each one is a treasure.

It has won lots of awards and stars and honors, and was an NAACP Image Awards nominee which brought Rebeka back to America for the first time in seven years. I got to see my two girls all dressed up in Hollywood.

I got to do school visits with Rebeka and see how she bloomed on stage and in front of a crowd. Her confidence and grace make me so proud, and it was right and good that we got to do some visits together so she could experience the wonderful reception the book has had. She also got to see her doctor again, and so many old friends.

How is the book doing? Wonderful. It is changing lives, starting with mine and Rebeka’s. There is much we can’t control in the world of publishing, and we are so grateful for the good numbers. It means there will be more readers who will read Rebeka’s story. We hope it is an encouragement to many, and while we may never know all the stories, the ones we do get to hear are such a gift. Like the boy who was run over by a car and almost lost his life. He came across Her Own Two Feet while enduring months of hard therapy and was so encouraged by Rebeka’s story he shared it with his teacher, who shared it with his class. His teacher reached out to me and I was able to do a virtual author visit with them and this boy shared how Rebeka’s story helped him to be strong when he hurt. Stories like these show how the book is doing, putting flesh on the numbers and a song in our hearts.

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Bookshelf: Brotherhood

This book is written by A. B. Westrick, my roommate all four semesters while we both attended Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned our MFAs in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is a lovely, hysterical, compassionate woman and when this book came out I was so, so proud to know her because this book is smart, and gripping, and eye-opening. Also, the title? Brilliant. The cover? Perfect. I hadn’t read a lot of historical fiction about the period in our country known as Reconstruction, and I learned a lot. My favorite way to digest nonfiction, and historical fiction, and let’s be honest, pretty much any genre, is through children’s books. Does that surprise anyone?

One of the things this book explores is the Klan in Richmond, Virginia in 1867, where many families had lost husbands to the war and were struggling to survive. The Klan came along and gave families food and clothes. The first time the main character, Shad, tells what he knows of the brotherhood, he says, “I know it protects people. I know brothers ride the streets at night, keeping evil away.” Really? That was the Klan’s marketing message? Later, Shad is asked by a Klansman, “Do you promise to protect and defend the weak and innocent, especially the widows and orphans of soldiers who gave their lives in sacrifice for our noble cause?” Wow. I guess I always thought from the very beginning a Klansman knew what he was signing up for, he had a hatred for black people and being in the Klan was about persecuting and killing them.

This book is about how those with evil intent can disguise themselves as the good guys, can harness frustration and anger and sorrow and use it to do unspeakable things. It’s also about a lot more. It’s about how Shad becomes friends with a feisty, intelligent freed slave named Rachel. It’s about friendship and loyalty and history and how hard it is to do the right thing sometimes, but how important it is. I love the last line of Anne’s note to the reader: “My intention in writing this story was not to justify his [Shad’s] view, but to draw readers so closely into his world that they experience his emerging capacity to question his circumstances.” Well done, roomie. May we all have the capacity to question our circumstances and the courage to do what is right.

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Bookshelf: The Empty Pot


I love the design of this beautiful picture book, Demi’s intricate drawings framed in circles on each page (like you’re looking down into the Empty Pot), but what I love most is the emotion this story evokes in me and those who take in the story during a read aloud (it’s an excellent read aloud). I’d glance up during story time and see worried eyebrows, maybe a kid would creep closer to study the pictures, and then there was the surprised “Oh!” at the end.

Ping, the main character, takes pride in his skill and works hard to grow the seed the Emperor gives him. He’s got this great gift of growing things, but the seed won’t grow, no matter what he tries. Months later, it’s spring and all the other kids in the land rush to the palace with their beautiful flowers but all Ping has is an empty pot. The child with the best flower will be the next Emperor, so the stakes are high.

Oh, how I feel for Ping. My writer self knows how it feels to run out of words, or not be able to find the right words. Sometimes my pot is empty, too, and there’s no explanation for it. Or if there is, I don’t know why the words aren’t there.

There is an explanation for Ping’s empty pot, but I won’t ruin the awesome ending. I will tell you this story makes me so proud of Ping. It takes great courage to offer only the empty truth, but sometimes what’s needed more than a full pot is an honest answer. Maybe what I’m looking at to judge whether I’m good enough, isn’t where I need to be looking. This is a story for everyone, not just kids, like most great picture books.

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Bookshelf: Your Sincerely, Giraffe

This book is strange, and maybe that’s one reason I love it. It was published in New Zealand by Gecko Press, yet another reason to love it. I generally love books coming out of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England . . . they have a fresh perspective and seem to break the boxes of form found in American books. It’s not your typical 32 page picture book. It clocks in at 102 pages, but with illustrations on every page and sparse text it still feels picture booky.

I love that on the end flap, where you usually find pictures and short bios of the author and illustrator in US picture books, there is instead an illustration of a strange creature, kind of a winged, four-legged snake with a pelican bill standing on his hind legs. Underneath it is a simple truth, “It’s hard to imagine someone you’ve never seen.” On the first page we read, next to a picture of a giraffe pinned to the wall, “‘Write my story,’ Giraffe said. ‘It’s perfect for people who are alone. And for people who are bored. And even people who are busy might like to take a little break and read it, too.” I was so, so hooked.

What follows is a bored giraffe writing the first of many letters which he sends as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. They are delivered by a bored pelican looking for something to do, and received by a seal who delivers to a penguin going to school on Whale Island where his teacher is, of course, a whale. See, I told you, strange. And silly, and yet wonderful. It is a book about friendship and how we connect with each other and imagination. I can just see the creative writing assignment for this one: Describe what you look like to an alien who has never seen a human.

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Bookshelf: Out of the Dust

One of the things I love about a novel written in verse is that you can take the entire thing in quickly, sometimes in one sitting. With one gulp I took in the sadness and the hope of this book, dust storms and death laced with glimpses of sweetness. I read it first when my oldest was a toddler and my reading time was sporadic and brief, and again before writing this post, my oldest engaged to be married. The writing is amazing, it won the Newbery after all, and it is Karen Hesse, the first book of hers that I read but certainly not the last. It doesn’t feel right to say that I learned about the dust bowl, it feels right to say that I felt it, the grit on the piano keys, in the sheets, between the teeth, everywhere. There is a grasp of story in this book, a sense of when the reader can’t take one more bit of sorrow and so we get some lightness. It is a book to make you cry, to make you pull out your highlighter so you can capture the truths, the kind of book you have to share with someone. Like this part:


Ma has rules for setting the table.

I place plates upside down,

glasses bottom side up,

napkins folded over forks, knives and spoons.


When dinner is ready,

we sit down together

and Ma says,



We shake out our napkins,

spread them on our laps,

and flip over our glasses and plates,

exposing neat circles,

round comments

on what life would be like without dust.


See how she does that? Placing us in February, 1934, Oklahoma, at the table with such precise details and then using them to show us just how bad it was. The dust was relentless, quick, everywhere, and we feel it at this dinner table. This kind of writing is on every page, making up a story that is gritty as the dust bowl and hopeful as a rainstorm.

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Bookshelf: Elizabeti’s Doll

Elizabeti’s Doll, a picture book by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale, is an oldie but a goodie. Alayna loved this book when she was little, a sweet story of a young girl who wants her own baby to care for while her mom tends her baby brother. I love how the illustrations flesh out this story. The text never says that the girl lives in rural Tanzania and has no access to store bought dolls. There is no pity for Elizabeti, for while her house may look different and her food may be cooked over an open fire, she has a loving family and a great sense of purpose in not only caring for her rock-baby but fetching water and helping with dinner. Kids will admire Elizabeti’s resourcefulness and see they have something in common with this child who lives such a different kind of life. It shows us, it doesn’t tell us, one of the first writing rules I learned and one I still work on today.

I recently needed a book that showed what the word “devotion” means. I can’t think of a better example of devotion than a mother’s love for her child, and this child’s love for her precious rock-baby, Eva.

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Bookshelf: Counting By 7s

This book has got such an amazing setup, the first chapter kills me and make me want to take the main character up in my arms and hold her tight, but I know she’d squirm. I know because author Holly Goldberg Sloan paints her so precisely. Willow is super intelligent, and her quirky obsessions with the number 7, medical conditions, and plants, make me want to keep reading just to be with her longer. I didn’t just read this book, I studied it. Author Sloan deals out so much information in the first ten pages and yet it isn’t confusing or hard to keep track of. I didn’t know where it was headed, but I knew I was in good hands.

I give you some lines that capture Willow, and wish I could give you the whole book:

I’m about to start a new school.

I’m an only child.

I’m adopted.

And I’m different.

As in strange.

But I know it and that takes the edge off. At least for me.

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