Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck

Written by Laura Murray | Illustrated by Mike Lowery
Guest Blogger: Laura Murray

I love the magic and wonder you can see in a child’s eyes when you read with them.  Children inspire me, fascinate me, and make me laugh, and my hope is to return that favor with my storiesJ.

I’m often asked where the ideas for my books come from, but in order to chat about the idea for The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck, I’ll need to explain how a Gingerbread Man ended up being part of a class in the first place.

It all started with the idea for the first book in the series, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. Here’s the scoop –
I was a teacher before becoming a writer, and The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School was inspired by my students and their love of chasing our own Gingerbread Man around the school.

You see… at the beginning of each school year, we did a Gingerbread Man unit that culminated in our freshly baked Gingerbread Man escaping from the classroom. We hung missing posters and searched the halls, discovering crumbs and dropped candies, as we toured the school and asked school staff where he might be. But he always found his way back to our classroom on his own - one smart cookie!

My students absolutely loved this unit and would come back years later asking if the Gingerbread Man had escaped yet. So I decided to write a new story that mirrored the fun we had chasing him at school - The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School.

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck is a “fired-up” follow up story where the same little determined Gingerbread Man falls out of a classmate’s backpack on a field trip to the fire station, and is discovered by a hungry, crumb-snatching Dalmatian! As you know, an adventure ensues....

This book idea grew from our annual school Fire Station visit for October Fire Safety week. The students were always in awe, and the fire fighters were so friendly and genuine, letting the children try on their gear, explore the fire engine, honk the horn, and spray the hose. They also did an incredible job teaching the students about fire safety.

I started to envision how much fun it would be to put the Gingerbread Man and his class in that setting and see what adventures might happen. My research for the book was especially fun - I took a trip to the local fire station and was treated to a tour of all the fire fighting vehicles. I was able take pictures as well, which were used to help with the illustrations. 

In the bucket of a big Ladder Truck

Spot the Dalmatian and an old fashioned fire truck.

And because students at schools I’ve visited have inspired me, yet again, to keep the adventures coming, the Gingerbread Man has two more stories on the way based on their suggestions – The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas (October 2015) and The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo (2016.)

(October 2015)
If you are reading this as a parent, ask your child, “Where do think you think the Gingerbread Man should go next?”  Kids are always full of incredible, creative, and funny ideas, and it might just inspire them to write their own Gingerbread Man adventure!

Happy reading!

Fun tips/games to play while reading with your child  –

1.     Prediction – Ask them to look at the cover and predict what the story might be about. Stop before turning pages and ask, “What do you think is going to happen next?”
2.     Rhyme and Refrain - Let them chime in on the rhymes as you read.  “Can you say the refrain with the GB Man?”
3.     Characters – Look at the characters’ expressions, “What do you think they are feeling? Which character would you want to be? Can both boys and girls be fire fighters?”
4.     Ending – Ask, “How would you change the ending if you wrote it? Where would he go next?”

Information about the author: Laura Murray writes children’s books and lives in Northern Virginia with her 3 mischief makers (well…four, if you count her husband J) and her dog, Roxy. Her website, , includes a FUN STUFF page with children’s activities and printables.

Book Summary: This smart cookie is back in a new adventure! On a field trip to the Fire Station, the Gingerbread Man falls out of a backpack and is discovered by a hungry, crumb-snatching Dalmatian. His escape route takes him up the fire pole, through the station, and inside the fire truck. But when the firefighters get a call, can you guess who races to the fire along with them?
“I’ll put out that fire, as fast as I can.
I know I can help! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

Publisher’s Credit:

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck is published by GP Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In The Spotlight: Middletown Community Foundation

Middletown Community Foundation Executive Director T. Duane Gordon presents Addie Kiser with a book in appreciation of her donation of her first communion gifts to the Middletown Community Foundation.

Guest blogger: Duane Gordon

Sometimes the significance of a gift isn’t measured in its size or the size of the giver. Sometimes small gifts touch the heart more than a big check, and sometimes these small gestures generate positive coverage that your program otherwise wouldn’t have received.

One of our best stories at the Middletown Community Foundation affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Middletown, Ohio, came from a compassionate young man who became our youngest-ever donor and has begun a legacy of giving back.

Logan Kiser’s parents, John and Avinne, tried to instill in their children a sense of responsibility to help others, but they didn’t really understand the impact they had made in this area until their 8-year-old son asked to give away the money he received as a gift in honor of his first communion. He attends a Catholic elementary school and initially wanted to help kids who had trouble affording meals in the cafeteria, but he soon found the school already had a donor taking care of that need. Then his attention turned to the books his little brother received every month.

“My brother Grant is always so excited when he gets those books,” Logan said of the monthly gift that Dolly and the Middletown Community Foundation made possible for their family. “I thought it would be really neat to help other kids get them, too.”

So he took the $50 he collected in first communion gifts, his parents matched it with another $50, and a family friend matched the entire contribution with another $100, resulting in a total gift of $200 to buy 100 books for local children last year.

Asked why he didn’t want to use the money to buy something for himself, he said simply: “I’ve already got enough stuff.”

We wanted to recognize his enthusiasm and selflessness, so we contacted the mayor, who issued a proclamation making it Logan Kiser Day, and the local daily newspaper published a wonderfully heartwarming story that drew welcome attention to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Community Foundation. 

Middletown, Ohio, Mayor Larry Mulligan presents a proclamation to Logan Kiser declaring it Logan Kiser Day in appreciation of his donation of his first communion gifts to the Middletown Community Foundation affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

But the story didn’t end there. A year later, his little sister, Addie, chose to make a donation through the Community Foundation to a local summer camp for underprivileged youth with the money collected from her first communion gifts, which allowed us to celebrate a mayoral proclamation of Addie Kiser Day and another story in the newspaper.

Logan also joined his sister on her day to repeat his initial $50 gift to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which his parents again matched and the family friend again matched to total another $200 to buy another 100 books for local kids this year.

We can’t wait to see what their little brother, Grant, chooses to do in another couple of years!

About the Foundation: The Middletown Community Foundation serves approximately 110,000 residents of northeast Butler County and northwest Warren County within the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area in Ohio. Founded in 1976, it currently has more than $30 million in charitable assets and provides more than $2 million per year in support to the local community in the form of grants and scholarships. More than $1 million per year in funding assists students with furthering their college education, about $500,000 is granted to local charities through a competitive application process for local projects, and more than $500,000 is distributed from restricted funds where the donor has directed how the funds are to be spent. The Middletown-area affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been operated by the Middletown Community Foundation for six and a half years, in that time distributing more than 130,000 books to over 6,000 local children. Its current enrollment of about 3,000 children makes it a close second to Greene County as the largest affiliate of Dolly’s Library in Ohio. Since inception, entering kindergarten literacy scores have been monitored with the area’s largest school district, indicating that children who receive Imagination Library books in Middletown score on average 8 percent higher on these assessments than those whose parents do not enroll their families for the books.

Friday, July 17, 2015

"I Know A Wee Piggy" author, Kim Norman

Written by: Kim Norman
Illustrated by: Henry Cole

Guest blogger: Kim Norman

Wee Piggy, that colorful scamp, comes with me to every school I visit. Kids love the book – especially Henry Cole's hilarious illustrations – but they also love sporting the brightly colored aprons I bring along for students to wear onstage as I read the book. Of all my books, I think I KNOW A WEE PIGGY is one of the most fun for children to interact with. As you read it to your own children, you'll notice they'll begin to guess the color coming up on the next page.

I love that we don't need fancy gadgets to read to our kids, and that books can be read anywhere… even on the kitchen floor! I was delighted to find a YouTube video of a young dad reading I KNOW A WEE PIGGY to his children while sprawled on the kitchen floor. With a little girl on one knee and a little boy on the other, he sends both kids into fits of laughter as he waits, with great suspense, to turn each page. When he does, the kids explode into giggles, waiting for the next page turn. The girl's a bit older, so I'm proud that she clearly knows the book well, calling out the next color while waiting for her mischievous dad to turn the page.

When it comes time for Q&A at the end of my school programs, students sometimes tease me. "You must really love pigs!"… because I KNOW A WEE PIGGY is not my only book that features pigs. I live in Smithfield, Virginia, "The Ham Capital of the World." Like the famous painted cows in Chicago, Smithfield boasts barn animal statues, too: life-sized pigs, painted with vivid scenes and designs. One of them colorfully guards the entrance to Windsor Castle Park, only a few hundred yards from my front door. I wave to him every morning as I walk my dogs. So I probably do think about pigs more often than other writers do.

Colorful painted pig at Windsor Castle Park

I can also brag that, as a young child, I participated in an old fashioned "greased pig contest," at a county fair. Most summers when I was a child, we visited my grandparents in Maine. One summer, my two brothers and I had our names drawn, along with nine other children, to participate in this messy, muddy contest. There were twelve kids and only ten pigs, but somehow, my brothers and I all managed to catch one a piece! When my parents allowed us to enter the contest, they didn't think to ask what we would DO with the pigs if we caught them. We were camping on a lake!

The rest of the evening is the stuff of family legend. We tethered those three little pigs to a pine tree, but that evening, one got away and headed for the lake. Maybe, like dogs, baby pigs know how to swim, but we'll never know. My mother made a heroic leap and caught THAT Wee Piggy just before he "wallowed in blue" lake water! The next day, my grandfather drove us to a friend's farm where we each sold our pigs for ten dollars each. I bought a watch with my riches. Sometimes, I really wished I'd kept that pig instead.

At least he lives on, years later, in my colorful Wee Piggy.

About the author: Kim Norman is the author of more than a dozen children's picture books. In Smithfield, Kim’s parents restored a Victorian home in which her father left one deliberate flaw: a hole in the first floor ceiling for her dad’s pet raccoon to stick its upper body through, hang from, and wave at you. Yes, really.



A fun day at the fair becomes color chaos when one boy's energetic pig gets loose. Upside down, piggy wallows in brown, but that's only the beginning of this cumulative, rhyming text. Soon, he's adding a rinse of red (tomatoes), a wash of white (milk), a pinch of pink (cotton candy), and many more. Can piggy be caught before he turns the whole fair upside down?
With exuberant art by Henry Cole, this wild pig chase is a natural choice for teaching colors and begs to be read aloud.

Publisher Credit:
I Know A Wee Piggy” is published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of: Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Used with Permission

Copyright Notice:

Text Copyright © 2012 by Kim Norman. All rights reserved.
Illustrations © 2009 by Henry Cole. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Gift Of Reading

Local children benefit from Imagination Library

Guest blogger: Michaele Duke
The Kingstree News
From left: Carletta Isreal, TammaRa Lasane, TammaLa Lasane
Photo courtesy of Michaele Duke
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has touched countless young lives since its inception 20 years ago.  The program, which is designed to foster a love of reading by mailing free, age-appropriate books each month to children from birth to age five, reaches communities across the globe.

In the rural town of Salters in Williamsburg County, SC, two young ladies are living testaments to the lasting impact reading can have on a child. TammaRa and TammaLa Lasane are sisters who have personal experiences with the program. TammaRa, 14, began receiving books from the program when she was nearly five. TammaRa would share her books with her newborn sister and went on to share her love of reading with school children. 

"It made me feel good to know I've done something to make kids want to read more,"
said TammaRa. In 2013 she raised money through a church program to buy books that she donated to local children.

TammaLa began receiving the books when she was two years old. She enjoyed reading so much that she was named the highest reader out of three grade levels at her school and in fifth grade she was named the highest reader of the entire school. In addition, the Williamsburg County Library awarded her with a bicycle for her accomplishments. She said she plans to pass on her love of reading to everyone who will listen. 
"I like reading books because they help me in school," 
said the shy 11 year old who has read over 100 books.
Photo courtesy of Michaele Duke
TammaLa said her secret to making kids want to read is simple. 
"You just have to find something that they're really interested in and read it to them."
 The girl's mother, Tammy, knew that concept very well. 
"We were very energetic with the reading," said Tammy. "To make the book bigger than life, if it said "bam," I'd say just as loud as I could, "BAM!,"
 laughed Tammy. 
"They would be looking in the book for that word because I made it so loud."

Tammy obviously understands the importance of a parent or loved one reading to a child and research supports her thinking. Studies show 68 percent of fourth graders do not read at a proficient level and one out of six children who do not read at age level by the end of third grade will not graduate from high school. Research also shows that children who read on a regular basis score better on reading tests and written tests than infrequent readers.

Ms. Parton's father, Robert Lee Parton, who could not read or write was the inspiration behind the program.  Known as "The Book Lady," Ms. Parton launched Imagination Library from her hometown in 1995 and has since mailed over 70 million books worldwide. Williamsburg County First Steps Executive Director Carletta Isreal will be on hand for the celebration. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy International Children's Book Day

Today we celebrate International Children's Book Day
Happy International Children's Book Day

Today we celebrate International Children's Book Day as we prepare to mail free books to hundreds of thousands of children around the world. Our founder, legendary icon, Dolly Parton fell in love with reading at a young age. Inspired by her father’s inability to read, Dolly launched her Imagination Library, a book gifting program for children in Sevier County, Tennessee. Her vision was to inspire a lifelong love of reading in children from birth.

“Because of the kindness and generosity of hundreds of local organizations and companies my little program continues to expand all around the world. You can never get enough books in the hands of enough children,” Dolly said.

What started as a local effort in Dolly’s home county, now spans four countries and has mailed more than 66 million free, age-appropriate books to children enrolled in the program. Titles include a multitude of popular children’s books beginning with Dolly's personal favorite "The Little Engine That Could" by Watty Piper.
*All titles published exclusively by Penguin Random House.

As the world celebrates this day devoted to children's books, authors, illustrators, beloved characters and the joy they all bring, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is preparing its monthly shipment of over 800,000 free children’s books.

She may be the Queen of Country Music but to millions of children Dolly Parton is affectionately known as The Book Lady, a title that brought her father great joy.

Watch as Dolly talks about starting the program and what it meant to her father.

Dolly Parton explains the inspiration behind her Imagination Library, a book gifting program that mails free, age-appropriate books to registered children from birth to age five.
Posted by Dolly Parton's Imagination Library on Thursday, April 2, 2015

This year alone, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States will mail over 9.5 million books.
*For a complete list of books to be mailed in 2015, click here.

 “Dream More, Learn More, Care More, Be More” --Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 Gold Medal Book Selections - United Kingdom

 Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, UK

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library releases 2015 book selection list for the United Kingdom.

Each year, the esteemed Gold Medal Book Selection Committee, a specially selected panel of early childhood literacy experts, is responsible for reviewing hundreds of potential titles for inclusion in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library UK. With the new year’s list curated, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is proud to announce the 2015 Gold Medal Book Selections.

“My commitment to kids has always been to deliver the very best books right to their doorstep and last year we put over 9 million books in the hands of children and their families. Of course, none of this would be possible without the contributions of these talented authors, illustrators and the hundreds of local partners who love kids as much as I do,” 
said Dolly Parton.

The list of selected titles include new and popular childrens books like: “Each Peach Pear Plum” by Janet and Alan Ahlberg, “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy” by Lynley Dodd, and “Charlie and Lola: I am Really, Really Concentrating” by Lauren Child.

About Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library:
Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the premiere early childhood book gifting programme in the world by mailing over 66million books in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States. Currently the programme mails over 820,000 specially selected, age appropriate books monthly to registered children from birth to age 5. In 2015, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will mail over 9.5 million books to Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States. Dolly’s vision was to create a lifelong love of reading, prepare children for Kindergarten and inspire them to dream. Recent studies suggest participation in the Imagination Library program is positively and significantly associated with higher measures of early language and math development.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Goes To Australia!

United Way Australia makes program possible for children in Australia!

As of today, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is now excited to be available in Australia. With months of planning behind the scenes, United Way Australia and The Dollywood Foundation made it public news today that Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is now available in Australia. Although small numbers to start, nearly 3 dozen (and growing) Australian children will soon be seeing books arrive in the mail for the first time in the history of the program. 

Take a few minutes and have a look around here: and if you are in Australia and have what it takes to replicate this program, then we urge you to click here and start a program for the children in your community.

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