Archives for February 2015


Author: Alice McLerran
Illustrator: Barbara Cooney

There’s just something about a kid making a fort that stimulates their imagination to a higher level. Forts can come in any number of shapes and sizes.  As kids we had forts under our beds, in boxes, under sheets spread over the dining room table, and in trees. I would guess our most elaborate forts were those we created when asked to rake leaves in the Fall. Rather than make piles, we would rake our leaves into rows of walls and rooms with doors and passageways. We’d eat and play in these forts for days at a time.

Reading the story of ROXABOXEN brought back all the memories of our forts in the leaf piles.  For you see, the children in this story really did create a magical world known as Roxaboxen on a hill on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Eighth Street in Yuma, Arizona. And on this hillside the town of Roxaboxen grew – with its town hall, ice cream parlors (yes, there were two!), a jail with a floor of cactus and of course a mayor for keeping order.  There were also many “treasures” to be found among the homes in town, as only children with great imaginations can find.

There across the road it looked like any rocky hill –
but it was a special place.
Marian called it Roxaboxen.
 The town of Roxaboxen began to grow, traced in lines of stone,
Old wooden boxes could be shelves or tables or anything you wanted.
In fact, you may want to get an old sheet, spread it over a table for a fort, and begin reading this wonderful book right now!
1.  What was the “treasure” in the tin box, and how did the children use it?
2.  Explain how the children “traveled” through Roxaboxen.
3.  What facts show that the children were creative and imaginative?
Mary Byrne Kline

Boxes for Katje

Author:  Candace Fleming
Illustrator:  Stacey Dressen-McQueen

This is a true story about boxes.

It’s a story of two little girls whose kindness made miracles happen. But what made the miracles so special is that they weren’t special at all! They simply took the form of a tube of toothpaste, a pair of socks or a box of powdered milk.  For you see, after World War II much of Europe was left cold, hungry and hopeless.

Katje’s little town in Holland was no exception.   One day Postman Kleinhoonte pedaled his bicycle down Katje’s cobbled street and brought her the first  of many “miracle” boxes from Rosie, a girl in Indiana.  Once Rosie and her town received Katje’s note of thanks, the boxes being sent increased in size and content.  Soon coats, cans of meat and bags of sugar began to arrive – much to the delight of Katje and her entire town!

How could Katje’s family and town ever repay Rosie?  You’ll be filled with a sense of wonder and delight when Rosie and her family sample the “seeds” of friendship that grow from Katje’s box.

“Dear friend Rosie, I shared the sugar with our neighbors.
They have 5 children who are skin and bone.
Your gift has surely helped us.  Your friend, Katje”
“Dear Rosie, Your box caused much excitement in Olst.
People stopped worrying about the holes in their shoes and their threadbare coats.
You see? Your friendship has not only filled our stomachs,
it has lifted our spirits as well. Love, Katje”
As you read this incredible book with your children, may you be reminded that at any age it truly is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
1.  How would you explain the excitement of the townspeople when Katje receives a box from America?
2.  What might have resulted if Rosie had not sent the boxes?
3.  How was Katje able to repay Rosie for her kindness?
Mary Byrne Kline

The Wreck of the Zephyr

Author and Illustrator:  Chris Van Allsburg


What mystery lies behind the wreck of a small sailboat?  It might not be so unusual if the wreck weren’t found uphill to some cliffs, high above the sea.   The old man sitting there among the broken timbers simply explained, “Waves carried it up during a storm.” 

I must have appeared skeptical as he quickly smiled and said, “Well, there is another story.” And a most unusual and strange tale began to unfold. . .

Could there have been a young boy, obsessed with becoming the world’s greatest sailor, caught in a storm so horrific that he was carried to a place where boats sail on the wind instead of on the water?


Finding himself and his boat, the Zephyr, on a strange beach after the storm, the boy is astonished to see boats gliding by in the clouds. He is determined to find the correct sails and learn how to catch the wind in this magical way.

Get lost in illustrations so vivid that you can almost feel the whisper of the wind and hear the flutter of the canvas as our young sailor glides his Zephyr through the night sky.  Allow yourself to depart this world for another to entertain the marvelous possibility of dreams.  Only then can you decide if the young boy was truly the greatest sailor of all.

Mary Byrne Kline

1.  What did the sailor mean when he said of the sea gull, “There’s the only sailor who can go out on a day like this?”

2.  What was the significance of the old man’s limp?

3.  What is your opinion of the old man’s story?

“Tell Me a Story” Box: My Heart Is Like a Zoo

It’s story time! This month’s TMAS box is based on the precious book, My Hearts Is Like a Zoo. This book is a great example of how one object can spur creativity and through imagination turn into something entirely different. The author takes the simple heart shape to create adorable zoo animals that delight children and parents alike. Our TMAS Box experience invites you to take common objects to use as inspiration for a storytelling moment with your little one.

New to our TMAS Box experience?  Click Here for more information on how to set up your box, as well as a few sample questions to get your storytelling conversation started!

Here are a few possible prompt ideas inspired by My Hearts Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall:

  • Zoo animals**
  • Rock
  • Feather
  • Felt: blue, green, and black (I like to provide the felt as a staple item to help prompt the story setting)

Remember to keep your items to a limited quantity. Too many prompts can overwhelm your child. Choose simple items that will engage their senses and inspire them to create their unique story!


** I had miniature animal toys at home, so that was my go-to. If you don’t have zoo animals in your play bin you can use other resources! Grab a nature magazine and cut out pictures of the animals (or print off your computer). Your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby will have adorable painted wood cut-outs that would work perfectly, too!


Jocelyn Bartle