Archives for June 2016

The [Amish] School Picnic

Author:  Jan Steffy


The Review

An informative picture book about a day in the life of the Amish. Steffy accurately shows the fun the children have with simple pleasures during the last day of school a barefoot walk across a field to class, fishing, a softball game with parents, and an egg carrying relay race. Illustrations are large and colorful, with a primitive yet humorous quality.


Sack races were always a favorite.

This non-fiction book was actually not a favorite of mine.   Yet learning about another culture was a valuable lesson for my first graders.  In The School Picnic, on the last day of school, the Amish children were treated to an all school picnic with their families attending.  The reason I chose to share this book with you is because even a book that may not be dynamic can be used to create incredible and lasting memories. This book did just that! I’m sure many former students won’t remember this book, but they will certainly recall the delightful day they experienced because of it.  We followed the story and created our own “school picnic.”  Our classroom dads grilled burgers, moms brought chips, cookies, and strawberries.  We played baseball, ran three-legged races, and had egg tosses. And of course, everyone wore black pants, suspenders and aprons!  It was a day full of yummy food and happy memories!

What about you? Do you recall a special day that was launched from the delight of a book?


My dear 1st graders – One of my favorite moments we shared during our year together.

You may want to check out this series of beautifully illustrated books by Merle Good and P. Buckley Moss, to share with your child(ren) while introducing them to the life and culture of the Amish.


Also, Click Here for a list of Amish fiction for children written by Wanda Brunstetter.


Mary Byrne Kline


Frog & Toad are Friends

Author:  Arnold Lobel

Here is another one of my favorites – one that I read to create memories and legacy moments in my classroom.   I encourage every home to have a copy of Frog and Toad Are Friends on its library shelves.


The Review

Frog and Toad agreed: it was a perfect day for a swim. And Frog was kind enough not to look at Toad in his bathing suit, per Toad’s request. But when the swimming was over, a crowd had gathered to see Toad in his funny-looking suit, and neither Frog nor Toad could make them leave.The endearing pair hop along through five enchanting stories, looking for lost buttons, greeting the spring, and waiting for mail. Their genuine care for each other makes Frog and Toad two of the finest amphibious role models around. Young readers will chuckle with Frog as they watch Toad’s silly efforts to make up a story. And they will applaud Toad as he finally wakes up after hibernating all winter. The fifth story will warm the hearts of any would-be pen pal–or anyone who has ever known what it’s like to have a true-blue (or green) friend.

The give-and-take of a fast friendship between Frog and Toad is gently affectionate.
[The stories] have freshness, humor, and a beguiling childlike simplicity.

A Caldecott Honor Book and finalist for the National Book Award for Children’s Literature, this installment of Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad series is another essential addition to any youngster’s shelf.        Booklist Review

Why this is a Fireflies Favorite

Not only were Frog and Toad the very best of friends, but they became friends with every child in my classroom who sat captivated, as they listened to these stories.  Frog and Toad’s experiences gave the children insights into friendship that showed hilarity, sadness, and thoughtfulness.   We made paper bag puppets of Frog and Toad and the kids would often retell the stories to one another.  I loved hearing their back-and-forth dialogue!


One of our favorite stories was A Lost Button.  I often read wearing my “story apron” which had pockets in it.  In the pockets, I had placed the button shapes named in the story that Frog finds for Toad.  The kids were so surprised to see all those different shapes of colors and sizes of buttons appear from my pockets.  Then, at last, the correct button.  And just like in the story, we had to sew all the buttons onto a jacket.   I brought in a little jacket and (with supervision!), each child was allowed to help sew a button onto it.  They loved it!

The Lost Button Audio Recording


Mary Byrne Kline




A Puppet – A Mask

I can’t wait for August….

I believe that we were created to communicate.

I believe we must intentionally train our children/students to communicate with confidence and conviction.

I believe it all begins with a puppet and a mask.

I can’t wait for August…


Wanna Trade?

Did you ever collect trading cards when you were a kid?  If you did, then you know the excitement of getting a card that you have been waiting a long time DSC_1763for.  Growing up, I was never really into collecting them, but my husband was an avid collector of baseball cards.  In fact, he still has boxes and boxes of cards in our attic that he just can’t bare to part with.  Our 7-year-old son has started his own collection now.  Though his accumulation has become a montage of various types including baseball cards, football cards, Pokemon cards and Lit. Trading Cards.

Now, I am sure you are wondering what is a “Lit. Trading Card,” right?  Well, here is the scoop…

A Literature Trading Card is a tradable card that visually reflects the nature of a children’s literature book.  This seems like a basic concept but they actually are an amazing way to bring out the creativity in your child(ren) while creating a small keepsake that you can reflect on for years to come.

The idea came about a couple of years ago when Deni Corbett asked me if I would help her create a basic card for a series of books she was working with at the time.  This seemed like an easy task, though I honestly had no idea at that time how they would be effective.  Little did I know, I would eventually fall in love with creating them.  Those first, simple cards have now transformed into an original trading card style that I take very seriously.  A lot of time goes into reading through each book, studying the illustrations and thinking about how children will remember the story.  Whether it’s the type of artistic flare from the illustrations or the author’s content and characters, each trading card design brings out the essence of the literature book it’s based on.  The result is a fusion between the joy of exploring children’s books with the excitement of trading collectible cards.  These cards will allow you to create memories and build  legacies,  whatever the setting.

So how does this bring out the creativity in your child(ren)?   That’s the exciting part of these cards.  The backside of the cards are a blank canvas for them to create their own masterpiece based on the inspiration from the book.

Here is an example using the book,  A Splash of Red; The Life of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.



Our inspiration…


The front side of “A Splash of Red” trading card.

Even my big girl loves to re-read this book over and over again!

Even my big girl loves to re-read this book over and over again!


I will show you three different examples of ways you can create masterpieces on the backside of this particular trading card, but really the possibilities are endless.

1.Collage-The illustrations in this book are as captivating as the story itself. Melissa Sweet does an incredible job mixing her own style with that of Horace Pippin’s. Have students select different textures they find in magazines and newspapers to make collage art like Melissa’s illustrations in the book.  Using a glue stick, have them paste their clippings all together to create a unique piece of art.  Ask them if their creations can be made to look like an object or is it abstract?  Show them examples of Melissa Sweet’s illustrations for inspiration.


Cutting various textures, colors and designs from magazines and scrapbook paper. In this example, she decided to make her art abstract.


Glue the pieces onto the backside of the trading card.

Completed art and supplies.

Completed art and supplies.

2.  Sketch-When Horace was little, he would sit on the floor and draw what he saw around him with charcoal. The pictures would come alive in his mind. Have your students look around the room and simply sketch what they see. Maybe it’s a friend or a pet just like Horace did. For older students, have them do this holding their wrist with the opposite hand, much like Horace Pippin had to learn to do.


Sketching like Horace.

Once a pencil sketch has been completed, go back over the sketch with pen. Encourage your child to add texture and detail with the use of different line elements.

Once a pencil sketch has been completed, go back over the sketch with pen. Encourage your child to add texture and detail with the use of different line elements.

Every good artist signs their work!

Every good artist signs their work!

3. Stamp– Have students create an object using only their favorite color. For younger ones, they could select several different objects that are that color or just pick one object. Another idea for younger students would be to have them stamp their fingerprint with their favorite color and create a character out of it.

He chose blue as his favorite color.

We discussed various colors on a color wheel and my son chose blue as his favorite color for his thumbprint.



Using stamps are a great way to practice spelling their names for younger children.  My son wanted to create another one so he could write his name out too!

Once their masterpieces have been completed and their signature written, the cards can be traded among classmates, siblings, with your teacher or with another class.  The child(ren) can showcase their cards in trading card sleeves or in accordion style books.  Visit my TpT store and you can find a free template on how to make these fun accordion books!

Mini Accordion Trading Card Book

Accordion Trading Card Book

For classroom teachers, you could also use the backside of the trading card to write special notes of encouragement for your students and send home as an award.  In our house we call those “happy-grams”.


Displayed in a trading card sleeve.

We have created a variety of outlets to get connected in our trading card community.  By purchasing a set of lit trading cards, you are invited to join our closed Facebook group where you will get special instructions, ideas, and maybe even a “Freebie” every now and then – just to say, thanks!  Also, you will meet other parents and educators who are interested in creating connected learning environments for their children/students.

Click here for your FREE set of “A Splash of Red” lit. trading cards and start preserving those keepsakes, one moment at a time!


Elizabeth Quigley