PPBF: The Little Red Caboose…Building Self-Esteem in Children

Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susanna Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of picture book writers, illustrators, librarians and others who contribute a picture book review.  When you visit her website on Friday, in addition to finding lots of links to other wonderful picture book reviews, you will also find out the winners of the Halloweensie Contest!!!

Before we get to today’s picture book review (I’ll give you a hint…I’m back to the classic picture books), I want to reshare some links to wonderful events going on in the kidlit/picture book community.

  1. Picture Book Month: Visit the website of Dianne de Las Casas to join in the month-long celebration of PICTURE BOOKS!  Every day, a different picture book champion (author, illustrator, etc.) is guest posting…you won’t want to miss these….they will inspire you and help you remember just why you love to read and write picture books.
  2. Picture Books and Crafts for Kids: Please pass the word about this new YouTube series for parents and teachers and kids…every Sunday, I’ll be choosing a picture book to read aloud…and then I’ll do a simple related craft project.  Last week I spotlighted Yes We Can by Sam McBratney and this Sunday I will be reading The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter and we will create a geometric-shape train picture.  Each segment will highlight a parenting problem such as setting up good bedtime routines or a children’s challenge like learning to be a good friend.
  3. I’m also teaming up with author and educator Susan Case to do a Thanksgiving Google+ Hangout/YouTube video on Monday afternoon as part of a week-long Thanksgiving celebration by parent bloggers.  Our segment, Acts of Random Kindness, will include a reading of Norman the Doorman by me and a super craft project done by Susan.
  4. PiBoIdMo:  Picture Book Idea Month is the brain-child of children’s author,Tara Lazar.  If you signed up, you are already immersed in the world of picture books…trying to come up with 30 fresh ideas for picture book manuscripts during this month.  But, even if you have not joined the challenge, please run over there…don’t walk… to read an AMAZING guest post EVERY DAY this month…these posts will instruct and educate you…as well as motivate you to write the picture book that every child will want to read over and over again.  For example, today’s post, by author Ame Dyckman, encourages us to revisit the picture books of our youth to recapture the magic we felt back then as each page turned and we eagerly anticipated the next one.

Ame’s advice conveniently leads into my Perfect Picture Book Friday pick for today.

The Little Red Caboose

Written by Marian Potter

Illustrated by Tibor Gerbely

Publisher: Golden Press (Western Publishing Company) 1953

Ages: 3 and up


Building self-esteem, believing in yourself, courage, determination, friendship

Opening lines:

“The little red caboose always came last.”


The little red caboose is attached to the end of a long train of oil cars, coal cars and flat cars.  The people who come to wave at the train are gone by the time the little red caboose passes by and the little red caboose wishes he was one of the other cars.  However, when the train almost slips down the mountain, the little red caboose saves the day!

Why do I like this book:

You recapture a ‘kinder gentler’ time as you turn the pages of this beautifully illustrated classic.  Kids love books about trains (this is the great-grandfather of the Thomas series).  The message of being disappointed in who you are and wishing you were someone else is one that children (and adults) will understand and relate to…and the joyous triumph of the little red caboose will encourage kids to believe in themselves.  I love books that help build self-esteem in children.

Related Activities:

GEOMETRIC TRAIN PICTURE (http://mamasmiles.com/geometric-shapes-train/)

You will need: One piece of light colored construction paper, several pieces of different colored construction paper, scissors, glue stick and crayons or markers.

  1. Use the light colored piece as the base.
  2. Cut small circles (wheels), squares  and rectangles and triangles (the different cars of the train).
  3. Help the child put the shapes together to form the train.
  4. Paste each piece in place.
  5. Let the child decorate the train…perhaps drawing the train number and the tracks.
  6. Hang up in a place of honor!

Another great website here with a page devoted to books about trains: http://www.readingtoknow.com/2011/06/train-picture-books.html



Young children don’t need fancy electronic gadgets…they only need a good picture book, a few simple inexpensive art supplies (like paper, crayons or markers, safety scissors and glue stick) and your positive participation.  If you are looking for a great resource that will give you 100 picture book summaries and easy matching craft and cooking activities, you can purchase a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.  At under $20, this book makes a PERFECT gift for any parent or teacher of children ages 2-8…as well as for daycare providers and grandparents.  No batteries required…powered by a child’s imagination!

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.   This is an unbelievable resource for any parent, teacher or children’s librarian.

Holiday Parenting Tip: “It’s OK NOT to Share”

parenting, sharing, preschoolers

I have been blogging about two years now.  I started because I wanted to share my passion for using picture books to help young children build self-esteem.   I also wanted to spread the word about my book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking”, and make it available to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and others who work with kids.

It’s been an exciting journey…and a satisfying one.  I’ve connected with the most fantastic people all over the world.  I’ll even be meeting one of them in person next May in Singapore when I participate at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content.  I’ve also exchanged books with many authors and have enjoyed reading and reviewing their works.

Today I am thrilled to be spotlighting “It’s OK NOT to Share…and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids”, written by Heather Shumaker.

Heather is a journalist…so she knows how to write.  Heather researched dozens of child psychologists, educators and other experts and she is a mom herself…so she knows what she is talking about. 

This book provides a no-nonsense commonsense approach to parents…a definite breath of fresh air.  As you read this book, you will begin to feel the stress of parenting melt away…and the joy returning!

In Section I, she talks about “Reviving Free Play”…do you know that many preschools and kindergartens are curtailing play time so there is more opportunity for sitting the kids down with dittos and computers to learn to read and write?  But taking away free play has the opposite effect and the long-term results show that young children would benefit more from playing with blocks.

The other day, I did a post on the top ten toys for young kids.  Heather encourages parents and teachers to ‘Welcome Free Play’ with this list:

1.     Make literacy joyful: read with them, sing with them, do finger-plays, let kids fall in love with words now…and reading will follow after.

2.     Go outside: walk in the woods or the neighborhood, play with balls, sand and water.

3.     Choose open-ended toys that promote imagination: blocks, play-dough, non-branded stuffed animals and dolls, cardboard boxes, dress-up clothes, bells. (Our lists for this are almost identical!)

4.     Offer space: kids need room to play…move or remove furniture if necessary.

5.     Cut structured activities: kick a ball around with your child, make up your own games…when I visited my grandson, we took a big ball and walked over to the tennis court (which has a high fence all around it and a gate that locks…no worries about balls rolling into traffic) and played kick the ball and run after it for an hour.  When we needed to take a break from running, we walked around the inner perimeter of the court and observed bugs, leaves and puddles…taking time to jump in some of those, just for fun!

6.     Look for a play-based preschool: look for schools where at least ¾ of the time is devoted to free play and play-time in at least one to two hour blocks of time.

7.     Slow down: both you and your child will be happier and less stressed.

free play, outdoor activities for kids

In Section II, Heather explains that “It’s OK Not to Share.”  If you have younger siblings, I’m sure you will remember having to give up a toy to a brother or sister because they clamored for it and your mom told you, “Give it to your sister…she’s just a baby.”  Does that encourage love between siblings?  NO!  Does it help the younger one learn to respect others? NO!  Does it teach patience? NO!

In Section V, the author spotlights “Creativity, Persistence and Empty Praise”.  At workshops and school programs, one of the things I share with parents is that they can encourage their children by allowing them to create art as they see it, not as the parent thinks it should look.  As Heather says, “Art doesn’t have to be pretty.”   According to Heather, “Showering kids with praise is NOT the same as building healthy self-confidence.”  Acknowledging what the child has done, instead of saying things like “Good job or very pretty or that’s nice”, is much better for their inner self-worth.  With so much focus on bullying and how we need to stop it in schools and playgrounds, we must pay attention to this advice…helping children develop a positive self-image and true self-esteem is crucial!

Each of the eight sections of the book is CHOCKFUL of real-life scenarios involving kids and adults.  Perhaps you’ll see yourself in some of the examples…I know I did.  However, the author does not make us feel badly…she provides simple tips, techniques and examples that will help us engage in meaningful interaction with our children, creating balance and harmony for the entire family.

You can find copies of this book for sale on Amazon (what an amazing holiday gift for any parent or teacher), or go to the author’s website where you can find many other purchasing options and learn how to connect with her.  The book was a joy to read and I will be passing my copy along to my daughter who has a four-year old son…I know she will love it.

Don’t forget that Wednesday is the Halloweensie Contest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog…I’ll be posting my Halloween Picture Book story…in 100 words or less…I’ll include the link to the page where you will be able to read all of the other entries.  There are so many amazingly talented writers and illustrators out there…it will be great fun!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Take a Kiss to School


Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susanna Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of picture book writers, illustrators, librarians and others who contribute a picture book review and related resources for parents, teachers and children.

A couple of quick notes:

1.      The Show-Me-How School Initiative is still looking for A FEW GOOD SCHOOLS.  Please leave a comment on this post, telling which school or other child-care facility you would like to nominate to receive a free copy of Show Me How!

2.      Heather Newman, fellow 12x12er and PPBF participant, did a lovely review of my book on her blog.  If you haven’t read it yet, just click on this link.  My sincere thanks to her for the wonderful things she said…and also for posting the review on Amazon.  I’m really grateful to her for adding the review to the Show Me How Amazon site because I’ve recently read that getting reviews on Amazon is very good for a book that is being sold there.  I believe I read that 25 or more reviews really help book sales.  Over the last two years, several dozen people have reviewed the book…but I never thought to ask them to post the review on Amazon…if anyone did review the book and would like to add that review to Amazon, I would be most appreciative.  If anyone would like to review the book, let me know and I will be happy to send you a copy.

3.      Fall is definitely in the air and I’m so very excited because I’ve joined, not one, but TWO critique groups…one with local SCBWI members (we will meet once a month in person to exchange picture book manuscripts and chat about our progress on the road to publication)…and one with four other members of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 group (the first manuscript exchange will be September 17…but NOT in person…as we are spread out all over the world…which is, in itself, a miracle).  I’m looking forward to living my dream:

Picture books to read and write

Morning, noon and through the night.


And now, since you’ve been incredibly patient…and since it IS Perfect Picture Book Friday…I present:



Written by Angela McAllister

Illustrated by Sue Hellard

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books (2006)

Ages: 4 and up


Separation anxiety, overcoming fears, helping others


Although Digby, a little otter, has fun during his first day of school, he is reluctant to go again.  He tells his mother that there are so many things to remember (where to hang his coat, how to line up, etc.) and he is afraid he will forget some of them and be embarrassed.  Digby’s mother solves the problem by filling her hands with kisses and putting the kisses in her son’s jacket pocket.  During the day, whenever Digby feels uncomfortable or scared, he takes out one of the kisses and presses it to his cheek.  Helping another student who is even more hesitant than he is enables Digby to forget his own fears…and Digby finds he is looking forward to the next school day.

Why do I like this book

Many of us are anxious about having new experiences, going to new places and meeting new people.  This is a lovely story that will comfort many young children who are anxious about school.  Coping with and overcoming separation anxiety is a big step in a child’s emotional development and parents need to be sensitive and non-judgmental about a child’s fears.  The illustrations convey little Digby’s feelings and will help young listeners relate their real life experiences to his…creating a perfect opportunity for the young listener to voice his own fears.

Related Activities:

For many children, the first weeks of school may be difficult because they don’t like eating “different” foods.  Here is a fun craft activity that might help.


Illustration from Enchanted Learning

You will need: Construction paper, markers or crayons, old magazines with pictures of food, scissors, glue, string or yarn and a wire hanger.

1.      Talk about the different food groups and why we need to eat some from each group every day.

2.      Look through the magazine and cut out pictures of foods.

3.      Paste each picture onto construction paper and cut out.

4.      Punch a hole at the top of each picture and tie a piece of string through the hole.

5.      Attach the end of the string to the wire hanger.

6.      Repeat for several pictures.

7.      Hang up and watch the foods wave in the breeze.


In the story, Digby’s mom puts kisses in his jacket pocket.  You and your child can make a lovely picnic lunch using Pita Pockets.  Fill with your choice of chicken or tuna salad…or perhaps the always popular peanut butter and jelly.  Inviting your child to help prepare meals in the kitchen is a wonderful way to encourage a fussy eater to try new items.

Great lesson plans, games and activities from Kinderplans: https://www.kinderplans.com/p/26/nutrition-preschool-kindergarten

Crafts with and about food from eHow: http://www.ehow.com/info-tip_8098469_crafts-food-groups.html

Lots of different mobiles from Enchanted Learning: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/mobiles/


This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.   This is an unbelievable resource for any parent, teacher or children’s librarian.