I wrote a very early draft of Tiger and Badger when my oldest daughter was about three.  Her best friend came over and they fought — well, like a tiger and a badger — all afternoon. And they were so very sad to say good-bye at the end of the afternoon, they hugged and hugged.  

In all the early drafts of the book, the characters were human.  When I changed them into a tiger and a badger (which I did because they are both stripy an both end in -er), I think the story became much funnier.  When I saw Marie-Louise Gay’s pictures, I felt an immediate sense of joyful recognition.  There is Tiger! Just as if he jumped right out of my mind. And there is Badger.  She is wearing a spatula.  Of course she is wearing a spatula! 

It’s a story about a bad day in a very good friendship that I think kids can relate to, laugh at, and learn from.

— Emily Jenkins, from the Candlewick catalog


Tiger and Badger pairs well with some other books about friendship, quarreling and making up:
Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by  Anne Wilsdorf
You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk
Bootsy Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner, illus. by Peggy Rathmann
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E. B. Lewis

Upside-Down Magic series

Here is an an in-depth lesson plan for book  1 of the Upside Down Magic  series

Here is a teacher's guide for Upside-Down Magic. 
It has research, art, vocabulary and creative writing activities, plus discussion topics for each chapter.
Good for grades 2-5. 

Visit Scholastic's Upside-Down Magic site for matching games, book trailers, quizzes and more.

Here's a fun online UDM "make your own story" activity from my co-author Sarah Mlynowski. 

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff

Artist Hyewon Yum can be found here.

The Macmillan activity pages for Fun Book include coloring and dialogue-writing activities. 

A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert  has been the subject of some  intense controversy. I encourage you educate yourself thoroughly about it  if you want to share the story with your students.  I am very sorry indeed for the racial insensitivity of the book.   

If you choose to use A Fine Dessert in your classroom, you may want to read the Texas Library Association's statement about it.  And here, the TLA provides a list of resources for teachers who want to teach it.  The list includes many articles about the controversy plus activities and discussion questions on other subjects.  

Additional classroom activities for A Fine Dessert can be found here.

Here are some other classroom activities, with CCSS tie-ins,  for A Fine Dessert. They were created by Random House.

This Kid Lit TV video shows me and illustrator Sophie Blackall making the dessert.  Sophie shows her collection of antique whisks and we take you through how to make blackberry fool with your school group, or with kids at home. 

Artist Sophie Blackall can be found here.

Toys Go Out, Toy Dance Party and Toys Come Home

A number of teachers have kindly shared some of their Toys classroom activities and discussion questions with me, allowing me to modify and post them on this teacher resource page -- most particularly the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, where Toys Go Out was the "One School One Book" choice in 2007. Toys Go Out has been an all-school read at many elementary schools nationwide. 

I also encourage you to check out the Random House Teacher Guides to both books, which are thoughtful and useful. Here's the one for Toys Go Out. And here's the one for Toy Dance Party. There's also a teacher-created "reader's theater" script for Toys Go Out, chapter one, written for nine child actors (pdf). 

A number of teachers have kindly shared some of their Toys classroom activities and discussion questions with me, allowing me to modify and post them on this teacher resource page -- most particularly the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, where Toys Go Out was the "One School One Book" choice in 2007. Toys Go Out has been an all-school read at many elementary schools nationwide. 

I also encourage you to check out the Random House Teacher Guides to both books, which are thoughtful and useful. Here's the one for Toys Go Out. And here's the one for Toy Dance Party.  


"Plasticness": What are things made of plastic? What does Plastic learn from TV and the dictionary about plastics -- and what is plastic, the material, actually? Come to think of it, what is rubber? Ask students to bring in 5 items from home that are made of plastic, and some made of rubber.

Sinkers and Floaters: StingRay is a sinker. Plastic is a floater. What other items sink and float? There is a science experiment here.

Tails: Lumphy loses his tail. What might he have used it for, were he a "real" buffalo? What do the tails of other animals do for them? What might happen if they were to lose their tails? A nice book pairing here is What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins (no relation). Students might write their own stories about an animal losing a tail.

Games: The toys play checkers, leap frog and pick-up sticks. Plastic annoys everyone during the checkers game. How come? Students might discuss sportsmanship and play some of the games themselves.

Sting rays and buffaloes: There are loads of interesting facts (and truths!) about these animals. (By the way, Lumphy is an American buffalo, also known as a bison, not an African or Asian buffalo.) Have children research them in groups and present their findings to their peers.

Favorite toys: Children can bring favorite dolls or stuffed animals to class, and write or share stories and details about their toys. On this day, groups can make cupcakes and have a tea party, like the Little Girl does at the end of the book.

Dance Party: The youngest readers can have a dance party, with or without toys.


In chapter one of Toys Go Out, StingRay says, "it's not so bad if you don't complain." Do you complain, ever? Does it make you feel better? Or worse? How does it make others feel when someone is complaining?

Lumphy would rather be warned about something that he won't like. Would you? Why, or why not?

The Girl says her toys are her best friends. What makes someone a best friend? Can we always say that one friend is best, or are there different sorts of friends, with different qualities? Are there different ways of being friends? Are oldest friends the same as best friends? Do you think the Little Girl loves one toy more than the others? Why or why not?

What is the difference between a truth and a fact? Are they the same?

Lumphy is afraid of the washing machine -- and comes to love it. (Him.) Have you ever been afraid of something and come to love it, later? What? How did that happen? Did you learn anything from that experience?

What are subliminal messages? Can you think of any that people try to give you? Or which you give them?

StingRay and her friends discuss what it means to be grown-up in chapter six. What do you think it means to be grown-up? Is there more than one way to define it? What things do grown-ups do that children don't?



Before reading Toys Go Out , Toy Dance Party or Toys Come Home, photocopy Zelinsky's illustrations and have students write their own stories inspired by them.

Have students write dialog for two of their own toys, trying to give each toy a voice of its own.

Write an encounter between a toy and an appliance.



Picture books with toys come to life, one way or another:

Dahlia, by Barbara McClintock
I Love You, Blue Kangaroo, by Emma Chichester Clark
The Paper Princess, by Elisa Kleven
Traction Man is Here! by Mini Grey 

Some books for ages 6-9 that feature animated toys:

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson
Raggedy Ann Stories, by Johnny Gruelle
Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks, illustrated by Brock Cole
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, by Rumer Godden
The Doll People, by Anne M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick 

Invisible Inkling series


Topics related to the first book in the series, Invisible Inkling-- bullying, immigration, endangered species, making ice cream, boys' friendship.

For Invisible Inkling: Dangerous Pumpkins -- Halloween, pumpkin-carving, costumes, ghosts. 

Click here for a printable invisible friend classroom activityand here for a printable dangerous pumpkin classroom activity.

Fun tidbit: the Invisible Inkling series is set at the same school that inspired Jon Scieszka's Spaceheads! It's P.S. 58 in Brooklyn. 

Water in the Park: A Book About Water and the Times of the Day

The book takes you through the different hours of a day, showing the rhythms and patterns of life in the park, so it's easy to connect to lessons on telling time. is a math book that contains a comical but factual explanation of American coins and their value, and a set of math problems that can be written out by students as the characters sell lemonade at different prices. It's also about entrepreneurship, and set-up costs as related to profits. 

An interview with Water in the Park illustrator, Stephanie Graegin. 

Two books that inspired Water in the Park:

The Park Book by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by H.A. Rey
White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

Other books that take you through a day in a poetic way:

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money

Lemonade is a math book that contains a comical but factual explanation of American coins and their value, and a set of math problems that can be written out by students as the characters sell lemonade at different prices. It's also about entrepreneurship, and set-up costs as related to profits. 
Here is artist G. Brian Karas's blog post on how he did the art for Lemonade in Winter.

Here’s a math and literature classroom activity guide for Lemonade in Winter by Kids Wings.

The Smithsonian “Our Story” American History study guide for Lemonade in Winter is here.

Lemonade in Winter is a movie!  From Scholastic/Weston Woods, with great narration by Rebecca Soler.   Great for classroom use.

Some good money-related picture books:
The Money Tree by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
The Money We'll Save by Brock Cole  

Sugar Would Not Eat It

Sugar has come under fire for depicting someone yelling at a cat and trying to feed it a food that's bad for it. Do your students think we should depict things like this in stories? Why or why not? 

What do kids think about the different ideas Leo's friends have for getting Sugar to eat the cake? 

There's lots of room for discussion here about obedience, trying new foods, eating hated foods, and various family approaches to eating. The book might also be a nice jumping-off point for discussions of animal care and healthy eating. 


The Little Bit Scary People

This book is about fear, and it's also about recognizing the humanity in people who are different from ourselves, even when those people behave in scary ways.  It partners well with my book The Fun Book of Scary Stuff. 
Books about fear: 

Garmann's Summer by Stian Hole
There's a Monster at the End of this Book! from Sesame Street
Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett 

What Happens on Wednesdays

This is a good first-month-of school book for pre-k to first grade. It charts a typical day's schedule in a reassuring way. It allows children to compare the kinds of activities at school with the activities at home and in the neighborhood.

It's also a book which emphasises the sense of the self in the community, which is a large part of many kindergarten curriculums. Children can name the elements of their own neighborhoods which are important to them. Older students can draw maps and label their favorite spots. They can go on walking tours of the neighborhood around school, then come back and draw what they saw -- or build it with blocks. The group can discuss how there are public landmarks (the library, the grocery store) and private landmarks (the tree where the umbrella once was stuck, my friend's house, and so on). 

Here's a useful interview with artist Lauren Castillo

Mapping Neighborhoods:

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems
Lentil, by Robert McClosky
Madlenka and Madlenka's Dog, by Peter Sis
Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino 

Books on starting school:

Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells

Daffodil &  My Favorite Thing

These books work well for discussions of individuality and difference, self-esteem and self-expression. Some school groups have made lists of favorite things and posted them around the classroom. Others have drawn pictures of hated clothes and beloved ones. 

Books about strong likes and dislikes: 

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, by Lauren Child
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban 


On the subject of clothing and how it shapes our identity, Daffodil pairs well with:

Halibut Jackson, by David Lucas
Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Fancy Nancy, by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Timothy Goes to School, by Rosemary Wells
Traction Man is Here, by Mini Grey

Daffodil, Crocodile

For Pre-K students, this book is fun to connect with study of animal sounds and discussions of what animals students would like to be -- and why. For older children, teachers have done mask-making activities and worked with papier mache.

Pairs nicely with: 

Alligator Boy by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode 



This book might be used for discussing friendships that blossom despite prohibitions. Or, skunks, obviously. 

On the subject of friendships in the face of difficulty: 

The Other Side of the Fence, by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E. B. White


On the subject of skunks: 

The Skunk, by Mac Barnett, illus. by Patrick McDonnell

That New Animal

This book can be useful in discussions of anger and change within families, as well as for learning about babies. Teachers have also used it for units on dogs.

Some excellent new baby books:

Smile, Lily!  by Candace Fleming
What the No-Good Baby is Good For, by Elise Broach, illustrated by Abby Carter
I Kissed the Baby!  by Mary Murphy
Peter's Chair, by Ezra Jack Keats

On the subject of anger, I also recommend:

When Sophie Gets Angry… by Molly Bang
I Hate You! I Love You! by Tomek Bogacki 

Stellar dog books:

McDuff Moves In by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Dog Blue, by Polly Dunbar
Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer
Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
The Very Kind Rich Lady and her 100 Dogs, by Chinlun Lee

The Bea and HaHa books

These are very short stories of toddler friendship, appropriate for the preschool classroom. 

 Friendship/Relationship books for the very youngest readers:

Max and Ruby books, by Rosemary Wells
Maisy stories, by Lucy Cousins
Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems
Big Sister Little Sister, by LeUyen Pham

Five Creatures  

The idea for this book came from a venn diagram I drew, sorting the separate and overlapping qualities of members of my household. The book can be used as a companion to math activities in sorting, making sets, counting, and diagramming. It can also be used as a starting point for discussing children's different family compositions, including pets, and for drawing family portraits.

For math concepts, pairs well with:  

12 Ways to Get to 11, by Eve Merriam, illustrated by Bernie Karlin
One Hundred is a Family, by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Benrei Huang
17 Things IÕm Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Ninety-Three in My Family, by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Mike Lester  

Love You When You Whine

This book is an expression of unconditional love despite a child's imperfections and occasional naughtiness.  Can be used to remind young school children of their parents' love – and for conversations about pleasant and unpleasant behavior. Children can make drawings that express different strong emotions they feel: anger, happiness, fear, love. 

Some quality books for discussing manners and behavior:

What Do You Say, Dear? by Seslye Johnson, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
How to Behave and Why by Munro Leaf
No, David! by David Shannon
Miss Nelson is Missing, by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague

Recommended love books:

You're Just What I Need, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Julia Noonan
You and Me, Little Bear, by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth
The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Rashka