photographer | slp | language & literacy | love good design, engaging books, reggio emilia, documenting | @averyandaugustine on instagram

founder of | @littlelitbookseries on instagram



the hundred dresses

“Tell us how many dresses did you say you had hanging up in your closet?”

Oh that we would befriend and take care of the Wanda Petronskis in our classrooms.  The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and Louis Slobdokin teaches kindness, compassion and grace.  We get a picture of determination, grit and humility from Wanda and her faded blue dress.

We’re starting a new series with and are hoping that others will join in.  Each Thursday we’ll be posting #classicchapterbooks.  Why read older books?  They are rich sources of rare words, antiquated phrasing and lexicons of older, bygone words that have dropped out of quotidian use.  All these types of words contribute to a well-rounded vocabulary for our children, and will help them in more ways than we know as they get older and as they have to wade through more complex texts in high school, college and beyond.

Many vintage books provide historical background and a strong sense of time and place.  As stories unfold, we see prevailing views, social rules, cultural norms, the values and sensibilities of particular eras.  We learn so much from classic books and they fuel meaningful conversations with our children.

We’d love to see what other vintage chapter books or novels everyone has in their library.  Share yours with the hashtag #classicchapterbooks on Instagram.


11 more summer chapter books for young readers

I’m thrilled to be back at Hello, Wonderful, sharing eleven more of our favorite chapter books for young readers to round out their summer reading.  I also talk about ways to help your child acquire more vocabulary during read-aloud and independent reading time.  I’d love to hear what everyone’s reading this summer.  How is it August already?!

In case you missed it, be sure to check out my first post with chapter book recommendations along with thoughts on the importance of reading on Hello, Wonderful.


Beginning Reader Books for Kindergarten Through Second Grade

Pre-reading skills and literacy are part of our scope as SLPs (speech-language pathologists).  In this post, I’ll be sharing some of our favorite books for emerging readers in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.


Max adores his pet fish but his hopes are dashed when he realizes that his fish does not possess the ability to dance.  Max Has a Fish is a fun read for kindergartners and first graders learning early word families.  Also check out Max Finds an Egg.


In my search for early reader texts, this series has been one of my best finds.  The three books in the I Can Read It! series contain collections of stories with early word families and sight words that are taught in kindergarten and first grade.  The stories are substantial in length and are comprised of mostly controlled vocabulary, and are good for building reading fluency and automaticity.  There’s a preview of the table of contents and some stories from the first book on Amazon but not the second or third.  You can do a search on Google Images to take a look at the index in both the second and third books.  There’s a fourth book in the series that contains just lists of the word patterns in each book.  


The Ready…Set…Read—and Laugh! treasury is a wonderful anthology of stories, poems, word games and riddles by some of our favorite children’s book authors and illustrators.  The texts are high-interest, funny and engaging.  While keeping in mind that there is such a wide range of reading ability at every age (and especially at the younger ages), the text readability is second grade.  Recommended age levels for this treasury are 6-8.  If you have a pretty good handle on your child’s reading levels, you can read a few pages of a book and tell whether or not the text will be a good match for your child.  This anthology was compiled by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson.  Be sure to check out the companion book: Ready, Set, Read! The Beginning Reader's Treasury.


Another great book for early readers to build fluency with—Oliver by Syd Hoff.  A classic, funny and charming story of elephantine proportions.  Its text readability is second grade.


Arnold Lobel’s Grasshopper on the Road has a text readability of second grade.  Other story collections at this reading level include Uncle Elephant, Mouse Tales, Owl at Home, Mouse Soup and Small Pig.


Another great early reader by Arnold Lobel.  Frog and Toad Are Friends, a Caldecott Honor Book, has a solid second grade readability.


It’s no secret that we have a serious love for Nate the Great, for so many reasons.  Nate is my youngest child’s name.  Most of the stories in the series are at a second grade readability, and make great first chapter books for those ready for a longer plot.  Like I’ve said in the past, there’s a lot of repetition in Nate the Great texts that helps build fluency, automaticity and confidence in reading ability.


The simple text in Cat the Cat, Who Is That? has a great rhythm to it, and of course, Mo Willem’s illustrations are playful, lighthearted and engaging.  Emerging readers in kindergarten/first grade will love the surprise at the end.  I include ‘first grade’ in my recommendation because there are a few difficult words in it that we wouldn’t expect all beginning readers to be able to tackle easily.  Also, with changing standards in our public school system, children are expected to be reading by the end of the kindergarten year, even though many might not be developmentally ready.  Of course, we want our children to learn how to read, but we also need to be patient and keep in mind that each of them will read in his/her own time, given systematic instruction, daily practice and opportunities to interact with various texts and print in their environment.  Also, one of the best ways we can produce lifelong readers and motivate our children to become independent readers is to read aloud to them—books that will engage their senses and stoke their imagination, stories that they will revel in, with characters that will resonate with them—books that they will love.  Here's to the marvel of the reading process, and to watching its magic unfold in our children.  And that we would be witnesses to it and facilitators of it, is truly a privilege.


five questions with isabel roxas and minh lê

We are fortunate to have both author Minh Lê and illustrator Isabel Roxas stop by for this week's Five Questions to talk about their latest book, LET ME FINISH!  I hope you enjoy getting to know the people behind the book and the story behind the story as much as I have.

Also, thanks to Isabel, one reader will win a copy of LET ME FINISH! along with a few other surprises.  Head over to @averyandaugustine on Instagram to enter the giveaway.


First, five questions with Isabel Roxas.

As a kid, when did you realize you were a creative type?

I didn’t think about it much as a child. I just did what I found enjoyable—playing in the park, drawing, conjuring worlds with my cousins, and reading—and avoided the things I disliked: piano practice, math tutorials and homework. I loved (and continue to love) learning things, so I took all sorts of after-school lessons from Philippine dance to classical guitar. Somehow only the drawing stuck, and now most of my dancing only happens in the dark. 


How did you become an illustrator?

It was a confluence of things—There was a new bookstore in town called “Young Minds,” and they specialized in children’s books. I started collecting picture books in my freshman year of college, and started a weekly pilgrimage to the store. One day, I saw a group of artists painting a flying dragon mural in the store. I was very impressed by their handiwork and asked how I might do what they were doing. It turns out that they were part of a newly-formed children’s book guild called Ang Illustrator ng Kabataan (Ang INK) or Illustrators for Children. 

They were mostly folks who worked in advertising, artists and art professors, and they let me sit-in their meetings, listening and absorbing. They were all very kind and generous with their knowledge. After attending meetings for about a year or so, I got my first assignment from the Junior Inquirer (The children’s supplement of The Philippine Daily Inquirer) and I never thought to do anything else.


What was it like collaborating with Minh on Let Me Finish?

It was great! Minh is a hilarious, generous and thoughtful writer. He is mindful of what an illustrator can bring to the table—it was a pleasure to work with a manuscript that directed action precisely, but left so much room for my own wild imagining. He was also supportive. It is unusual for authors and illustrators to meet before the book is out, but somehow we did meet while the book was in progress, so we shot secret encouragement emails to each other (shhh...don’t tell our editor).


What are some things you love about where you live now, New York, and where you grew up, the Philippines?

Here in NY I love the individuality of people, and their directness. Not a lot of hemming and hawing—just the truth (most of the time). I also like how people are so driven. It is competitive here, but I also find that there is a camaraderie in the pursuit of one’s passion, and it can wring the best out of us.

As for the Philippines, I love the ingenuity of people and the “make it work” ethos. I also love the abundance and diversity of traditional crafts—some regions are known for the mat weaving, while others are great at pottery and still others specialize in textile weaving. It is basically a nation of artisans. Oh and the food of course! My mother likes to say that “Happiness is a ripe mango” and I couldn’t agree more.


Do you have any new books or projects in the works? 

I have a few pieces in an exhibition curated by Leonard Marcus called The Picture Book Re-Imagined: The Children's Book Legacy of Pratt Institute and the Bank Street College of Education. It just opened and runs through Sept. 15, 2016 at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

I am writing my own stories (more about those at a later date), while also working on a book for Adarna House in the Philippines all about street vendors and the things they do all day. 


Now over to five questions with Minh Lê.

Congratulations on your your debut children’s book (which is amazing, by the way).  Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided to start writing picture books?

Thanks so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book... and thanks for having me in for a chat!  

I've been a fan of picture books my entire life, but it wasn't until I was a senior in college that I started to seriously think about publishing a children's book. But life has a way of taking you in different directions and I headed down a very rewarding career in education and policy. But I never let go of that idea of writing a children's book. 

Along the way, I starting writing about picture books and for the past ten years I've had the chance to review picture book on my blog, for the Huffington Post, and recently for the New York Times. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I finally decided (with a helpful kick in the pants from my wonderful wife) to pick one of the ideas I had bouncing around in my head and actually send it out into the world. 


What inspired the story in Let Me Finish?

I think at the time I was brainstorming, people were freaking out about spoilers for either Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad, but I was also inspired by the fervor around each Harry Potter release and how people would camp out to get through a book before anyone could spoil the ending. I loved seeing the tension between love for something (books, TV shows, etc.) and how it's a double edged sword when that love makes you want to share with other people. 

This is nothing new, but it feels particularly prevalent these days with how given how we engage on social media. So I thought that tension would make a good starting point for a book. Whether or not children fully grasp the concept of spoilers, I thought the dynamic would make for a good read aloud, and I loved the idea of writing a book where reading was the commodity.


What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing the book?

Part of the reason I didn't get around to sending out any manuscripts into the world was that I grew up drawing and painting so I always had it in my head that I would do the writing and illustrating for a book. But I never put the time and effort into my art to get me anywhere close to the realm of an actual professional illustrator. So every idea I had would die on the vine when I tried unsuccessfully to put that idea down on paper.

Realizing that my end goal was to create a book, not necessarily to illustrate a book was the breakthrough moment for me (again, credit goes to my wife for helping me come to this realization. Seriously, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her.) So realizing that I could write the text for a picture book and partner with an illustrator was a revelation. And then to get to work with someone as fantastic as Isabel Roxas is an absolute dream. 

I could go on and on about Isabel (she's like family now), but I'll just say this about the collaborative process. People often ask me what it's like to have someone else illustrate my book. And I tell them that they're looking at it wrong: It's not that an illustrator is illustrating MY book, but more that my text is creating space for an illustrator to work their magic and bring OUR story to life. As someone who loves picture books and values the interplay between text and image, I personally think that's the only way for a picture book collaboration to truly work.


Who are some of the writers who have influenced you the most?

Hoo boy... with the full understanding that I will revisit this list and want to add to it as soon as I submit it to you, here's a start: Crockett Johnson, Vera Williams, Helen Oyeyemi, David Foster Wallace, Astrid Lindgren, Mac Barnett, Orhan Pamuk, Eiji Yoshikawa, Beverly Cleary, Gene Luen Yang, Evaline Ness, Thomas Wolfe...


What are you reading at the moment?

Funny that you ask. I was just asked to compile my summer reading list for School Library Journal (I always love those lists so was super-psyched to be invited to join in the fun this year), so here's what's on my list at the moment:

I'm on a fiction kick right now, so when I come up for air from my sea of picture books, I'm reading What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (who I consider a storytelling wizard) and Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (robots!). 

I've also been making a point to read more middle grade/YA, so I've started Melissa Sweet's charming Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White and have my sights set on The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, and Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung.

And because I'm always scrambling to fill the many gaps in my reading background, some older titles on my list are: Thomas Wolfe's Of Time and the River (his follow up to Look Homeward Angel, which is one of my all-time favorites), Cane by Jean Toomer, and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (maybe then I won’t have to hang my head in shame whenever I’m in kidlit circles).


Thank you, Isabel and Minh, for giving us such wonderful insights into your backgrounds, the collaborative process and what inspires both of you.


lion lessons

Lion Lessons: crazy and absurd premise, and utterly hilarious with the dry humor that only Jon Agee can deliver.

”It's not easy getting your Lion Diploma.

I know.  I took lessons.

My teacher was a pro.

'There are seven steps to becoming a lion,' he said.

'But first we must stretch!'"