Sticky Burp

I was out with a sick daughter yesterday, so I started my work week this morning with a mountain of books piled up on my desk to check in. I started working on these first thing. While I was scanning them all in, a large group of students rushed into the library to check some books out since they hadn’t been able to yesterday. I helped the ones who needed help, but most of them just wanted to browse, so I left them to it, and returned chipping away at my book-mountain.

One of the students started laughing loudly to himself, and brought his book up to my desk.

Me: Did you find a book to check out?

He leaned forward so that his face was really close to mine, and let out a big burp.

Me: Um..gross. What was that for?

Him (grinning): Read the title of the book.


Me: Ummm….I don’t think I get it.

Him (laughing again): It says Sticky Burp!

I checked the book out, and handed it back to him.

Me: I think you need to read that title again.

Him: Oh. Yeah. Sticky Burr. What’s a burr?

I tried to explain what a burr is. Before I was finished though, he told me that he didn’t want the book any more and he placed it, very carefully, on top of my giant pile of books to check back in.

Him: I have to go right now. Our class is going to PE. Can you see if you have any books about actual burps, and I’ll check it out later today when I come back?

Blue Whales in High Demand


This morning, I was reading Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem to the first grade. It’s a pretty good book. In it a boy, Billy Twitters, is given a blue whale from his parents as a punishment for not cleaning his room. He has to keep it and take care of it and as you can imagine, this causes a lot of trouble. I finished off the story by mentioning nonchalantly (I thought) that if any of the students would like a blue whale of their own, they could get a free one by writing to an address on the back of the book, and that they could come see me after story time for the address.


The offer promises the child a whale of their own, if they will write to the address and send  a self-addressed stamped envelope. (for the instruction manual. Not for the whale. Duh. Whales can’t fit into envelopes.)

I watched a video of Mac Barnett’s TED talk last week and in in it, he tells us that if a child sends away for one of these whales, they get an official letter back explaining that their whale is off the coast of Scandinavia, ( or somewhere like that) and that it can’t be delivered at this time, but a phone number is provided where the child can reach the whale. When the child calls the whale, a recording is played of a whale making whale sounds followed by a beep, and the child can leave the whale a message.

I figured that it would be fun if one or two of my 1st graders sent away for a whale, so I casually mentioned it to them. I read them another story, after that and then let them get up to find their books to check out. Usually, it takes them a few minutes to find books, and then they line up at my desk to check out. When I got over to my desk, today I saw that I already had a long line, nearly everyone in the class, and that none of them had books in their hands ready to check out.

“Where are your books?” I asked the first boy in line.

“We aren’t checking out. We’re in line to get the address for the whale.”

I copied the address from the back of the book down onto a sticky note, and handed it to him, while I tried to explain what a self-addressed stamped envelope is. He jumped and waved the sticky note and shouted “Woo Hoo! It’s like I have my own blue whale right here in my hand!”

I copied the address down for the next few kids in line, and then I had an idea.

“You know what?” I addressed the rest of the students in line. “I’m just going to send this address to your teacher, and she can help you write your letters. It can be a class project.”

The line scattered then, and they all found their books to check out. Two students got books about blue whales.

Like we do everyday,we spent the last few minutes having quiet reading time. Several students came up to me to ask me questions. Usually a student will ask me to define a difficult word for them, or they will ask me to use the restroom or to get a drink of water. Today, all of the questions were about whales.

“Do you think the whale will be too big to fit in my house?”

“You don’t think the whale will eat my dog do you?” (I explained that whales don’t eat dogs. They eat plankton and shrimp-like creatures called krill)

“Do whales need water to live, or will they be ok since they’re mammals?”

Not one student asked me if it was true, if they would really be getting a whale. They wanted to believe it, and they did. It always amazes me what a kid will believe if they really want to. That’s one of the reasons it is so fun to read to them or to tell them stories, because for them, anything is possible, even sending away for a free blue whale.

No Time Like the Present

I had the following conversation with a fifth grade girl yesterday.

Her: Mr. Martin, I need a good book.

Me: Let’s find you a good book.

Her: Well, I was thinking of reading Charlotte’s Web. Last year, when I was in 4th grade you told me that was your favorite book when you were in 4th grade.

Me: It was. I loved that book. I didn’t want to give it back to the school library. Have you not read it yet?

Her: No. I never have. Do you think I would still like it even though I’m in 5th grade now?

Me: I do. I also think that if you don’t read it in the next few months, you might not ever.

Her: Why not?

Me: Well, you’ll be in middle school next year.

Her: Why does that matter?

Me: Well, once you start middle school, you’ll start thinking all teenagy. And you’ll probably see Charllotte’s Web as a book for little kids.

Her: I will not be all teenagy. I’m only 11.

Me: Just wait. You’ll see. I’m telling you. If you don’t read Charlotte’s Web soon, you might not ever.

Her: Okay. I’ll check it out.

Me: Sweet. Let’s go find it.

Her (while we’re walking towards the stacks): Is Charlotte’s Web still your favorite book?

Me: Well, it depends on when you ask me. I get excited about a lot of good books, so my favorite book can change several times a month. Right now, though, I’m really excited about you reading Charlotte’s Web. So yeah, right at this very moment, it’s my favorite book.

Her: Okay. Can we find another book just in case I start it and don’t like it?

Me: I guess.

Kid Lit References in How I Met Your Mother

My wife, Ashley, and I don’t branch out too much when it comes to our sitcom watching. We know what we like, and we stick to it. That mainly involves watching all of Everybody Loves Raymond, Scrubs, The Office, Friends and How I Met Your Mother over and over again. When we finish one show, we start another.

A few weeks ago, we finished the last episode of The Office, again. The next night, after we got the kids to bed, I looked at her, and said, “So, what’s next? How I Met Your Mother? We haven’t watched them all since it ended last year.” She shrugged and said, “Sure!” and we settled in for another 4 or 5 month venture.

1. Aggle Flabble Klabble

Last year, Ashley was watching an episode (“Unpause”) of the last season live, without me. I’m not sure what I was doing, but I wasn’t home to see it. When I did get home, Ashley told me, “You missed it! There was a Knuffle Bunny reference in How I met Your Mother!”

“Really?” I asked. There aren’t a whole lot of people out there, that I would call a “hero” but Mo Willems is one of them. I love everything Mo writes, and Knuffle Bunny has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first picture books we bought our son, and he has always loved it. Later, when watching the episode online, I saw that Ashley was right.  Barney gets really drunk and mutters “Aggle Flabble Klabble. Wumpy Flappy Snurp!” before passing out! All Mo Willems and Knuffle Bunny fans would have immediately recognized the exact words frustrated Trixie yells and whimpers at her dad when she’s trying to communicate that she left her bunny at the laundromat.

“Interesting,” I thought to myself. “The HIMYM writers know their kid’s lit. I wonder if there are other hidden kid lit references throughout the series?” That was the first time I thought about it, but it wouldn’t be the last. For the time being, I set the thought aside.

2. The Cockamouse

It came back again a few weeks ago, when Ashley and are were rewatching the “Matchmaker” episode. In the episode, Ted has hired a matchmaker company help find his perfect match with the help of a computer program. As a back story, Lily and Marshall, have a pest problem. Lily thinks it cockroach and Marshall is sure it is a mouse, but at first, they can never get a good view of it. Later they trap it, and discover that it’s some sort of cockroach/mouse mix that they refer to as a “cockamouse.” I’ve always loved the cockamouse idea. I thought it was hilarious, but I never thought much else about it. Near the end of the episode, Ted refuses to become discouraged when the matchmaking company cannot find him a suitable match. He tells them, “Hell, if a cockroach and a mouse can find love in this crazy city, then, damn it, so can I.” That’s when it hit me. A cockroach and a mouse.


In the picture book, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, Martina is a young, beautiful cockroach searching for her perfect match (just like Ted). She goes through suitor after suitor, finding each of them unsuitable until she meets a mouse named Perez at the end of the story. A mouse and a roach find love in this story, just like Ted said. I turned to Ashley. “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach!” “Huh?” she asked. “The Cockamouse! It’s the child of Martina the Beautiful Cochroach and Perez!” She told me that I was crazy and that it was probably just a coincidence. She may be right, but after thinking longer on it, I’m convinced that I’m on to something. I mean what are the odds that a cockroach and a mouse who aren’t Martina  found each other, fell in love and had a hybrid baby. I mean, it couldn’t happen twice, right? Ted seemed to be making the point that it was so improbable that these two would find each other, and then they did and that meant there was hope for him. I also don’t think it’s coincidence that the cockamouse was introduced in the “Matchmaker” episode, both this episode and Martina are about finding improbable love. Really, the whole show is the plot of Martina. Ted dates girl after girl before finally finding the right one (or two if you count the very end of the show.)

I firmly believe that the cockamouse is not only a very well hidden kid lit reference, but also the direct offspring of two picture book characters worked into the show. Brilliant. That’s what it is.

Well, that discovery got me pumped up, and I went on a HIMYM kid lit finding frenzy. I’m sure there are more out there, that I haven’t discovered, but here’s what I’ve found so far. (remember there are some crass references and crude terms used. Sorry if it offends anyone)

3. Tin Man

In the episode “Okay Awesome” Ted calls Barney “Tin man” because of his silver shirt referencing Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. The book is again referenced in “Not a Father’s Day” when Ted and Robin are discussing children and he tells her, “Maybe you could ask the wizard to give you a heart.”

4. Hansel and Gretel

In the episode “Slutty Pumpkin” Robin and her boyfriend dress up as Hansel and Gretel for Halloween.

5. Tortoise and the Hare

In “Best Prom Ever” Barney dresses up like a high school’s mascot, a turtle, to sneak into their prom. It takes him several attempts to get in, and Ted tells him, “Slow and steady won the race” referencing the fable, “the Tortoise and the Hare”.

6. “How Lily Stole Christmas”

This one is pretty obvious

7. The Giving Tree

In “Arrivederci, Fiero”, Marshall’s car bites the dust. He emotionally, refers to his car as “the Giving Tree of cars” referencing Silverstein’s classic picture book.

8. Where’s Waldo

In the same episode, they pick up a hitchhiker dressed exactly like Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books. There’s another Waldo reference much later in the series in “Last Time in New York” when Ted is wearing a red and white striped bathing suit.

9. Phineas Fogg

Is Around the World in Eighty Days a kids book? Well, I have it in my elementary library, and I read it as a kid, so I’ll count it. While Ted is shaving his “break-up beard” his friends call him Phineas Fogg because of his mutton chops. The book is again referenced in “Dopplegangers” when Barney announces his plan to seduce girls from around the world.He calls it “Around the world in 180 lays.”

10. Peter Pan

Barney wears a green suit for St. Patrick’s day in “No Tomorrow.” Somebody calls him Peter Pan. Later, in “The Broath,” we find out that Marshall played Peter Pan in a school play.

11. Pinocchio

There are two Pinocchio references, and both times are in reference to a character lying. Robin in “Woooo!” and  Lily in “The Mermaid Theory.”

12. Are You There God? It’s me Margaret.

“Are you there, Barney? It’s me, Horny.” Barney in “Big Days.”

13. Green Eggs and Ham.

When Marshall says he can beat “a bus or a cab or a train” in “Subway Wars” Robin mentions Green Eggs and Ham.

14. Cinderella

I’m really surprised there aren’t more Cinderella references. I’ve only found one. In “Blitzgiving” Ted compares Zoey to the evil stepmother.

15. Marry Poppins

In “Last Words,” Robin has “vice bag” and it is compared to the magical bag in Mary Poppins.

16. Harry Potter

When breaking up with a boyfriend,  in “Legendaddy”Robin sarcastically mentions leaving to become the next defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts. Marshall also references Harry’s invisibility cloak in “Ring up!”

17. Thomas the Tank Engine

In “Drunk Train” Ted calls the train “Thomas the Spank Engine.”

18. Twilight

In “The Final Page,” Marshall says he’s on “Team Tedward” referencing Twilight.

19. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

In “Ring up!” Marshall likens Robin’s engagement ring to the ring of power.

20. Casey at Bat

In “Bedtime Stories,” Marshall is trying to get Marvin to sleep by telling him stories about his friends. The first is “Mosby at Bat” referencing the classic picture book, Casey at Bat.

21. Escape from Witch Mountain

This one may be reaching, but in “Slapsgiving 3″ Marshall asks “Which Mountain?” and Red Bird responds, “Not Witch Mountain.”

22. The Hardy Boys

When Ted was a boy, he had a detective agency, consisting of only himself and he called it the Mosby Boys, referencing the Hardy Boys. It’s mentioned inDowisetrepla” and “Daisy.”

That’s all that I’ve found so far. I’m sure there are more. If you find them, please share them with me, and I’ll add them.

All of those kid lit references might not prove that the cockamouse is really the offspring of Martina and Perez. I think that it is, but there really isn’t proof.

Why all the kid lit references in an adult sitcom, though? Well, there might be some kind of connection between one of the writers and the kid lit world, but I really just think that sitcoms are a reflection of culture, and most of them are full of cultural references of the time. These stories that we all read as children become such a big part of who we are, that there are naturally lots of kid lit references mixed in with all of the Lebron James, Lady Gaga and Mitt Romney references. The stories are such a big part of us, that for the most part, it’s really not that remarkable when it happens.

Worth a shot

Student: Mr. Martin, can you look on your computer and see if it can tell you where my book is?

Me: Sure. What book are you looking for?

Student: The Captain Underpants book. The one I have checked out.

Me: Are you looking for another copy of it?

Student: No.

Me: Well, you already have the one you checked out.

Student: No, I don’t. I lost it.

Me: And you want my computer to find it?

Student: Yeah.

Me: Sorry. It can’t do that.

Student: I figured. It was worth a shot.

Me: I guess.

When your words come back to bite you.

I always tell my students they aren’t allowed to say they don’t like a book if they haven’t tried it. They can say it doesn’t sound like a book they would usually like, but they aren’t allowed to say that they don’t like it. I also, tell that to my 4 year old son about vegetables.

Well, today during my last class of the week, (5th grade) a student approached my desk.

Her: Mr. Martin, I know what book you should read next!

Me: What book?

This particular girl usually has reading tastes very similar to mine and we’ve read several books together these last few years, so I was genuinely eager to see what book she was reading and recommending to me.

She held up the cover.

Me: No.

Her: Oh come on! I read everything you recommend.

Me: But I don’t like tha….

Her: MR. MARTIN, you say all the time that we can’t say we don’t like something if we haven’t tried it. You tell me to be brave and to try new things.

Me: But…

Her: Mr. Martin.

Me: But that guy isn’t an author. He’s a teenage actor.

Her: He is an incredibly talented person.

Me: No. Just no.

Her: Mr. Martin.

Me: Fine, I’ll read it next.

So that’s how it went down. The next book in my to read pile is….


The Land of Stories the Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. Yeah. The Glee guy. Sigh.

The Top Ten Check Outs of the first semester

Here are the top ten books checked out from my library during the first semester.

10. The Gumazing Gum Girl  by Rhode Montijo



  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney


8. Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems


7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney


6. Sideway Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar


5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney


4. The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems


3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney


2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney


1. Minecraft: Essential Handbook by Stephanie Milton


Guardians or Warriors?

I was just having a conversation with a fifth grader about whether he thought the Guardians of Ga’Hoole or the Warriors series is better.

Him: Hmmm. I can’t decide. Tough question.

Me: Let’s put it this way. If you were going to be stranded on an island and could either take Warriors or the Guardians of Ga’Hoole with you, which one would you choose?

Him: Oh that’s easy. The Guardians. I’m pretty sure the Warrior cats would attack me.

Me:…….I meant which books would you take, not which characters.

Him: Oh..That’s a tough question. I can’t decide.

Why I enjoy working with children…


So there’s this new book, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. Up until the ending, it is a really good, hilarious picture book. Then, bam! Right at the end something happens, (I won’t tell you what, because you know, spoilers) and it becomes a mind-blowing masterpiece. Go read it. It might be my favorite picture book, ever. Please,  send me your theories as to what exactly happens at the end when you do. I’m collecting them, and I’ve gotten lots from students and colleagues. I’ve become a little obsessed. Ask my wife. I’ve been texting her the different theories I’ve collected, and she’s simply stopped responding to my texts. Here’s Travis Jonker’s list of theories. I don’t recommend you read them until you’ve read the book, though.

Anyways, I knew this book was going to be a great read aloud, and that it would lead to some awesome discussion, and I wasn’t disappointed. Almost as soon as I finish reading the book, every class so far, has been full of students eagerly raising their hands to share their theories, and they’ve all been really good, thoughtful theories. After I finish reading, I always let the kids get up and start looking for their books, and every class has had a cluster of students left hanging around the reading rug discussing the book, and sharing ideas. It’s basically what I want every post-storytime to look like.

When I was in the thick of collecting new theories, (I was seriously carrying the book around the school, giving it to coworkers, students, parents, really anyone who looked like they had a moment, and saying, “Can you read this and tell me what you think?”) I decided that some adolescent perspective might be good, so I got three of my high school shelvers to read it. While they were reading it, I eagerly waited for them to start shouting theories at me, like the elementary students had, but it didn’t happen. “So…” I asked, “What do you think happened?” One of the boys just said, “I dunno.” “What do you think?” “I dunno.” “You don’t have any theories?” “Not really.” To be fair, the third High Schooler, a 10th grade girl, did eventually give me some theories after a lot of prodding. The other two though, simply didn’t want to speculate.

The hole thing left me wondering. What happens to a kid’s curiosity when they go through puberty? Does it simply dissolve? It made me really grateful that I work with the age group that I do.

Later , I was reading a different book, The Book With No Pictures, to a class of first gradersIt’s a hilarious read aloud, and the basic premise is, the book (I guess the book is a character) is trying to get the reader to say silly things that he or she doesn’t want to say. One of the lines is, “And my head is made of blueberry pizza.” I noticed something when I read that line aloud. Several of the kids glanced up from the book, and at my head, as if they really expected that just maybe, me reading that line had actually transformed my head into a blueberry pizza. That just floored me. Kids have such a strong imagination, such a vivid belief that anything is possible. They are unpredictable and fun, all of the time. That’s why I love working with this group, and the reason that I love my job. Every day, I get to make kids laugh, I get to make them think, I get to make them wonder. For me, there couldn’t be a better job out there.