In this episode we look at some great books about awesome teachers and some fun Mother’s Day books.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. This week, we have Mother’s Day and Teacher’s Day all in the same week. So I’m going to cover several books for teachers, celebrating Teacher’s Day and several books for moms and for kids to work with moms that are special for moms. Let’s jump right in.
One of the writers who has written so many wonderful books about teachers, and if you just look for her books, you’ll find quite a few of the ones I’m going to mention, is Patricia Polacco. She wrote, Thank You, Mr. Falker, which is just a beautiful book about a teacher who understood her dyslexia and helped her to be a successful student. She’s also the illustrator of all these books too. She’s a writer and illustrator.
She has another one called The Junkyard Wonders. It says, “My heart sang as I walked to school with all of the kids on my grandma’s block on the first day of school. My mother and father had decided that I could stay just for one year there with my father and grandma in Michigan. In my old school in California, the kids all knew that I had just learned to read that I used to be dumb. Everyone knew that I was always in special classes here. No one would know no one would tease me. And I already had a new friend, Kay. But when I got to the front steps of the school, all of the neighborhood kids ran off to their classes. And when I saw Kay and waved to her, she didn’t wave back. I just stood there not knowing where to go. And when I showed two strange girls my class card, they got funny looks on their faces. ‘You’re in Mrs. Peterson’s class,’ they said. ‘Upstairs, room 206.’ Room 206–I found it In the classroom, a gawky boy I’ve never seen before yelled out, ‘Hey, the name’s Tom, not spelled T-O-M but T-H-O-M. Sit here next to me.’ He had huge dark-rimmed glasses that magnified his eyes. I sat down and looked around. Everyone seemed really different in one way or another. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Suddenly everyone snapped to attention. Our teacher was standing in the doorway, short and stout. She seemed a little scary, brusque, but her eyes–her eyes were friendly. I was sure of that. She walked up to the podium at the front of the room and slammed an enormous dictionary on top of it. Then she adjusted her glasses. And without saying hello, or how are you, she started reading in this no-nonsense voice. ‘The definition of genius, she began. ‘Genius is neither learned nor acquired. It is knowing without experience. It is risking without fear of failure. It is perception without touch. It is understanding without research. It is certainty without proof. It is ability without practice. It is invention without limitations. It is imagination without boundaries. It is creativity without constraints. It is extraordinary intelligence.’ Then she took a deep breath and slammed the book shut so hard it sounded like a gunshot. ‘Welcome to the junkyard. I am your teacher, Mrs. Peterson.’ She started walking around the room, looking at each of us. ‘I want you all to write the definition on the blackboard, post it on your mirrors. Look at it every day. Memorize it. The definition describes every one of you.'” And so this story goes through her experience in this new school, at her grandma’s house and how this teacher made a difference in her life. In this story, not only is the teacher a person who makes a difference in her life, but each of the students makes a tremendous difference in her life. And it shows the genius of each child, even though they may have learning differences. At the end of the book, she shares what each of the people became that were in her tribe or on her learning team, that what each of them did with their lives. It’s just such a wonderful book. Especially if you have children who are on the spectrum or have special needs or learning differences, it’s a beautiful, beautiful book. And I just love all of her books.
She has another one called Mr. Lincoln’s Way, and this is about a principal who made a difference in the children’s lives in his school. Especially he made a difference in this one bully’s life who was considered a bad student. He was called Mean Gene and it tells his story and how this principal changed everything. Her stories are truly inspiring for students, for teachers, for principals, for parents. They’re wonderful. And each of the stories she’s written do the same thing, Mr. Falker there’s Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece. And this one is also a true story. It’s where she conquers her fear of public speaking. And then she has The Art of Miss Chew, which is a wonderful story of the teacher who helped her discover her ability in art. And then she has An A from Ms. Keller, and all of these books are mostly based on her life. She’s written a lot of biographies about a lot of different people, but I love her stories about the teachers in her life, being a child who was in special ed, and the experiences she had. These remarkable teachers changed her life and helped her to become this wonderful author and illustrator that she is now. And her illustrations are beautiful. Her writing is so wonderful and her stories really will bless you as you read them. I think any of her stories would be wonderful for teachers. In fact, it might be nice to just read one of these books each day, leading up to Teacher’s Day to show what a remarkable difference teachers can make in a student’s life.
I’ve shared Miss Bindergarten’s Hundredth Day of Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolf. Slate also has several different stories of Miss Bindergarten’s Kindergarten from the first day of class to the last day of kindergarten, but there’s also one Miss Bindergarten Has a Wild Day in Kindergarten. And this one is about all the students–remember she has 26 kindergarteners, and they each start with a different letter in the alphabet, their names do–but it’s a day when chaos reigns in the classroom. The ants get loose, and there’s messes everywhere, and it’s just a rowdy day. It just is a cute, cute story.
And for Teacher’s Day, we have a few other cute stories. One is Thank You, Teacher from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It’s a little board book.
Another one that’s very nice is Because I Had a Teacher by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Natalie Russell. And this is a really cute book. It reminds me of Winnie the Pooh because, on the cover, it has two little bears, but it says, “Because I had a teacher, I love to learn. I discovered that I can do much more than I thought I could. I realized it’s okay when some things are harder than others.” And so it’s just a very sweet book for a young child.
And then A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, is a very special book because this little girl hates school. She comes to school; she’s in a bad mood, she’s grumpy. And she splashes through every puddle she can find on her way to school. So when she gets there, she’s just bringing in a ton of water from her rain boots, her backpack, and her little yellow raincoat. Her teachers makes a comment instead of getting onto her. Her teacher just says, “‘Good morning. Look at you standing there like Mary Kingsley, just back from canoeing up the Ogouie River.’ ‘Who?’ I said. ‘Where?’ ‘Mary Kingsley, the fearless Explorer,’ you explained. ‘Someday, we’ll read about her and crocodiles. Now get the mop.’ ‘Crocodiles?'” And so the teacher inspires an interest in learning while still holding her to the responsibility of cleaning up the mess she made, but without scolding her and making her feel bad. So I love this book. I love how the teacher is creative and clever and helps this child fall in love with school and with learning.
And then one artist that I really like is Karla Dornacher, and she creates gift books for many different occasions. And one of her books is The Heart of a Teacher Gift Book. And this is such a beautiful little book and would be one that most teachers would really enjoy getting. It has nice comments and thoughts all through it. And that’s The Heart of a Teacher Gift Book by Karla Dornacher.
So those are some of my favorite stories about teachers and students, and that really show the difference a teacher makes in a child’s life. And there are lots of others out there, but these are some of my favorites.
And then for Mother’s Day, there are some really cute stories. And, of course, there are a lot of stories about how wonderful a child is and how happy we are that God gave us that child. And I’ve mentioned some of those, but I found some stories that I’ve never shared before that I thought would be wonderful to look at. And one of these is called The Best Mother by C. M. Surrisi and illustrated by Diane Goode. And in this story, the little girl–she’s in a grumpy mood and she isn’t happy with her mom. And so she’s decided she’s going to find another mom. And of course, as she goes through her day and she’s looking for another mom, she starts to realize that her mom’s pretty awesome. And she maybe should just stick with her mom. It really is funny. It uses humor and just is a very, very cute book.
And of course we can’t talk about Mother’s Day without talking about Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. This one is a classic. And it’s where the little bird is hatched, and he thinks that the dog is his mother and the cow is his mother. And even the bulldozer could be his mother. And he’s looking for his mom. One of my kids’ favorites when they were growing up.
A couple others–One is What Not to Give Your Mother on Mother’s Day by Martha Seif Simpson and illustrated by Jana Christy. This one is very cute, and it starts out with “Mother’s Day is coming soon. What should you give your mom? Well, it depends, but here is my advice on what not to give her. Do not give her a bucket of big fat worms, unless she is a bird. Tweet, tweet. Plump, juicy worms. Do not give her a beat-up shoe unless she is a dog. ARF, ARF, a new chew toy.” And it goes on through all the different animals, even, anteaters and pigs and talks about what you don’t give your mom, unless she’s this kind of animal. It’s really cute. And I think children will enjoy the subtle humor of it all.
And another one that is cute and funny that the kids will really enjoy the humor in it is How to Raise a Mom by Jean Reagan and illustrated by Lee Wildish. The kids are telling how to raise your mom, and it says, “Raising a happy, healthy mom is fun and important. Are you ready for some tips? First of all, help your mom ease into the day.” And then it has a list, “How to start her morning. Let her sleep in just a little longer. Then kiss, kiss, kiss her awake. Fling open the curtains and say ‘rise and shine; your breakfast is ready.’ When it’s time to get dressed, be sure to give her choices. How to dress a mom: not too serious, not too silly, not too sparkly. Perfect.” And they dressed her in an absurd outfit, and the mom’s just patiently wearing it. “A mom can forget things when she’s hurrying to leave the house. So help her by piling it all at the door: snacks, toys, purse, keys, phone, shopping list, library books to return, letters to mail, more snacks, and more toys. Errands are fun. Until you end up in a long line. If your mom starts to get a little cranky, surprise her with a snack and toy.” And so it goes through the whole thing and it just, it shows how children emulate what they see their parents doing and their ideas of, well, this must be the way to raise a healthy and happy mom. Really cute book.
And then for mother’s day, if your kids are a little bit older especially, there’s a journal called Between Mom and Me: A Guided Journal for Mother and Son. It’s for boys 8 to 12 years old. And it would make a really unique and special Mother’s Day gift. And then there’s one, of course, for a mother and daughter called Love, Mom and Me: A Mother and Daughter Keepsake Journal. These are both by Katie Clemens. And so these would make really neat keepsakes.
And then there’s a really great book called Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies. And this is by Hillary Morgan Ferrer. This is a book for moms or for parents. It’s talking about how to answer the kids’ questions and to protect them from the lies that the world tries to teach them. So this is a really interesting book. Chapter one is Calling All Mama Bears: My Kid Has a Cheerio Shoved Up His Nose. Why Am I Reading This Book? It says, “I rather enjoy the phone conversations I have with my mom friends, especially those who are moms of young children. Where else can I hear someone yell nonsensical statements like, ‘Don’t put the chicken on the trampoline.’ I did a survey asking our mama bears for the weirdest statements they’d ever had to utter as a mom. There were quite a few responses regarding things that should not be licked. For example, eyeballs, cars and elephants. But my favorite response was, ‘We do not put wise men in the toilet.’ As a mom. I’m sure there are plenty of phrases you never thought would leave your mouth. Let’s be honest, who has to clarify that poop is not paint? Moms, that’s who. Mom life is a special calling and not for the faint of heart. Most moms will tell you that it is the hardest and the best job in the world. On one hand, there is no alone time for about the first eight years. And you don’t get to call in sick. On the other hand, what other job allows you to snuggle with your clients while they show you how big of a spit bubble they can make?” So the the humor in this and the seriousness of this book make it one that we should read. And it’s how to help our children have a strong faith in God and live their lives as Christians, as they grow older.
I also want to mention my devotional book that’s on Amazon. It’s called A Mother’s Look at the Father’s Heart, and it’s anecdotes and devotionals from my children growing up and how God showed his personality as our heavenly father and how he fathered me as his child as I was raising my children. It’s 60 devotionals that you can read, and it’s available in Kindle or paperback on Amazon.
Today in honor of mother’s day, I thought I would share a devotional from my book that I wrote for moms. And this one is called “A New Title.” Romans 8:15 in the New Living Translation: “So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family, calling him father, dear father.” Galatians 4:6: “And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the spirit of his son into your hearts. And now you can call God your dear father.”
What mom can ever forget the surprise and joy of hearing our little one first call us mama. I remember so vividly one day after my daughter had actually been calling me mama for quite a while, but just having the enormity of the title hit me. I was a mom. I was responsible for this little life who completely trusted and relied on me. When Rachelle, our first, was a newborn, I remember that feeling of every single decision being huge. It seemed the day was filled with decision after decision that I had to now make as a mom. And there was no way to know what the right decision was. Little things that never mattered before became life-affecting dilemmas in my eyes. Now I look back and laugh at my paranoia and worrying, but that day at my aunt’s house, when Rachelle called me mama, it just hit again. Maybe it was because we were coming up on our second cleft lip surgery, or maybe it was just because I was with family that day. But the overwhelming responsibility of being a parent hit me right between the eyes. The sweet joy of being called by that wonderful name was still there, and I felt such warmth knowing that this little child trusted me and needed me.
I was also keenly aware of my need for God during those times. Thankfully, he never feels overwhelmed by our many calls out to him as father, but I think he feels the same warmth and joy of hearing us say the word father, when we call on him. And that moment as my daughter called me mama, my heart cried out father. My need was great, especially now that my responsibility was great as this little one completely needed and trusted me. I realized how I so totally and completely needed and trusted my heavenly father. I turned and answered. “Yes, Rachelle, what do you need?” As my father embraced me and did the same.
Dear Heavenly Father, you are such a gracious and loving father. I love your spontaneous demonstrations of love toward your children. I am so thankful that you are always there–always hearing, always helping. Help me now, as I continue on this blessed journey of Parenthood. It is the hardest job you’ve ever given me. And sometimes I just don’t know how to do it. Father, I need your wisdom and grace. I need your leading in my daily decisions, which can sometimes seem so huge. I want to be the best parent I can be and make the right decisions for these beautiful children you’ve given us, but I feel so completely inadequate at times. I sometimes marvel that children grow up at all, but they do. And mine are. I know I find comfort in my friends who have been parents longer than I have and how they can offer me wisdom and guidance on my journey. But I am most grateful to be able to call on you–the everlasting father, who knows beyond anyone else, how to parent with complete love. Oh, Father, what a blessing to call on your name. Amen.
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books spark many wonderful conversations and fun times with the children in your life. I hope you have a very blessed and wonderful Mother’s Day. And if you’re a teacher, thank you for all the work you do to help make this world a better place and to help our children learn and grow and become the people God intended them to be. As moms and teachers, we have such a responsibility. We are touching the future. Every day. We have a calling that God has given us and a responsibility he has placed on us to make a difference in this world, by touching the hearts and lives of children. What a blessing and what a responsibility, and the Bible warns us very clearly that we need to lead them to Christ. And if we hinder them from coming to Christ, it would be better that we tied a millstone around our neck and were thrown into the sea. So it’s a huge responsibility and calling that he has given each of us as moms and teachers.
And I just pray for each of us that we would have his wisdom as we carry out the responsibility he has given us, and that he would help us as we’re teaching, to inspire us with ideas and wisdom to reach each child, even those who seem so unreachable. Through this podcast one of my goals is to find books that will bless you and your kids and your students. I also try to provide materials that will help you as you teach and disciple your children. Most of those materials are free on my website and some are only available to those on my mailing list. You can sign up for my mailing list on my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com.
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.