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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Inside and outside

August 5, 2011

I had the chance to spend time with a terrific children's book writer earlier this week. Mary Quattlebaum and I talked about lots of things though our conversations most often came back to children and books.

In Mary's recent book, Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond (Dawn), old farmer (with the E-I-E-I-O) MacDonald's granddaughter Jo observes life around a pond. The playful language and illustrations provide children with a joyful glimpse of an ecosystem while suggesting to adults how to make the book come alive through related activities.

As Mary and I talked about why she wrote this book (and is bringing Jo MacDonald back to continue to explore nature) she explained that this was a way to recapture the joy of her country childhood — and to remind adults and children that they're missing a lot if they don't explore the world beyond their walls.

It reminded me that children are naturally drawn to the world around them. I couldn't help but relive the time when my son was less than 3 years old when, as we were walking down a city street, he squatted down over a weed. On that weed — unseen to my jaded eye — was a small white moth (or maybe a butterfly; it had wings in any case).

And I'll never forget the shriek of surprise when we read Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar (Philomel). With the turn of a page, a bright butterfly was revealed. Or when we collected cicadas in various stages of development and then let them go.

Books like Mary's can help children and adults reconnect with the natural world — even in the city. Observing and talking about what we see on a nature walk can happen anywhere — even in urban areas. These "outside" experiences are easily complemented by books and a visit to a library or bookstore.

Visit Mary on her website!


My son and I had a great time at the Gaithersburg Book Festival earlier this summer when we attended Mary's session. She was talking about and reading her book, "PIRATE VS. PIRATE." She and her husband were dressed as pirates and made the whole experience very interactive and such fun! If anyone has the chance to see Mary Quattlebaum in person, they will come away with a greater enthusiasm for reading, writing, and life!

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"Wear the old coat and buy the new book." — Austin Phelps