PPBF: Oh No, George!

Author/Illustrator: Chris Haughton (interview)
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012
Age Level: 2 and up
Themes: dogs, temptation, humor

Opening: Harry is going out. “Will you be good, George?” asks Harry.
“Yes,” says George. “I’ll be very good.”
Summary: (from Candlewick) Bold, hilarious artwork captures the innocent charm of affable George, a dog who is trying to be good – with disastrous results.
Why I like this book: Bright, charming and irresistible! A lot of reviewers refer to the ‘retro’ illustrations, but I can’t agree: I find them fresh and exhilarating! One of the few PBs I’ve had to read over and over – in quick succession! So simple, yet so brilliant! All dog owners will take to this story, but also people like me, who sometimes just cannot resist indulging even when I know better. I just polished off a bowl of chips with onion dip. Every time I feel crummy afterwards, but every time I can’t seem to help myself! I hope George is not plagued by these feelings of guilt too!
Resources/Activities: the making of – story behind the book; bake this raspberry and strawberry cake, inspired by Oh No, George!

Click HERE to check out other Perfect Picture Book picks, today and everyday, on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog

FC ADVENTure CALENDAR Day24…and The Missing Birthday Present


Merry Christmas! Froehliche Weihnachten! Please read all the way down – and join in on the search for Erik’s Missing Birthday Present – link back to Susanna’s blog to follow

Let there be peace on Earth and good will to all!


For the last post in this ADVENTure CALENDAR I thought I’d celebrate with a list of Fort Collins Festivals: (click on names/logos for more info)

First Night Fort Collins: New Year’s Eve – Enjoy the wonderful and diverse entertainment presented at this non-alcoholic New Year’s Eve celebration. First Night Fort Collins 2013: “Enchanted Voyage” promises new performing acts, storytelling, history, interactive craft projects, old favorites, street performers, international dancing and much more.

Martin Luther King Day Celebration: community march

Great Plates: Thirty (30) downtown restaurants will offer amazing evening dining specials for a full two weeks, to benefit the Food Bank for Larimer County.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade: keep a lookout for green bagels from Gib’s!

A Fort Collins Jazz Experience: A week long set of jazz related events and concerts build up to the weekend when Saturday’s Downtown Sessions brings jazz to the forefront.

New West Fest: Northern Colorado’s largest FREE community and music festival, Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest

Taste of Fort Collins: This two-day festival offers attendees food from local and national restaurants, entertainment from regionally and internationally acclaimed musicians, and an eclectic display of fine artisans work as well as the region’s best crafters.

Old Town Car Show

Fourth of July

FoCoMX: 2 nights, 30 venues, 300+bands

I realize I may well be missing a few here, and I welcome additions! Leave a comment below.

I hope Olivia has relayed the differences in how Christmas is celebrated; here are a few articles that might further interest you –

Celebrating Christmas in America: http://www.aclu.org/celebrating-christmas-america

The History of Christmas in America: http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/in_america.htm

Now for the next installment of The Missing Birthday Present: 


(If you have arrived in the middle of the adventure, you may start at the beginning by going HERE)

Erik Asks a Different Guard

    “Aw, come on!” Erik thought, “What could the cook possibly know?  She never leaves the kitchen!  Someone must have seen something!” He stretched up from his toes and spotted another guard, and ran, a smile across his face. This fellow looked alert, but maybe Erik was too confident.
“Excuse me,” Erik said politely, but the guard did not react. “Excuse me, sir,” he tried again. But Erik’s patience was about to run out with the wind. “Sir!” he finally shouted, startling the guard who stumbled in a clamor of tinny armor.
“I say, must you shout about?” he protested.
“Sir, it’s my gift. It’s missing,” Erik said. He presented the empty box hoping the sight would instantly reveal the gift’s whereabouts. “Can you help me? Have any idea where I might find it? Have you seen anything…suspicious?”
“I’ve no idea what you are about, boy? I was around…a corner doing, uh…guarding…some very important things, I’ll have you know!” First the guard looked surprised, then his wiry eyebrows quickly sloped to the bridge of his nose, like the chains on the bridge to the castle. “How dare you bother me with silly trifles! Can’t you see I’m guarding the castle?” Then the eyebrows pulled up again: “I did hear a humpf-a-le-humpf, and a cloppity-clop, and maybe a deep, dark groan or a snort. So it was probably, no it was definitely a horse. Wouldn’t you say? Yes, it was a horse. It must have galloped down the ramparts. Headed for the forest, I’d say. Certainly!” Down came the tangle of wires. “Now be off with you, before I drag you to the dungeon where you will have only cold bricks to exasperate! Off! Off with you, I say!”
Erik wasted no time and shrugged off bone-chilling images of the castle’s dark bowels. With the empty box under his arm, he dashed to the stable to fetch his pony and head for the forest.

Click HERE to go to the forest…



As Advent, ‘the arrival’, is almost upon us, and these Calendar posts are the last,  I wondered if I might be forgetting some important  or interesting facts about Fort Collins. I could cram in lists: recreation activities, university outreach programs, everything I love about my library, etc. But I thought I’d reach deeper, and add a personal observation.

We first came to Fort Collins in October, and it had not been particularly moist that year. As we drove away from the airport, situated on the plains east of Denver, we were surprised by the brown and seemingly barren landscape. We were in awe of the majestic Rockies to the west, but where were the pines, the foliage, the green? The scars of human progress stood out in great contrast, and I could not align what I saw with what I had imagined. And why were there fences everywhere? How would we take walks if the fields were closed off to us? In Germany I was accustomed to stopping on a country road to walk down tree lined paths for a picnic on an outcropping in the woods. Luckily it didn’t take long to get our bearings, to locate hiking trails – and picnic rocks!


And a number of years did go by, but I gradually developed a sensitivity for color and eventually an appreciation for lines, bold and subtle, shapes and light. I still pine for the moisture I can almost breathe when watching a movie filmed in a lush landscape, but now I can’t see the colors – just so much green!


Adjustment to change, and longing for what we knew can be quite difficult, but these are vehicles by which we can grow and mature, sometimes unexpectedly. And we don’t have to move from one spot on this earth to another to learn from these experiences. Upheaval can and will bring pain in degrees, but if we are willing to look a little longer and give our surroundings as well as our inner perceptions a little focused attention, we can and will find joy and wonder in what we first found different and strange, or dry, brown and lifeless.




The Fort Collins ADVENTure CALENDAR is a gift to my daughter and her host-family in Germany, free to be shared with anyone interested in her hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado.

Going to school in America is different in many ways.  Here is a glimpse of what it has been like for  Olivia:

There are 27,000 students that go to 50 schools in our district (covering our city, nearby towns and mountain communities) from Kindergarten through grade 12. The district’s School Choice program allows parents to choose the schools that meet their child’s educational needs, based on space availability. We chose the only elementary at the time that offered an IB (International Baccalaureate) program, and the kids have chosen to remain on the IB track through 12th grade. We wanted them to have the option of returning to Germany and not have difficulties defending the level of their education.

Pre-school, called Kindergarten in Germany, is generally a private matter here. As is Day Care, or Tageskrippe. I am not sure if there is much financial aid provided for families in need at all. And the government does not assure a place in a facility, as was the case for us in Germany once Olivia turned three years old.

Kindergarten is integrated in the elementary schools, and a child starts at age 5. The district has about 30 elementary schools, and Olivia first attended the one assigned to our neighborhood, and transferred by ‘choice’ the following year to Dunn, or ‘Dunn IB World School’.

Dunn fifth graders host the swearing in of new US-citizens annually.

When Olivia attended middle school it was called Lesher Junior High School, with grades 7-9, but has since changed district-wide to grades 6-8. In order to stay on the IB track Olivia ‘chose’ Poudre High School, which is actually closer than the assigned HS. The district could no longer afford to provide buses for School of Choice students, so we are responsible for transportation, though, weather permitting she rode the 6km on her bike each way.

Each high school has a different daily schedule, and I think Poudre HS changed theirs every year Olivia attended! But the day usually started around 7:35 and ended at 3:05. Students bring a lunch from home or purchase one in the school cafeteria. There are vending machines throughout all the high schools, and though the offerings have gotten better, they, as well as the quality of school lunches across the nation, are still a point of contention!

All students are required to take Physical Education classes, P.E., but the high schools also offer after school athletic programs including: cross-country, track, football, soccer, golf, tennis, gymnastics, softball, field hockey, volleyball, wrestling, swimming, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse.

As we left Germany before Olivia could attend Grundschule, I can’t be sure, but one thing I believe is very different is the amount of volunteering parents, as well as other community members, do within the schools here: to read a picture book, help in writing their first stories, mentor a group project, fundraising, or even teacher appreciation lunches, and MUCH more! The level is a matter personal to the school, and is dependent on the time and availability of volunteers.

I’d be glad to answer any further questions, but Olivia may be able to herself!



I’ve talked about elk and deer, and bothersome squirrels, but some of the other animals we see here on a regular basis are racoons – big fellas, that tend to take refuge in the hollowed out trees, but every time I’ve caught one in the headlights they scramble quickly down the storm drains. One friend had them in her house while out of town: came in through the dog door, got into the dog food – and everything else! Another friend chased out the nocturnal visitors with a broom! They like to wash their food, if they find water nearby and another friend has told of displaced objects from her garden pond and even shredded clothing on the clothes line!

I haven’t had any trouble with rabbits in the garden, but I have found house finches tearing on broccoli leaves (find that rather cute, actually). Once while Olivia was doing her homework on the front porch she spotted a skunk peering ’round the corner. The neighbor’s dog found it later, poor fellow! We have to deal with mice getting in when the temperatures drop in the fall, or wasps building nests in the eaves of the roof – and once in the outdoor grill! A few years ago we spotted a bee swarm in the neighbor’s tree, and were advised to make sure any openings on the house were tightly sealed so they wouldn’t chose our house for their new home. If you drive by any open field in town, you are also likely to spot prairie dogs, at least their heads poking out of their hills!

My favorite animal to spot is the fox, and lately I haven’t seen any, but I haven’t been out as much in the early hours, or at dusk, when I might see one, traveling amongst the gardens, sometimes walking right down the sidewalk. One evening my son and I stopped in Old Town, on a fairly busy street, to watch an entire fox family at play!

to check out more wildlife photos, click on this one

There have been rare reports of mountain lion, (puma, cougar) in town. Rangers post mountain lion sightings signs when there are recent sightings in natural areas, and if you spot one there is an official number to call to report it, including the method you may have had success with if you managed to scare it off! Watch the following news report of one found in Fort Collins:


Once on my bike, after dropping the kids at their elementary school, I saw a crowd gather to watch a black bear get taken out of a tree on the university campus, by some brave man in a cherry picker!

It’s Friday, so here is another American Christmas PPBF selection: Mr.Willowby’s Christmas Tree


Author/Illustrator: Robert Barry
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House (Text 1963), 2000
Age Level: 3-7
Themes: holidays, Christmas, sharing
Opening: Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree
Came by special delivery.
Full and fresh and glistening green–
The biggest tree he’d ever seen.
Summary: That was the trouble. The tree was so tall, it couldn’t stand up straight in his parlor. Mr. Willowby asked his butler to chop off the top of the tree. What happens to the treetop? Where will it be for Christmas? Snuggle up with this story and follow along through a forest full of friendly creatures who get to share in a bit of Christmas joy.
Why I like this book: This sweet story of accidental sharing with plenty of rhyming, humor and lively illustrations, is familiar to me, although I know I had not seen this version recently. I never even knew a film was made of it! Check out the video below.
Resources/Activities: check out this book-specific packet of K-2 activities from realtrees4kids.org

For more PPBF selections go to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog



So many things in our daily lives are very similar to life in Germany, and yet they’re not. Here are just a few:

The windows on most houses here slide open – up/down or side to side. In Germany most open inward like doors.

Most people here dry their wash in a dryer, most people in Germany dry their clothes on a line – out of doors and in. (Some neighborhoods in America don’t allow residents to hang their wash out!)

We generally keep boxes of tissues (100-250 very thin sheets) around the house, in a classroom; Germans carry packets of 10 (?) thicker tissues that unfold.

We eat a lot of breakfast cereal, esp. on weekdays. Germans generally eat toasted bread with jam, honey or cheese.

It is more common to take off your shoes when entering the home in Germany, but the practice is becoming more common here.

I found it hard to believe when my daughter’s host-parents were told NOT to expect a teen from America to know how to ride a bike, but statistics say it’s true that about 80% don’t even ride one occasionaly. Though most Germans live in dense urban areas, most know how to ride a bike.

Most American homes have a air-conditioners, and screens on their windows to keep out bugs. I have never seen either in a German home.

The post is delivered by car here, though for each block/area the person delivering will carry a bag and walk to every house, and in Fort Collins you’ll see them wearing shorts most of the year! In Germany one is more likely to see a postman deliver on bicycle, or a wheeled cart. American drop-off boxes are dark blue; German post boxes are bright yellow.

There are plenty more I could add to this list, but these few should raise an eyebrow or two!



What is the difference between an elk and an Elch? Sounds the same, but what Germans call an Elch is what we call a moose. And what about an elk – what is that in German? Well, it isn’t what you might think, it’s not a deer. A deer is what Germans call a Hirsch. Still confused? Well, a deer and an elk belong to the same family: Cervidae.

YMCA of the Rockies: A huge herd of elk hanging out at Snow Mountain Ranch last weekend, clearly enjoying the fresh powder!

The Rocky Mountain Elk, the ones pictured above, are a subspecies of the North American Elk (Cervus elaphus). Now, the deer we see, often crossing our path on the way to school, are most likely Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus), but you can see Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in our region too. Mule deer have large ears and a black-tipped tail. Whitetail deer have smaller ears and wide, flat, bushy tails.

Male White-tailed deer (buck or stag)

Male Mule deer, in Wyoming

Wikipedia explains the reason for the confusion as follows: ‘The British English word “elk” has cognates in other Indo-European languages, for example elg in Danish/Norwegian, älg in Swedish, Elch in German and łoś in Polish. Confusingly, the word elk is used in North America to refer to a different animal, the elk or less commonly wapiti (Cervus canadensis), which is similar though slightly smaller (the North American species is the second largest deer species) and behaviorally and genetically divergent from the smaller red deer of central and western Europe. Presumably early European explorers in North America called it elk because of its size and presumably because, as men coming from the British Isles they would have had no opportunity to see the difference between a member of the genus Cervus and an animal fitting the description of Alces at home, where the latter was nowhere present in the 17th and 18th century.

And what about the the North American moose (Alces alces)? The moose also belongs to the same family, and the Elch know in Europe is called Eurasian elk, but goes by the same binomial name.

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

Now for a treat, and one of the reasons we like to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in September, when the elk migrate to the lower regions for the breeding season, otherwise known as elk rut (rut is derived from the Latin rugire for ‘roar’) – ENJOY!



The Farm at Lee Martinez Park is a ‘working’ farm to visit and to learn. Both Olivia and her brother have taken classes here.

Horses, cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, ducks, hayrides and pony rides, a water pump that every kid has to try – every visit, and at least twice! We’ve gone to story-times and demonstrations from the library outreach program, and Olivia volunteered on Halloween for the little ones – a safe and quiet environment with pretend houses! I can’t tell you how often one of us has come a little too close to the goat fence!

Or how many times we’ve climbed into the silo!

It’s been a long time since we’ve been back, but I may need go again soon!

A Holiday Story Contest


My entry for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Second Annual Holiday Contest: read the rules and other entries here

Splash! Crash! Dash!

(read or sing to the rhythm of Jingle Bells)

Driving through the canyon, in a rickety SUV
Mom and Dad in front, and I sat with Marie
On the radio, they played every Christmas song
And to each and every one, my sister sang along

Oh – Splash! Splash! Splash! Through the air, hot chocolates taken flight
On my face, and in my hair – you can guess I was uptight!

Christmas at the cabin, is what Mother had in mind
After two days with my sister, I felt so confined
Nestled in the woods, with no gameboy or tv
Done with playing cards, and losing monopoly –

“Oh – Nash! Nash! Nash! Let’s go out! Make angels or a fort.
Better yet, grab the skis, we’ll glide around for sport.”

Branches crack and pop, as we fail to keep the course
Just how will we manage, to survive without remorse?
Stumbling ’round the lodgepoles, with the snow up to our knees
It seems my sister’s goal, to slay us with her skis –

Oh – Crash! Crash! Crash! Up and down, covered head to toe
Oh what fun it is NOT to face plant in the snow.

On and on we forge, covered in bits of ice
Frozen to the core, I suggest we head home twice
My gloves are pretty useless, my bindings kinda loose
What is that sound behind me, a Grizzly or a moose?

Oh – Dash! Dash! Dash! Fast as we can, sticking to the track;
Somehow she, instinctively, leads us sound and safely back!