Wild About Books – books beguile beasts

wildaboutbooksThe brilliant librarian Molly McGrew is a hero who knows how to make a reader out of any beast.


Bibliographic Info:  Sierra, Judy  Wild About Books Alfred A. Knopf/Random House (2004)  32 pp. ISBN: 978-0-375-98563-8  $12.85  Formats:  Hardcover, iPad App, iBook, Kindle  Reading Level: Grade level 2.5  Interest Level: K-2  Genre: Humor, Rhyming Stories, Read Alouds  Subjects: Print Awareness, Print Motivation, Reading for Pleasure, Zoo Animals

StorytimeWow_FinalLogo-1Wild About Books was given the StorytimeWOW Marquee Seal on March 11th, 2015.  The picture book, eBook and app meet the StorytimeWOW Standards and have been selected for three collections:  PictureBookWOW, Picture eBookWOW and AppWOW.  Read the Storytime section below for details on why this work was selected.

Summary:   After she finds herself and her bookmobile parked in the middle of the zoo, Molly McGrew (the brilliant Springfield librarian) turns wild zoo animals into avid readers.


th-2Review:  Author Judy Sierra has gifted the world with the brilliant protagonist of Wild About Books, librarian Molly McGrew.  On page one, Molly is introduced as a librarian who can “conquer the strongest resistance” (in other words, she can make a book lover out of any beast).  When the bookmobile ends up in the middle of the Springfield Zoo, Molly is put to this test.  Wild About Books is a rare children’s literature celebration wrapped in a picture book.  It trumpets the pleasure of reading books.  Wild About Books is also a tour of the zoo.  The pages introduce the reader and listeners to many exotic animals.  Each spread is a colorful (and busy) zoo vignette in which layers of humorous animals happily read books. 


Storytime:  Wild About Books meets these StorytimeWOW Standards:

  • Dynamic writing and universal appeal. 
  • A strong writing/illustrating relationship is evident.
  • The “WOW” factor is also evident. Children enjoy experiencing this story, especially the app format.
  • Wild About Books is suited for repetition. The concept is timeless.
  • If the app or eBook is used with a monitor or projector, the illustrations work perfectly for bigger groups.
  • The book possesses the takeaway of print awareness and humor.
  • Cultivating interest in reading and zoo animals are child-centered theme.
  • The app is highly engaging and free of squirmy moments.
  • Built for kindergarteners through 2nd graders, the interest level of this story is on target.
  • Savvy story readers like Molly McGrew will know how to build-in participation elements.

th-1Storytime Tips:  In order to create the best storytime experience possible, use the app for groups (with a large monitor or projector).  The eBook will work as well, but the app format features a few bonuses that will surely benefit your program.  For instance, the app separates the busy illustrations into three-dimensional layers (which makes them much easier for participants to absorb).  These layers shift according to how you hold and move your mobile device.  The effect is a richer, more textured experience.  Zoo animals make funny noises (and commentaries) when they are tapped.  Zoo-like background audio add ambiance to the occasion.

Additionally, every spread of Wild About Books features brief text descriptions and illustrations of rare zoo animals.  Turn this storytime component into a vocabulary development guessing game.  Use a laser pointer with the app after you read each page and ask, “where is the family of skinks?”, “where is the otter who likes Harry Potter?”, etc…  Allow kids to use the laser and point to animals.  Also, have children repeat vocabulary words aloud.


Early Childhood Education and Development:  The following lists benefits of Wild About Books across several early childhood education (ECE) and child development checklists.

1. Wild About Books is an early literacy skill-building goldmine (especially the skill of print awareness). The book/eBook/app cultivates the following Pre-Reading Skills (see full list of pre-reading skills here):

  • Noticing print and following words on a page or screen (print awareness).  Print awareness means understanding how books work and this includes understanding the world of literature.  Each page of Wild About Books is like a mini booktalk.
  • The story cultivates enjoyment of books by showing funny zoo characters reading (print motivation).
  • The rhymes in Wild About Books cultivate the listener’s ability to recognize the smaller sounds in words (phonological awareness).
  • The literature interests of the book’s animal characters are described in detail.  Ask kids to describe the types of books they like (narrative skills).
  • Wild About Books teaches literature terms and zoo animal names (vocabulary).

2. This book/eBook/app provides parents with opportunities to utilize the Early Literacy-building Parent Practices (see full list of parent practices here):

  • Talking with children, especially about books, strengthens their early literacy.
  • Reading together is “the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers” (source:  Every Child Ready to Read).
  • Playing is a primary way in which children learn language. Make Wild About Books into a guessing game.

3.  This book/eBook/app builds children’s Kindergarten Readiness (see full checklist here).  Children well-prepared for kindergarten are able to:

  • Listen to stories without interrupting
  • Recognize rhyming sounds
  • Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
  • Speak understandably
  • Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
  • Look at pictures and then tell stories
  • Identify rhyming words
  • Identify the beginning sound of some words
  • Recognize some common sight words

4. This book/eBook/app follows these Common Core Guidelines (see full list here):

  • Common Core calls for a 50/50 balance between fiction and nonfiction (information-focused content).  Although this picture book is fiction, real books are promoted in the story.  Wild About Books broadens children’s knowledge of the world.
  • Integrate more new media materials and technology in storytime to cultivate media literacy.
  • Increase focus on children’s comprehension through dialogic reading.  Ask questions before, during and after telling stories.
  • Create a more participatory culture in group programs and classroom settings.  Use materials that invite participation and keep learners engaged.

5. This book/eBook/app supports young children’s “emerging mental abilities” by providing opportunities for “key experiences” that strengthen or broaden these abilities (see full list here):

  • Using Language (conversing with adults about personally meaningful experiences, describing objects verbally, listening to others describe objects and events, listening to stories and poems being read, making up stories)
  • Representing (relating pictures to real places and things)

thBibliotherapeutic Usefulness:  Much like the zoo animals in Wild About Books, people have their own tastes when it comes to reading.  This book may be used to encourage children to talk about their own interests.

Significance:  Wild About Books clearly promotes books and reading.  It’s a gem of a book that deserves to be read and studied in elementary school classrooms.

Awards:  2005 E. B. White Read Aloud Award winner, presented by the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC).  This award was established in 2004 to honor books that its membership feel embody universal read aloud standards.

Read-alikes:  Library Mouse, Library Lion, and Reading Makes You Feel Good are children’s books that also promote books and reading.

Links:  Judy Sierra’s website   Scholastic   more teaching resources   Amazon.com

Other Reviews Links:  Goodreads  Kirkus

I chose to review this story because of the heroic Molly McGrew.  I too aspire to “conquer the strongest resistance.”

3Make Reading More Fun


Written by Tom Schween, founder of storytimeWOW!