Lines That Wiggle
Big Bear's Big Boat

How Rocket Learned to Read

by Tad Hills

Hello everyone! This week we are bringing you a perfectly lovely book called How Rocket Learned to Read. Although it came out in 2010 (and there are already several more Rocket books, namely Rocket Writes a Story and Rocket's Mighty Words) we just got it from the library a few weeks ago and I was smitten with Rocket and his little yellow bird teacher within the first few pages. If you have not been introduced to Rocket yet, he is a curious, playful and bright pup who one day meets a little yellow bird who knows just the right way to share her enthusiasm for reading.

How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

I thought we might save the book to feature in the autumn as that is the season in which the story begins, but as soon as I came to the page where Rocket spells MUD in the springtime mud I knew we had a winner... mud is a big part of our lives right now with four dogs and a Pig-Pen of a horse, so it seems especially fitting. 

How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

I first heard of author/illustrator Tad Hills through this 2013 tour of his Brooklyn studio kitchen table, the link to which my dad sent me knowing my dream of becoming an illustrator. Also included in the link is the studio of Betsy Lewin, illustrator of Click Clack Moo!  It is one thing to see the finished product but actually seeing where and how these artists work makes me want to get out my paints and get creating!

How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

One last note before we come to the activities: here's a detail that I missed on the first read but made me giggle when I caught it on the second go around: The title page is Rocket, just about the most adorable illustrated dog ever, holding his own copy of How Rocket Learned to Read. I love details like this, just like the copies of Rainbow Fish and Make Way for Ducklings on the shelves in Miss Bindergarten's classroom. 

How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf


In this Issue


Mud Play Dough 

Indoor Mud Coffee Playdough - How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

In addition to simply playing with the playdough, it's fun to roll pieces into snakes and practice forming letters. You can also roll the dough out flat and smooth and use an un-sharpened pencil or chopstick to write or draw the way Rocket did in the mud!

Indoor Mud

What You Will Need

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup used coffee grounds
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  1. Mix together the flour, salt, coffee grounds, and cream of tartar. 
  2. Stir in water and oil. 
  3. Place "mud" on a work surface and knead until smooth. 


Alphabet Pancakes

This recipe allows for letter practice in the kitchen. We used a very basic pancake recipe but added a bit of cinnamon; you can use almost any pancake recipe you like that isn't too runny.  

Alphabet Pancakes - How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

I had originally planned to use half all-purpose four and half white whole wheat, but when I went to make these I discovered that I was completely out of all-purpose. I could not tell at all, so feel free to use only white whole wheat flour. 

Alphabet Pancakes - How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

Alphabet Pancakes - How Rocket Learned to Read - Off the Shelf

Young Readers in the Kitchen

Kids can help measure and mix ingredients. Depending on the skills of your young reader, it might be difficult for them to form the letters with the batter, but they will be so excited to see the pancakes cook up that watching will be just as fun. 

Alphabet Pancakes


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cups flour (see note above)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Nonstick cooking spray or extra butter, for griddle or skillet


  • Zip top bag
  • Scissors
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and melted butter until frothy. 
  2. Stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Add wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Let the batter sit for 15 minutes so that it can thicken up. 
  3. Once thickened, place a small amount of batter in a zip-top bag. Close the bag (or use a twist-tie) so that batter doesn't come out the top as little hands are piping pancakes. It is easier to manage if only a small amount of batter is placed in the bag at a times, maybe 3/4 cup. Then cut one corner of bag. 
  4. Grease and heat skillet or griddle over medium heat. Once heated, pipe batter into letters. Try to keep letters within a 4 to 5 inch diameter- any bigger and they can be hard to flip without breaking or folding. 
  5. Cook until bubbles appear on the top and edges look dry, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another minute or two. 
Serve with butter and syrup, or any of the following fun recipes: 
Berry SmearCherry Almond ButterFruited HoneyHomemade ButterHomemade Strawberry Jam


 One Year Ago: Otto the Book Bear lives in a book, but has special secret adventures that happen when no one is looking: he walks right off the pages of his book and goes exploring!

Two Years Ago: The Very Hungry Caterpillar is such a classic that it need no introduction! Check out our activities: Caterpillar Counting Fruit Salad,  How and What Does a Butterfly Eat?  Caterpillar Fruit Stamps, plus butterfly book play.


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