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.

If You Take a Mouse to School

by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond 

Going to school has never been more fun! Full of humor and mouse hi-jinks, reading this book will set imaginations in motion dreaming up all the possibilities of what could happen with a little whiskered friend in school.

The text is humorous on its own but the illustrations add to the hilarity of the story and truly bring the adventures to life. Hunting for mouse throughout the pages adds to the fun of this book and takes the reader along through a giggle filled day of school. 

 In this Issue

Continue reading "If You Take a Mouse to School" »

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

by Kevin Henkes 

The importance of patience is a difficult concept to teach to most children, and so often to adults as well! But this beloved book by author and illustrator Kevin Henkes beautifully illustrates the virtues of the concept as well as the happiness in forgiveness.

Through the excitement of becoming the proud new owner of movie-star sunglasses, a purple plastic purse that plays a jaunty tune, and shiny quarters, plus the overwhelming need to share these new items with her classmates, enthusiastic Lily learns that difficult lesson of patience. 

What makes this book so relatable for children is the imperfection of Lily. She is as enthusiastic in her love of everything, school, chalk, the sound of her boots, her teacher... as she is in her impulsive angry behavior (which I'm sure many young readers can relate to!) As in any good story, she also shows even more remorse and learns another valuable lesson on forgiveness. Never preachy and always fun this is a fun read for both children and adults.


In this Issue

  • Transform an ordinary brown paper grocery bag into a Paper Bag Cape just like our heroine wears on the cover.
  • Make the most tasty snacks, something crunchy and cheesy: Cheesy Snack Crackers!

Continue reading "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" »

Miss Bindgergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

by Joseph Slate
illustrated by Ashley Wolff 

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

There is no shortage of alphabet books or getting-ready-for-school books on the market, but few can compare to the appeal of Miss Bindergarten. Even if your child is not preparing to start “big kid school” quite yet, this is a book you read over and over again before the big day arrives. Miss Bindergarten is the epitome of what we (kids and adults) wish for in a kindergarten teacher – creative, gentle, colorful, nurturing, fun, and a snappy dresser! Illustrator Ashley Wolff portrays these personality traits beautifully throughout the pages, while author Joseph Slate conveys the mixed emotions of starting school to through endearing text that also presents a wonderful alphabet lesson. Kids will love all the details and the “class photos” at the end of the book!

On illustrator Ashley Wolff's website, you can read about how her dog 'Pumpkin' inspired Miss Bindergarten, and also learn about the unusual animals, the quokka, the uakari monkey, and the xenosaurus, featured in the book. 


In this Issue: 



Continue reading "Miss Bindgergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten" »