Rudy's New Human

by Roxanna Elden
illustrated by Ginger Seehafer


When we started Off the Shelf, we knew we wanted our logo to have the feel of classic Winnie the Pooh illustrations as well as communicate our mission of bringing books alive. Illustrator Ginger Seehafer perfectly captured our vision in our logo, complete with our very own teddy bear! So, it is with great pleasure that we present a book illustrated by Ginger, Rudy's New Human.

Lovable pup Rudy's world is turned upside down with the arrival of a new baby in the household. Peace, calm, and routine have vanished and Rudy is not sure how to handle these changes. Will his life ever be the same? 

 The illustrations really let the reader feel Rudy experiences, from his excited anticipation at the arrival of a new friend, to his disappointment that the baby is not what he expected, to the eventual friendship that develops. Rudy is sure to find a special place in your heart!

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Annie and the Wild Animals

by Jan Brett

For four of the five years of Off the Shelf's existence, we have featured a Jan Brett book in at least one of the winter months. This pattern was completely unintentional, but makes sense with the snowy, usually Scandinavian settings of her stories. So, you can tell it's winter as we bring you another treasure, Annie and the Wild Animals

Annie is feeling restless after a long winter. Her loneliness is made worse when her cat Taffy disappears, seemingly for good. In hopes of finding a new friendly pet, Annie bakes corn cakes and places them on the edge of the forest. Come along on a snowy, end of winter adventure to find out if Annie's corn cake plan succeeds! Full of Jan Brett's signature illustrations, Annie and the Wild Animals is a delightful story for young readers to enjoy on long winter days (or any time of the year). 

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Black Dog

by Levi Pinfold

We often hear you have nothing to fear but fear itself, but sometimes (quite often, in fact), that fear takes on a mind of its own and plays tricks on us. This phenomenon is explored in Levi Pinfold's charming picture book, Black Dog.
One day, a large black dog arrives outside the Hope family's home.  As each family member reports their sighting of the dog, the unexpected visitor grows with gargantuan proportions. It takes the smallest member of the family, named Small of course, to show the true nature of the beast. 
Childhood quite often is a time of fears, whether of storms, the dark, or even dogs. But young readers will enjoy the fact that Small is the hero, the one member of the family who shows no fear and keeps things in perspective. Whatever your young readers fears are, sharing this book together just may help to shrink the size of the monsters under the bed. 

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Sneakers, the Seaside Cat

by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrated by Anne Mortimer

Sneakers, the Seaside Cat is the story of "a little fat cat" who travels with his family for a seaside vacation. Sneakers uses all his senses to explore new experiences, from the roar of waves and the rolling in of the fog to all the curious animals that inhabit the sand and water. 

Margaret Wise Brown is one of our all-time favorite picture book authors, with her characteristic rich descriptions and child-friendly narratives. Whether your young reader has experienced the beach or not, this story will bring it alive, so you can almost smell the salty sea air and feel the sand beneath your feet. Enjoy!

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by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Christian Robinson

If you have followed Off the Shelf for very long you will know that we love dogs and dogs booksGaston, of course, is no exception. We love Gaston (the dog) because he is boisterous and goofy but is full of love and does his best even though he seems out of place among his siblings. We love Gaston (the book) because it is about celebrating differences and being happy where you are. You and your young reader are sure to find your own reasons for loving this delightful book (please share!), and pulling it off the shelf will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step! 

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Harry the Dirty Dog

by Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

 Hello everyone!

Don't you love picture books from the 1930s through 60s? We are particularly fond of these books on Off the Shelf, having featured books like MadelineAnatoleA Tree is Nice, and The Snowy Day. What is it that makes them so charming? Their perfectly imperfect illustrations? The stories themselves? Whatever it is, I'm glad that there are so many more to explore like Bread and Jam for Frances, Curious George, Millions of Cats, and this week's book, Harry the Dirty Dog

Join Harry as he avoids his bath by having adventures all over town while getting thoroughly dirty in the process. But does his family miss him? Will they even recognize him? Full of the unmistakable charm of mid-century books, Harry had been delighting readers for almost 60 years! Enjoy!


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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


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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.

Oh No, George!

By Chris Haughton

Oh No, George! is Chris Haughton’s cautionary tale about making wise choices in the face of temptation. George is a lovable dog with an endearing personality who valiantly struggles with being good while left home alone.His huge expressive eyes clearly communicate his struggle with following the rules and his ultimately his remorse when the cake, the cat, and the dirt get the best of him.



The author uses page turns to build the suspense of George’s choices and readers will find themselves giggling with anticipation. Filled with humor that will appeal to young readers and adults alike, the story features spare, open-ended text with a fun repetition element making it a perfect choice for a read aloud book.



The minimalist illustrations feature geometric shapes and a bright palette of red, orange, and purple giving it a fresh, contemporary feel while teaching the age old lessons of good behavior, remorse, and forgiveness.



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A Ball for Daisy

By Chris Raschka

Caldecott Medal Winner
New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare

A Ball for Daisy is a wordless picture book full of simple yet  expressive illustrations telling a tale of love and loss, and showing  a wonderful lesson in sharing and forgiveness.

Wordless picture books  can often be a challenge to “read” with a child, but Mr. Raschka’s  illustrations are so full of life and the use of color so clearly  conveys the emotions that Daisy experiences there really is no need for words. The fun with this book is actually the lack of words and  the opportunity to help co-create the story with your young reader and  have your own version of Daisy and her favorite toy.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

If you haven’t noticed, we are dog lovers. Big, small, young, old, we love them all (we have 4 of our own). Perhaps you’ve noticed our fondness for dog books now that Daisy has joined our collection along with The Stray Dog and McDuff and the Baby. Dogs seem to be a very popular subject for picture books, as there are several more books we would like to feature that star dogs, including The Adventures of Taxi Dog, Harry the Dirty Dog, and Oh No, George!

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

That being said A Ball  for Daisy is not just for dog lovers. The story has such universal appeal that the title character could just as easily be a child and the message of the book would not be altered in any way. A Ball for  Daisy is a book for everyone. Read and enjoy!

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka


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McDuff and the Baby

By Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers 

McDuff is one happy little West Highland Terrier. Breakfast with Fred and the morning comics, walks with Lucy, family time listening to the radio and his very own soft blanket. Life is good! Then a small stranger arrives and life is not as it should be. What will McDuff do? Richly illustrated with all of the details of life in the 1930s, McDuff and the Baby is a gentle and touching lesson in sibling rivalry and thinking of the feelings of others. Hurray for McDuff!


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