Holly Valentine | May 2021

C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!

Julie Andrews is cherished around the world for so many things including the beloved roles of Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp. She has inspired imagination in both children and adults time and time again. But she has not stopped with her roles as an actress and singer for inspiring others. Julie and her daughter Emma are both incredibly passionate about the power and importance of the arts in the lives of children, as well as literacy. Together, they have written over thirty books with a mission to nurture imagination and celebrate a sense of wonder, their motto being “Words. Wisdom. Wonder.”

Be sure to explore their website, The Julie Andrews Collection, for so much more insight into all that they do. This month, we’re highlighting just a few of their cherished and timeless books. Every single one captures the love and spirit that the authors embody and have brought to all of their other projects. One of many remarkable things to note is that they never shy away from using vibrant, rich language for students. These books will expose them to so many new words and worlds, while constantly using the arts to do so.  We simply cannot say enough about each one of these to bring delight, joy and heightened imagination to all readers. Be sure to explore their new podcast as well, Julie’s Library, in which they bring even more stories to life for our students, encouraging imagination, wonder and a love of literature and language.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

If you are a fan of Oz, Willy Wonka’s factory or Narnia and you have not yet travelled to Whangdoodleland, you must get yourself there quickly. This might be one of the best chapter books ever to inspire the imagination.  This story is wonderful as a read-aloud for young students but will also grab the attention of more independent readers. Everyone will want to catch a glimpse of the Whangdoodle. Yes, a Whangdoodle truly does exist… go look it up in the dictionary right now. I promise you it’s there.

Descriptive writing and a world we all want to visit are the stars of this book. In it, three children join a professor in search of the elusive Whangdoodle. Along the way, they meet a variety of creatures. And of course, are thwarted along their way by a villainous character. While on a one of a kind adventure, the children learn important life lessons along the way, that are easily understood as a result of actions. Ms. Andrews made a purposeful choice to not have the book illustrated, in order to inspire the creativity and imaginations of her readers. There are endless possibilities of things to do with this book. Readers will be inspired to create, illustrate, and perhaps write about a return visit to Whangdoodleland. 

Mandy

This charming story, Ms. Andrews’ first book, was the result of a promise to her daughter to write her a story. Mandy is a ten-year-old orphan who discovers an abandoned cottage beyond the walls of the orphanage. In her longing for a home of her own, she transforms this one and strives to keep it all for herself. A secret admirer and a series of events that happen one stormy night will change her life forever.

This is a delightful story about a desire for independence, yet also a longing for family and love. Readers will find themselves rooting for Mandy and for her cottage to stay her secret. But they will know that something big is going to happen. This is a story that goes across multiple grades and ages, perfect as a read aloud for young students while being attainable for independent readers. It has a quiet comfort to it while you are reading, that will keep you so engaged while you are rooting for Mandy. 

The Very Fairy Princess

Geraldine KNOWS she is a fairy princess and has all the reasons to prove it. Even though fairy princesses always bring their sparkle and energy, they still have dirty fingernails and scraped up knees! It is impossible not to smile as you follow Gerry through her day and all of the happiness she spreads with her vivid imagination and creative energy.

Inspired by her granddaughter, Ms. Edwards joins forces with her daughter in this first of a happy, lovable series about a young girl who exudes confidence and brings her unique sparkle to all she does. A wonderful book for young readers to start exploring strong characters and personality traits, while also exploring writer’s craft and word choice. It’s word choice that makes Gerry’s personality jump off the page. Gerry will capture your heart and make you smile. 

Simeon’s Gift 

What is as beautiful as the story is how it came to be created, originally made for Emma as her parents were recently divorced and living quite far from each other. Julie would write a story that Emma’s father, scenic designer and illustrator Tony Walton, would create the original illustrations for, and it would continue to connect them all.

A beautiful fairy tale/fable that celebrates the beauty and sounds of nature and all the gifts it has to share as discovered by Simeon, a musician on a quest to prove his love and to better himself by exploring the world. Stunning language and illustrations make this book important and accessible to readers of all ages, as there will be different takeaways and messages depending on the age of the student. If you are lucky enough to find a hardcover version, it includes a CD with the story narrated by Ms. Andrews herself. The book was also developed further and performed with a symphony and song, also available if you search hard enough. A stunning book not to be missed!

The Great American Mousical 

Giving homage to their own very special careers, the authors bring to life the world of the theatre in this wonderful chapter book for all ages. Beneath a famous theatre on Broadway in New York City, sits another theatre. The architect’s model, long forgotten, has become a secret space and home for a band of theatre mice busily preparing for their own show. Their show is threatened when the main theatre is set to be demolished and their star disappears.

A fast-paced fun tribute to the world of the theatre, with lovable characters and an adventure with many twists and turns. The writing is so clever, as all the characters are named after legendary names and characters in the theatre. Many lines in the story are spoofs and tributes to well-known shows, writers and songs. Who doesn’t love a band of colorful talking mice to guide them on an adventure? All readers will be captivated to see if the show really does go on. 

Little Bo: The Story of Bonnie Boadicea

This oversized early chapter book, filled with gorgeous illustrations, will capture all readers, no matter what they like. There is something for everyone. Little Bo is a shy little kitten, given a big, brave name and about to embark on a huge adventure across the sea. She moves from being loved in a big family, to being on her own, to finding love and friendship again.

The first in a small series of four, Little Bo will take readers around the world over the course of all the books and allow you to discuss geography and unique features of each place.  A timeless story of friendship that is a perfect read-aloud for younger students and introduces them to the structure of chapter books. 

DOWNLOAD ALL SIX

Julie Andrews has made our hearts sing in so many ways over the years and her work is timeless. Her collaboration with her daughter Emma is one that continues to make us sing, bringing a warmth, love and spirit that is always needed. They weave the arts into all that they do and it comes naturally to them as they believe so strongly in it. Together they have written over thirty books, each one making the hearts of their readers sing and smile. They are not to be missed, will become favorites you read again and again, and will also create cherished memories for you, your children and your students.

Don’t be left in the dark – check out the previously published CATCH a Spark series!

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.