Children’s Book Review: The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
by Karla Kushin
illustrated by Marc Simont
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kushin is an energetic ode to the power of music and teamwork. It starts just as the city is starting to get dark, the lights in the houses are starting to turn on, and “one hundred and five people are getting dressed to go to work.” The little book lays out all the statistics—how many men wear long socks and how many wear short, how many people take bubble baths and how many take showers. (A great chance for kids to practice their numbers!) As the musicians get ready for work, the author also lingers on the intimate details. One woman likes to wear wool socks over her stockings because her feet always get cold. One man is whistling while he puts on his bowtie. In the story’s climax, these different people who live different lives come together to create…MUSIC! This book is a treat for any little musician, or anyone who is inspired by humanity’s ability to come together and create.

Here at Booksicals, we believe that by getting kids moving and singing along with their favorite books, we can build a lifelong love of reading and the arts.  Susan Chodakiewitz is the founder of Booksicals and the author of the BOOKSICAL musical book adventure: TOO MANY VISITORS FOR ONE LITTLE HOUSE.

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Get Kids Reading!  Free ibooks from Booksicals
Join the Sweetness of Reading Campaign


Hope your kids are off to a great summer.  It was always difficult for me to get my three boys to include READING on their to do list for the summer.  I was thinking about how to  start off Booksicals summer with an exciting way to encourage summer reading for kids.  Then I thought about it….Kids love to shop in summer….  Wouldn’t it be great to join forces with children’s stores, boutiques and producers of children’s products to GIVE AWAY  free ibooks?

Well that is exactly what Booksicals decided to do.  And here it is…The Booksicals Sweetness of Reading Campaign is off and running.  We are now joining with corporate partners who will participate in the campaign  by giving  away our free children’s  ibooks to their customers.   Stay tune to hear WHO joins.

Let us know if you want us to contact YOUR favorite stores or kids product lines to distribute our  ibooks for free.

Happy summer and Happy READING!


Susan Chodakiewitz is the founder of Booksicals–Encouraging Reading Through the Arts and the author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and the soon to be released children’s picture book:  Wobegon and Mildred, a quirky love and friendship story.


Happy New Year from Me!

I made it my year end goal to finish 2 books, get out my ibook for Too Many Visitors for One Little House and get better at cooking and especially at making delicious soups.  So let’s see how I fared in this year’s goal.

First, I finished the text for a new children’s picture book called WOBEGON and MILDRED.  It is now in the hands of the talented artist and illustrator Kent Yoshimura.  Kent has shown me the almost finished illustrations and I am thrilled with my grumpy miserable Wobegon, coming to life as a lovable yet miserable monster who everybody hates because he gives them parking tickets.  But everything changes when he meets the crackly little-miss-follow-the-rules Mildred who gives out tickets like nobody’s business!  How can he help but fall head over heals for her… This was a very exciting project and took me about a year to get the right combination of character, story and plot.   I look forward to seeing the completed illustrations… so goal one — check it off… Though I must admit, I was ready to quit and let it go about 7 times.  I now have begun to see the pattern in my creative process. When I get desperate that the story is just NOT going to gel… I wait, and let it simmer… I try not to throw the towel remembering… this has happened before…  I will find the light at the end of the story tunnel…  And so I am glad I perservered with Wobegon I did not give up.  I also have the editor, Tamson Weston, to thank whose excellent feedback and enthusiasm for the story gave me the impetus to stick with the Wobegon.

Now goal number 2. I said 2 stories.  Yes I wanted to do a sequel for Too Many Visitors for One Little House… And I did about 5 of them.. none of which I was satisfied with.. until last passover, my friend Batyia came to help us prepare.  The guests were almost arriving when I realized I’d forgotten to make the hard boiled eggs… I’m not even sure WHY we make hard boiled eggs on passover. It is NOT part of the seder, it is NOT part of the ceremony, yet everyone does it.  Over the years I’ve heard multiple explanations– eggs represent life cycle.  Eggs represent the tears because we dip them in salt. Eggs represent continuation… etc… Nonetheless, we make them and eat them at the start of the meal. And Batyia was there to save the day… While I dressed she boiled and then peeled about 30 eggs. She showed me her fingers to prove her hard work.  They were all wrinkly from peeling.  In any case, when we went to serve the eggs, she couldn’t find the bowl of eggs… We looked everywhere until we found the plate on the floor and my dog sitting next to it with his tail between his legs.  That was the source of the sequel:  Mr. Snoozle’s Exquisite Eggs.  Veronica Walsh is now working on the illustrations and I hope to have that book out by next March.    Goal 2… on its way.  But once again, with many bumps and its still in progress as I have left my mind open to changes as Veronica works…. I am slow but steady and have learned to accept that about my writing… I don’t settle unless I am really happy with it…

Goal three- I learned to cook 3 new soups… The first, Mexican Fideo soup.  I knew this recipe for years but it always came out soppy and the noodles (fideos) soaked up all the tomato soup.  I finally learned the secret… You fry the dry noodles first in VERY HOT oil until they are REALLY really crispy and brown.  not just golden.  Then you add the tomato sauce and paste and that makes it really tasty.  Yes, requires a little more oil AND more patience… So MOSTLY I learned that  I need to cook when I am NOT in a hurry or anxious to get back to writing or other TO DO things on my LIST.  I also learned a delicious LENTIL soup… the secret… fry LOTS of onions and CRUSH not grate or chop garlic. Also cumin and tumeric along with a touch of tandori adds a special flavor.   EVERYTHING I make now is so much more improved by CRUSHING garlic.  My son got me a fabulous, sheek garlic crusher as a gift and that really made a difference. That’s my new cooking toy and I put fresh garlic in everything and the house smells amazing as I cook.. . One way to keep my sons and husband coming for family suppers…

And last I finally learned the art of a true, jewish chicken soup.  And once again, I credit the crushed garlic, slow pre boil of chicken, and a LOT of fresh Parsley, Cilantro and DILL which I now learned — you put ONLY at the very end of cooking. You put in a big clump of fresh herbs.  I throw it in when the soup is already cooked and cook for additional minute or two which gives the flavor of the herbs to the soup and really makes it delicious.

Goal 4- For the ibook and ebooks I had to learn an entire repetoire of new language.  What is an epub file, a fixed layout, a standard epub layout, a kindle, and much much more.  At first it was insurmountable. I searched for weeks to find the right developer to just do it all for me… but found that people even techies were as confused as I was as to what was the right format for different tablets(also a new term for me) and ebook readers (new term too).  I thank my friend and marketing consultant Phyllis Miller at Miller Mosaic for helping me get through the maze of ebook info.  She has become somewhat of a maven on the subject and I finally found ebookpartnerhsip to do the develpment of the different versions. So now  just before the new year… They are out!!! the ebook, ibook, kindle versions. And the ibook is in an exciting READ TO ME musical narration format which provides the kids with a musical theater experience.   I am thrilled with this.  It took a lot of work, reading, research and I am still working figuring out the technology for the future of ebook … The technology is still developing and I’m not the only confused one out there… all the publishers are too… So I am not alone… which does not make the frustration any less, but does help the ego.

So looking back at the year… I made my 4 creative goals.  Still working on the personal, spiritual, marital and other life goals that make life interesting and  give life life purpose… I always try and remind myself during all adversity and hardship… As long as I learn something from it I have achieved a life goal.. and its the journey that counts.

Have a great end of year and GREAT coming year.  Thanks for being a fan.


Susan Chodakiewitz is author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and Founder of Booksicals, encouraging reading through the arts.

9/5 – 9/11 Children’s Book of the Week: The Adventures of Dish and Spoon

The Adventures of Dish and Spoon
by Mini Grey 
The cow making her famous leap over the moon set off this dashing couple in their conquest for fame and fortune. The Spoon tells the story of their running away to New York city, where they start their roaringly successful Vaudeville act. From there, the Dish and Spoon get carried away with the money they make, and pretty soon it’s all gone, the act is washed-up, and they have to turn to a set of very sketchy cutlery for a loan. They fall to a short-lived life of crime to repay the debt, when they are seperated, apprehended, and made to serve their time. As luck would have it, the two meet up many years later, and learn that fame and fortune can lead to ruin, and that crime really doesn’t pay.

A beautiful, fractured re-imagining of the old nursery rhyme, The Adventures of Dish and Spoon has something for kids and adults alike. Especially great for 1st – 4th grades.


Susan Chodakiewitz is the author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and the founder of Booksicals -Encouraging Reading Through the Arts.  Susan is available for author events at schools and libraries.

Mildred and Wobegon: My New Picture Book:Turning Frustration into Art…

Wobegon and Mildred

I am busy at work finishing the latest draft of my new picture book: Wobegon and Mildred- a friendship/quirky love story between two miserable parking ticket givers that everyone hates.   Two things influenced and inspired this book: One was my frustration with getting parking tickets and the other:  Mybeloved mother.

I grew up with a wonderful mom who loved and nurtured my sis and I and gave us everything. I love her dearly and she is my mentor in so many ways.  But one thing that I didn’t want to learn from her…. that was her ability to find fault with everything. My desire to remake my mom into a positive thinker has been an impossible task.  So  I found a way to convert my frustration into art….hence Wobegon and Mildred, the picture book, was born.

And why parking ticket givers??? I also have a BIG problem with getting parking tickets.  I got at least 10 BIG FAT PARKING TICKETs last year and most of them were RIGHT on my OWN block. And once day, I was doing my husband a favor by  dropping off a file at his office and I met my character: MILDRED:  I was stopped on the red in front of his office and ‘Mildred” came up to my window:  “No PARKING LADY,”  said ‘Mildred’.  “Maam,” I said, “Don’t worry I’m not parking, I’m just going to hand this envelope to my husband’s secretary.”    “No Parking,” she reiterated….   “I know,” I replied politely…   “Here she is.  “I’m just going to hand her this and be gone.”   “No Parking!” she retorted.  “I’m not parking.  See my car is on.  I’m just going to hand this young lady an envelope.”   “Lady,” she snorted.  “If YOU are NOT MOVING, then YOU are STANDING. And there is NO STANDING on this spot!”    “Can I just please hand her this envelope?” I begged.  But when I saw ‘Mildred’ taking out her pad of BIG FAT PARKING TICKETS —  I took off.   And so  I had met my real life Mildred and had the beginning of my character!

Writing Mildred and Wobegon has been really fun. It has been a way of channeling something negative into something beautiful. And my way of doing this is writing a children’s book.  So here I am, working in the characters, finding their pet peeves, and figuring out a way to make two miserable characters appealing.  I am now on the 10 or 12th draft and still trying to get it right.

Will keep you posted….

Susan Chodakiewitz is author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and the Founder of Booksicals-Encouraging Reading Through the Arts.




8/1 – 8/7 Children’s Book of the Week: All About Alice

All About Alice
by Penny Dale
Alice is a precocious preschooler – very independent, but also aspiring to be just like her awesome big sister, Laura. The book takes us through Alice’s day – from when she gets up to bed time – but what really makes the book are the question pages. Almost every other page is full of little illustrations of all the options Alice has at her disposal: what she’s going to wear, what to eat for breakfast, what she should play with, etc. These pages are a blast for young readers, as they encourage active reading and creative thinking. With such vibrant illustrations, kids will love to learn all about Alice!

~ Susan Chodakiewitz is a composer, writer, lyricist and children’s book author.  She founded Booksicals in 2009 to encourage a love of reading through the arts.  Too Many Visitors for One Little House is Susan’s debut picture book ~

7/24 – 7/31 Children’s Book of the Week: The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
A little boy makes a playground of a great, leafy apple tree, and the tree loves him  for it. The little boy is happy, and so the tree is happy. Soon the little boy grows, and grows away from his tree. At each new stage of his life the boy comes back, and the tree, always delighted to see him again, invites him to play around her like he used to and be happy. But each time, the once little boy has a different idea of what will make him happy, and asks the tree first for her apples, then her branches, and finally her trunk. The tree gives these things to the boy, happy to see him happy. As an old man, the boy comes back – by now the tree is just a stump, with nothing left to give. The boy is happy simply to have a place to sit and rest, and so boy and tree reclaim (though in a different way) the joy they shared when they were younger.

The ending makes for an interesting, open interpretation, and  still very beautiful. Children of all ages will enjoy this classic story.

~ Susan Chodakiewitz is the Founder of Booksicals, Encouraging Reading Through the Arts and the author of the book
Too Many Visitors for One Little House ~


7/11 – 7/17 Children’s Book of the Week: The Sun Egg

The Sun Egg
by Elsa Maarten Beskow
An unidentified, round and orange object has been spotted in the woods! To our little elf, it’s as big as as some of her woodland friends, but a lot more mysterious. Its beautifully bright color give it away; the elf is sure that it is a sun egg. Her friends all come to investigate the sun egg, fairy and fauna alike, but after some trial and error (and not a few tears), they decide that it is both edible and perishable. Eventually Owl points out that it is an orange, but not before all of these disarmingly sweet characters interact with the odd and beautiful find.

A charming story with beautiful illustrations. Makes for great storytelling because of all the different (and vocally interesting!) characters who come to investigate. Particularly great for ages 5-7.

~ Author Susan Chodakiewitz is  the founder of Booksicals. Her debut picture book: Too Many Visitors for One Little House is also a live musical and is now available as a musical DVD along with the SNOOZLE DANCE VIDEO for kids. Too Many Visitors for One Little House will soon be released as an e-book with READ to ME musical narration ~

7/4 – 7/10 Children’s Book of the Week: The Gooch Machine

The Gooch Machine : Poems for Children to Perform
by Brod Bagert
Illustrated by Tim Ellis
This playfully illustrated collection of poems is a great chance for kids to show off (or develop) their reading skills! Each poem is funny on its own, but when taken as a monologue provides a great chance for kids to really engage in their reading; either by simply reading aloud or going all out and making a performance out of it. The poems vary in length too, which means that even a timid reader could find something fun and non-threatening, or even work up to reading the book’s namesake (and longest) poem; The Gooch Machine. All told, the expressive illustrations really helps such timid readers feel at right home in this book!

Any age would like this book, but 6-8 would probably get the most out of the reading aloud experience.

Be sure to check out Brod Bagert’s and Tim Ellis’ other collection of poems, Elephant Games.

Bio: Susan Chodakiewitz is the Founder of Booksicals, dedicated to encouraging a love of reading through arts, crafts, music, theater and dance.  Check out the  Muscial: Too Many Visitors for One Little House and the SNOOZLE DANCE VIDEO based on the picture book.

~ Susan Chodakiewitz is the author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House. Susan is also a composer, lyricist and producer of musical theater. Too Many Visitors for One Little House is available as a musical DVD ~

6/27 – 7/3 Children’s Book of the Week: Elisabeth

by Claire E. Nivola
Ruth and Elisabeth do everything together. They sleep in the same bed, eat from the same plate, and even share the same shadow – Elisabeth is a doll. They live in Germany with Ruth’s mother and father, at a time when life there is just beginning to get harder for Jews. Ruth can feel the change at home, at school, even at her father’s workplace. Suddenly, Ruth’s mother and father tell her they must leave at once, that they can bring nothing with them – not even Elisabeth. After having to migrate from Germany to Italy to France to America, and after many years, Elisabeth finds Ruth again. And this time, for good.

Based on the true story of the author’s mother, ‘Elisabeth’ is a story about change, courage, and hope, touching upon the situation for Jews in the early stages of Nazism in Germany. A great story, with more detail as to the real Ruth’s experience on the back flap.


~ Susan Chodakiewitz is the author of the picture book Too Many Visitors for One Little House. She is the founder of Booksicals books and theatrical.  Booksicals currently performs the picture book Too Many Visitors at schools, libraries, book stores, and special literacy events ~