What dog is in Sovenga?

Where is Dogzilla?


I think the book Dogzilla is in Sovenga, South Africa! Yes, the hilarious book by Dav Pilkey was one of the books we sent to Mrs. Phuti Ragophala at Pula Madibogo Primary School, in the Limpopo Province.


One of the boys read the book Dogzilla to me on Skype last night. Dav Pilkey, who wrote Dogzilla, is also the author of the Captain Underpants series. His books have been making children laugh for years!


 Last evening at 11:15 pm, I skyped with Phuti, two of her teachers, Mohlake and Molepo, plus a classroom of students! They were so excited about the boxes of books we sent that they wanted to talk to us live on Skype. Here is are some photos from their classroom during our Skype visit.




Four or five of the students read portions of one of their favorite books. Just being able to read aloud on Skype was a huge motivation to practice reading for these children. We are calling this project “TechnoReading!”

106_4787 Phuti

In South Africa, the teachers call their students by a different term.They call the children learners. I like that word better than students. It just seems to say what we all do – we LEARN! I hope to Skype again this summer and then once school starts we will arrange for a call and a time when our students can participate. We will have to write a sing a song for our friends. They sent me a video on Facebook, but unfortunately I can’t figure out how to download it and post it on the blog. If we get the technology worked out, I will post it here.

The teachers have already asked for more books! I was sad to say that we have to wait until we raise more money for postage in the fall. Now I can’t wait for school to start again. Look at all the books on this cart that are waiting for new homes.



Even Jett, Mrs.Daly’s dog helped out when she came up to the library to add to our book donation cart. Are you wondering where this school is located and where some of these books will go in the fall? Here is the general area where the school is located in South Africa.

south africa

In case you were wondering also, how I could know someone 10,000 miles away from our school, I have the answer. Mrs. Ragophala and I met in March at the Microsoft Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain. We started talking about our projects, and she was very interested to hear that we send books to schools in South Africa. Before you know it, we added another school to our Books to Africa project!


She was selected to attend for her project “Planting seeds” Changing lives! This project is about the different stages on how food is produced, technological tools that were used to enhance teaching and learning & how the lesson impacted learners and community members. She has been teaching for 27 years at Pula Madibogo Primary School, of which nine years being a principal.

106_4785 Phuti

I hope you are as motivated to read as the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. Who has already read 5 books this summer? Let me a comment and let me know!

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree


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Look Alex Reads too!

How many books have you read so far?


It looks like Alex is  participating with summer reading fun. Look at him enjoying the fabulous Bulldog yearbook from 2009-2010! Today marks one week since school let out for summer vacation. What books have you read so far? I hope by now you have read at least ONE book to keep your reading skills sharp. I am reading Odd Weird and Little by Patrick Jennings. He is the author of Guinea Dog, Guinea Dog 2, My Homework Ate My Homework, Invasion of the Dognappers, and Lucky Cup. He’s also a local author, but local I mean he lives somewhere  in western Washington State! Who knows, he might be your neighbor. If you look on his website, you can find out the answer if you READ carefully!


Anyway, Odd Weird and Little is a funny  book about bullying. Yes, usually books about bullying are serious because bullying is a serious topic. Yet, Patrick Jennings knows how to take a subject like bullying, twist some humor into it and create a book that readers will love and learn from. Woodrow and his classmates are surprised by the new kid who comes into their class. He is small, like really small, wears a full suit, strange old-fashioned glasses over his HUGE eyes, carries a suitcase, comes from Quebec, Canada, and allegedly only speaks French. I have a idea who Toulouse, really is, but need to wait until I get further into the book, to confirm my hunch.  Do you have an idea from my description so far?



I hope you will leave a comment and let me know. Even better, go to your local library and check it out yourself, read it and then leave me a comment about what you think of the book! Here’s a link to a blog post where the author explains how he got the idea for Odd Weird and Little. You can also visit Patrick Jennings virtually on his website (check with a parent first) www.patrickjennings.com To leave a comment, just click on the bubble at the top of this post, fill in the required information and type your reply. Push send! Easy, peezy!

Don’t forget to send me your Super Summer Reading pictures! Mrs. Adei in Ghana, told me that she thinks she has some students who will want to participate too! Remember, we are trying to excitement about reading span every continent this summer! Send them to:

summer read email picHappy Reading! Mrs. Hembree 

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Reading at Marina Park

Do you like monster books?

sheadyn 14

Check out Sheadyn, enjoying the sunshine and a cool book at Marina Park in Kirkland! He’s reading one of the Case Files 13 monster books by J. Scott Savage. They are a spooky/horror intermediate book series. You can find out more about the series here. If you like his books, contact the author and let him know! Authors always love hearing from their fans! J. Scott Savage can be contacted at jscottsavage dot com.

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree

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Read Because You Can!

Can you think of a great reason to read?


Mrs. Adei at our partner school in Akosombo, Ghana recently had a Read a Book a Week launch for the primary students. Her students created posters advertising why reading is awesome and important.


We have been sending books to Mrs. Adei’s school in Akosombo, Ghana  as part of our books to Africa program for the past two years. We met at the Microsoft Global Forum in Prague, where we were both representing our schools and countries.

S & J IMG_0525

It has been an incredibly rewarding partnership for all of the children involved. Our students have learned that their actions matter by raising money, signing books and getting them in the shipping boxes, while Mrs. Adei’s students love having new books to add to their classrooms and library at school. We can learn from each other and expand our reading horizons.

You may have noticed that this blog post was published on the Bulldog Reader Blog and not on the Books to Africa blog. I have decided that it’s time to merge the two blogs into one in order. You can still read older stories on the Books to Africa blog about our partnership for the past two years with schools in Ghana, Lesotho, and South Africa. There is also a link to the blog at the top of this page.

I am hoping Mrs. Adei will be able to share so photos of her students reading this summer so we can include them for our Super Summer Reading posts. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could get reading photos from every friends on continent in the world this summer? Whether you are near or far, send our photos  to:

summer read email pic

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree

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Reading in a Teepee

Check out our first summer reading photo from Connor!


He’s reading the “STAT” series by Amar’e Stoudemire. STAT means Standing Tall and Talented is a basketball series written by a former professional basketball star. Amar’e Stoudemire, Captain of the New York Knicks and a six-time NBA All-Star, is a well-respected professional basketball player who has left his mark on the game and the community through his award winning outreach. He is focused on creatively inspiring youth to avoid poverty through education. He is the father of three children.

There are four books in the series. Here’s a review of Book #1 Home Court. If you are a fan of sports fiction and basketball, this might be the perfect series for you. 

stat series

Check them out at your local library or at a bookstore near you. Remember to let me know what you think! Is this a series we need to add to our Sport Fiction section?

The Super Summer Reading program is open to anyone near or far. If it’s summer vacation or still the school year for you, please have a trusted adult send a photo of you reading to me! The email address is shown here. 

summer read email pic

Be sure to let me know where you are so I can let our readers know in the blog post. For more information about this fun summer reading program, click on this link.

Happy Reading!

Mrs. Hembree

PS. I am  currently reading The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (realistic fiction)

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Time for Summer Reading

JH Paperboy

Summer vacation begins today and so does our annual Super Summer Reading Program! It’s just as important to read in the summer time as it is during the school year. To make it a little more fun, we add a dose of silliness! We get caught reading in super fun or super silly places!

our summer reads

DSCN1088It’s super easy to participate! Here are the directions:

1. Choose a something you are reading. It can be a book, magazine, eReader, pamphlet, map – the choice is yours! Reading can happen in all sorts of ways!

2. Snap a photograph of yourself reading this summer! It can be silly or serious. It can be a picture of you here or there or anywhere! Do not hurt yourself or your book! No underwater reading! Unless you are  scuba diver! You can be reading in your house, or backyard, on vacation or even in a kayak!

sal and lou

3. Ask your parents/adult family member to email the photograph to Mrs. Hembree between now and September 1, 2014. Students may not send a photo from their personal account. It must come from  an adult. Send to my blog email address:


 ***Important Parent Note: By emailing the photograph, you grant Mrs. Hembree permission to post it on the Bulldog Reader Blog. I never publish last names!  http://bellbulldogreaderblog.edublogs.org

4. Prizes will be given to everyone who participates. In the fall, I will make a poster of all of our photos and hang it in the library!

5. Have fun! The best part about reading in the summer is making your own choices on what to read! Twenty minutes a day all summer long will keep your reading skills sharp and ready for the fall. I urge everyone to read at least 5 books during your reading brain healthy and strong!


Need an idea for what to read? Keep checking the blog. I plan on posting ideas and review all summer long. Visit one of the area book stories like ParkPlace Books, Third Place Books, or Elliott Bay Books. Browse the shelves at Value Village and Goodwill for inexpensive choices too. Check out neighborhood garage sales and pick up a book that your neighbor has finished reading.

Another place to find ideas for books is on the website Common Sense Media. You can explore books by age level and genre interests. You can use the ideas to find books at your local library or bookstore. Have fun! There are also ideas for apps and websites.

Send in those photos! I can’t wait to see what you are reading this summer! Remember, anyone can participate. You don’t have to go to our school to send in photos. yollis


Have a great summer reading!

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Scuba Diver Skype

Do you love the ocean?

Our first graders have been learning about the oceans and sea life in their science unit. It’s magical to watch their excitement as they learn about the amazing animals that live in the sea. Luckily for us in the Seattle area, we have lots of opportunities to see sealife in the Puget Sound.


The students will be visiting the Seattle Aquarium on Monday. To get them even more interested in sea life in the oceans, we skyped last week with Karen Zammitti and her father, Sal Zammitti, scuba diver and owner of BambooReef Enterprises, Inc in San Francisco, California. He and his wife Lou have been diving since the 1960′s. They can even read underwater!

sal and lou

I knew the Zammitti family when I lived in the San Francisco area of California as a teenager. In fact, Karen and I went to high school together! I spent many, many hours at the Zammitti house. That’s why I knew he would be the perfect expert for the first grade ocean unit.


Mr. Zammitti is a very experienced scuba diver has over the last 50+ years been instrumental in certifying over 10,000 people how to scuba dive. In 2011, he was awarded the California Scuba Service Award for his significant and long lasting contributions to the California diving community. He has been on several episodes of Mythbusters, including the Jaws episode. 

Mr. Zammitti talked to us via Skype from his main store in San Francisco. He told us about diving all over the world and showed us some of the equipment he uses on his dives. The students asked him if he ever sees sharks in the ocean and they were shocked to hear that he takes divers on shark divers! The divers go inside a large metal cage to keep them safe and the cage is lowered into the ocean. He said he loves sharks, even great white sharks! He does a lot of underwater photography and showed us the large waterproof case he uses to place is camera inside.

Sal Skype

Our students are still too young to scuba dive yet, but they are the perfect age to learn how to swim and snorkel in the wonderful lakes in our area. There are great dive shops in the Puget Sound, and if you are ever in San Francisco, stop by Bamboo Reef Enterprises and say hello to Mr. Zammitti and his daughter Karen! Here is a video he created when he dove in Raja Ampat in Indonesia.

Can you identify any of the sealife in the video? Here is a link to coral reef books available at the Kirkland and Kingsgate branches of the King County libraries. Take a trip there this summer and check them out! Coral Reef Books

 If you would like to learn more about BambooReef they can be found on Twitter @bambooreefscuba or on Facebook Bamboo Reef Diving Centers

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Celebrating Memorial Day


Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

My baby girl
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: praline3001 via Compfight

While it’s not technically summer, Memorial Day weekend seems like the weekend that launches the summer season. Books that have been calling your name go to the top of the pile as homework dies down. Soon school will end and the long days of summer vacation will begin. However, Memorial Day weekend is more than just a long weekend of summer barbeques, camping trips and fun with family and friends.



Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, is a holiday to give tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives serving in the US armed forces. Originally it was known as Decoration Day, to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. Not to be confused with Veteran’s Day in November, Memorial Day is a day to stop and reflect on the women and men who have lost their lives while serving their country, 


It is a common tradition to decorate the graves of soldiers with American flags and fresh flowers. The President of the US also places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.


I hope this weekend as you enjoy the days off from work and school, you will also remember the purpose of the day and pause to reflect on their sacrifice to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

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May is Mystery Skype Month


Are you in the United States?


This month has become “Skype” busy! We started with Dino Skype. Then we moved to Mystery Skype. On Monday, I posted on our new library bulletin board that I was looking for ten  volunteers in grades 3-5 to mystery Skype on Friday at lunch recess. The sign up sheet filled up. Then on Friday they gathered in the library where I had maps and supplies spread out on tables. I included some sample questions to get the group started and we were off!   It turns out that we were connected with Mr. Tellgren’s 3rd grade class in Iowa. They are AWESOME at mystery Skype and have played the game over 20 times!  I think they had our state figured out within 5 questions. It took us a little longer, but we figured it out soon enough. Knowing which question to ask is not easy and takes a lot of geographical thinking.  IMG_1588_edited



This group had such a great time that they asked to do it again. I put a request on Twitter with the hashtag #mysteryskype.


Within a day, we were set up for our session #2. This time, I knew it would be a bit more challenging. I set out maps of the US, but also the world, the provinces of Canada and the states in Mexico. A different group came to recess and were eager to begin. We had a few technical glitches with the internet, but we worked through them and kept trying. Eventually we had to stop video calling, and we could only audio call. However, both groups figured out the location of each other’s classroom! Here are a few scenes from our visit with Mr.Moya’s class in Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico! This city is near El Paso, Texas.


 “Can we do this again next week Mrs. Hembree?” It looks like we will be trying this again soon. I’m crossing my fingers that we will be able to connect with one of our partner schools in our Books to Africa program. That would be amazing!


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A True (…sort of) Conversation


“You HAVE to read this book!


The morning bell had just rung and kids were streaming past the library doors. Parker surged against the tide to come inside the library. She set the book down on the counter and looked at me.

“Really, Mrs. Hembree, you need to read this book. I know you’ll like it! I brought you my personal copy so you wouldn’t have to wait. See here on the inside?  I wrote my name inside.”

“Okay, okay!” I replied with a big smile on my face. “I recognize the cover, but I never read it. I’ll read the book as soon as I can.”

“No, Mrs. Hembree, you need to start reading it today…like right now!” Parker insisted. “I’ll stop by later and see what you think.” Just as quickly as she came in, she was gone, caught up in the morning chaos of kids making their way down the hallway to class.

That book drop began our multiple recess book conversations about True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. She did stop by an hour or so later to see if I had started it. (I hadn’t had a chance.) Her insistence was infectious, so that night I did take it home and began falling in love Delly Pattison from page one. Delly is one of six children in the Pattison family: Dallas, Tallahassee, Montana, Galveston, Delaware, (Delly for short) and RB, the baby. She is tiny and always in trouble.

And Delly Pattison was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day.

Reading True (…sort of) was like getting a Delly present, or as she says, a surpresent. A surpresent is a present that’s a surprise. That’s what True (…sort of) is- it’s a surpresent into a Delly world of readeliciousness. That’s reading deliciousness. (my new word). I finished the book in 2 days and couldn’t wait to tell Parker. As she came down the hall on her way to class that morning I asked her to stop by later that morning.

“Did you finish it?” Parker asked through the crowd of kids.

“Yup, I LOVED it! We gotta talk! Stop by at recess!” I yelled back to her.

She came at recess and we started talking. Those conversations lasted for days, usually starting with, “What did you think about the part when….” or “Why do you think….” or “How about ……what did you think of that?” Other  kids would gather around the check out desk listening to our conversations, and interrupting with, “What book are you talking about? Can I check it out?”

Eventually Parker and I decided to sit down for a long conversation so we could include it on the blog. Mr. Schu on the blog Watch. Connect. Read. publishes long conversations with authors, so I thought we could try something similar. 

Why did you want me to read this book?

Parker: I wanted you to read this book because I know you liked Ida B and this was kind of  a very adventurous book and I thought you might like it.

What was your favorite part?

Parker: Probably my favorite part is where Ferris Boyd got lost or kind of disappeared and they went on a Dellyventure.

Don’t you love the words she uses? Like surpresent. I want a surpresent! I love all the words that were her own. She even had a Delly dictionary made up with words. A Dellyictionary I guess it is. Words made up by Delly (Delaware) Pattison. I like that. The words give a lot more depth to Delly.  I thought that I really knew her.

Then there’s Ferris. Why did you think she didn’t talk people couldn’t touch her?

Parker: Maybe because she was really shy and whenever that father came over, and whatever happened inside, I think, kind of connected to why she didn’t talk.

Did you have the idea that she was being abused before the author let you know?

Parker: Ya, I did. How did you think the author came up with the idea of Ferris not talking and being abused? Do you think it’s some kind of influence (she witnessed) reflected in the book?

I wonder if she came across a student who dealt with selective mutism.

Taylor, who has been listening to us talking, and has not read the book, joins our conversation.

Taylor: Do you think the characters would be based off some people you’ve met, or something that happened to you?

 I bet, for her, she either met somebody, or read about it. I know I’ve had students who have suffered from this same problem. I think I’ve had three in my career, who could talk, but chose not to.  (selective mutism: when a person who can talk, choses not to talk, at all or very selectively).

If you could talk to Katherine Hannigan, what would you ask her?

Parker: What gave you the idea for writing this book?

Why would it be good to meet her?

Parker: Because I could actually meet the source of the book. And knowing the source of the book, I could know more about her personality so that I could see why she wanted to write this book.

What do you think about the title, True (…sort of)? It’s an interesting title.

Parker: I know!  On the back (of the cover) it says, ” At the end of the day Delly watched Ferris Boyd slump out of the back door of the school, then she ran to the front. “Go with Cletis,” she hollered at RB. “I’ll be home later/” RB went pale with worry. “You in trouble?” “Nah,” she said. “I got a project.” “What kind of project?” Delly told the truth, sort of.

So you think Delly never told the entire truth. She always told portions of the truth. That’s how the book got it’s name?

Parker: Yes!

What do you appreciate about Delly?

Parker: What I would say I appreciate about Delly is that she cares about others. She wants to help Ferris Boyd. Do you think that RB is a good guy or a good leader for little kids?

I think he’s good because he’s always trying to do the right thing. He kind of annoys Delly because he always wants to hang around her, but he wants to do the right thing because he sees how his sister doesn’t always make good choices. He’s trying to influence her. He’s like an old soul in a young body. He wants to do the right thing!

Our conversation shifted at this point from talking about the book to talking about reading. Others have joined in our group, curious about what we are talking about.

Finish this sentence: Reading is……

Parker, Taylor, and now Yana: AWESOME! Because it’s sometimes fiction, sometimes, non-fiction, and it gives you a good idea of adventure or imagination or mystery or comedy…things like that! Realistic fiction!

School libraries are….

Yana: The coolest thing ever! Because you have so many books! You can’t even count them all! There’s too many to read.

Parker: But that’s good because then you have more books to read!

So girls, if somebody read True (…sort of) already, what other book would you suggest? If they likes those themes in that book, what else might they like in our library? Besides Ida B. It doesn’t have to be by the same author.

Parker: I would recommend… Out of my Mind, and Wonder!

All three girls chimed in and shout WONDER! So cool! And Almost Famous, and Anything but Typical.

That sums up our True (…sort of) conversation. A copy for the library is ordered and Parker already has friends waiting to read her copy! Thanks for the great conversation girls! Below is a video with the author Katherine Hannigan who discusses her book. For me, it was interesting to see how she handwrites notes to herself in a spiral notebook as she works out the beginning drafts of her books.



If you enjoy Realistic Fiction, what book would you add to our list?

Do you have a “Delly-ism” to add to the Dellyictionary?

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