Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where is Catkin?

Where Is Catkin?
written by Janet Lord; illustrated by Julie Paschkis
(Peachtree Publishers) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

My wife walked in one afternoon and saw a copy of Where Is Catkin? in my lap. She instantly remarked, "That is a beautiful book!" This was my first thought too. You can't take your eyes off of it. If you put this book with nine others on a table and asked a kid to come in and look at the books, there is a pretty good chance he or she would pick up Where Is Catkin? first. The combination of bright colors and whimsical drawings are simply wonderful.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bunny Days

Bunny Days
written and illustrated by Tao Nyeu
(Dial Books for Young Readers) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

I see this book and I'm intrigued by the cover. An unusual illustration of rabbits posing for a picture taken by a bear against a white background. It all seems cute and perfect for preschool readers. Then I read the first of three stories in the book, Muddy Bunnies. Combine mud, bunnies, a handy bear, a washing machine on the delicate cycle, a laundry line that makes me think of Lyndon Johnson, and you get a very funny and clever book. The other two stories, Dusty Bunnies and Bunny Tails, are equally humorous.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Moog Moog Space Barber

Moog-Moog, Space Barber
written and illustrated by Mark Teague
(Scholastic Paperbacks) 1990
Source: May Memorial Library

Normally kidlit blogs (including this one) focus on books that have been published in the last few months or will be published in the near future. I thought it would be interesting to take one day a week and highlight a book I really like that is several years old, but still available. Hence the birth of Throwback Thursday. If you have any comments on the idea, let me know.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates

Henry and the Crazed Chicken Pirates
written by Carolyn Crimi; illustrated by John Manders
(Candlewick Press) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library

Rabbits with beards and mustaches. Check. Chickens with eye patches and peglegs flying a hot air balloon and shooting cannons. Check. A fun book to read with a kid who is already bored and it's only the second day of summer vacation. Check.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind

Shaun the Sheep: One Giant Leap for Lambkind
(HIT Entertainment) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Mark Overmeyer, in his book When Writing Workshop Isn't Working (one of the best books on writing you will ever read!), suggests using videos to encourage reluctant writers to start writing. I listened to Mark and have had success using video segments to jump start reluctant writers in my classroom. One character, whose comic adventures would be great for teaching writing, is Shaun the Sheep. Each episode is about 6-7 minutes long. If you are teaching narrative, one lesson would be to stop an episode about 3 minutes in and ask students to write what happens in the second half.

Monday, June 21, 2010

13 Paintings Children Should Know

13 Paintings Children Should Know
written by Angela Wenzel
(Prestel) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library
Nonfiction Monday: SimplyScience Blog (check out the other nonfiction reviews for today)

I'm old enough to have grown up with AM radio before the talkers took over. There were only three channels of television so you listened to a lot of radio (Casey Kasem was "must hear" listening!) to hear the latest hits. This means I know snippets of about 7 million songs, give or take a million. Of course, the only song I know the complete lyrics to is Happy Birthday and that's about it. My blast from the past came to mind after reading the engaging 13 Paintings Children Should Know from Angela Wenzel. I've seen most of these paintings before but could only name 3 of the 13.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Father is Taller than a Tree

My Father is Taller than a Tree
written by Joseph Bruchac; illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
(Dial Books for Young Readers) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

My Father is Taller than a Tree is a sweet rhyming tribute to fathers. The dads aren't doing extraordinary things on the surface, but instead engaging in simple activities like walking around town or helping their sons to ride a bike. This diverse group of dads show that the most valuable gift you can give your child is the gift of time. Each engaging set of pages contains a large "widescreen" illustration with four smaller pictures underneath that provide further insight to the dad's kind gestures. The final pages are all smaller inset pictures that review all the wonderful things the fathers have done with their sons. This is an excellent book to add to your collection of books on family.

Happy Father's Day to all my fellow dads and thank you to my father whose love I carry with me and share with my kids.

Other reviews of My Father is Taller than a Tree:
Lansing Children's Books Examiner
Kids Lit
USA Today

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lucky Beans

Lucky Beans
written by Becky Birtha; illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
(Albert Whitman & Company) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Marshall Loman is tired of eating beans. Unfortunately, it is all his Depression-era family can afford to fix. His father has been out of work for months, and his Aunt Minnie and Uncle Matt have moved in.  While walking to school one morning, Marshall's opinion of beans begins to change. A local furniture store has filled a large glass jar with dried beans for a contest.  The person who comes closest to guessing the number of beans in the jar wins a new sewing machine. Marshall sets his mind to helping his mother win the sewing machine. He uses the knowledge he has gained from studying measuring and estimation to help his mother make a very educated guess and win the contest.

You can't help but like a book that combines math, history, and a lesson on character. Becky Birtha has combined all three to create a winning story that will make a terrific read aloud for several content areas. Lucky Beans would work well for a unit on measuring capacity in math.  I also really like how Marshall uses problem solving to help his mother. This is an excellent character lesson for students.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Moon Bear

Moon Bear
written by Brenda Z. Guiberson; illustrated by Ed Young
(Henry Holt Kids) 2010
Source: May Memorial Library

Moon bears are black bears that live in the mountains and valleys of Southeast Asia. Moon Bear follows a question and answer format to show us a year in the life of one female moon bear. The narrative starts with the moon bear waking up from a winter of hibernation.
"Who blinks in the sunlight that peeks through the Himalayas?"
"Sleepy moon bear, waking up from a long winter snooze."
We follow the bear as she searches for food through each successive season and interacts with other animals. The book ends with the female bear emerging from hibernation in a tree hollow, but she is not by herself!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Duchess of Whimsy

The Duchess of Whimsy
written by Randall de Seve; illustrated by Peter de Seve
(Philomel Books) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library

 The Duchess of Whimsy is quite the extrovert.  Her parties are legendary and she is exquisite in every way. The Earl of Norm more than lives up to his name as well.  His clothing, choice of pet, and conversation are very vanilla. So why is the Earl invited to the Duchess' soirees?
 As with many things, the reason is political. Their kingdoms need to get along so the Duchess' father makes her invite the plain Earl. But in love the Earl has uncommon taste as he adores the Duchess. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian
written by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Julie Paschkis
(Henry Holt Kids) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

In the mid-1600s, thirteen year old Maria Merian was capturing and studying insects in secret so as not to be accused of witchcraft by her neighbors. Maria's observations taught her that butterflies (called summer birds since they "appeared suddenly during warm weather and vanished in the fall.") came about through metamorphosis and were not born from the mud as her adult neighbors thought. She also observed eggs becoming tadpoles and growing into frogs. Maria wrote down her observations and created paintings of the summer birds and other natural phenomena. She knew these changes were not something to be feared, but nature taking its course.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Little Piano Girl

The Little Piano Girl
written by Ann Ingalls & Maryann McDonald; illustrated by Giselle Potter
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

 "She is like soul on soul" - Duke Ellington

Jazz legend Mary Lou Williams was three years old when her mother discovered that Mary Lou could play back a tune on the family organ. Soon Mary Lou was spending all of her time at the keyboard. However, when the family moved to Pittsburgh, the organ was left behind. Life in Pittsburgh was not easy for Mary Lou. Being new, it was hard to fit in and several neighbors were less than welcoming.  Mary Lou labeled the "ugly names and cruel words" as "bad sounds" and simply played them out on the tabletop. Even without a keyboard, music was still vital to Mary Lou. How she was reintroduced to the keyboard is not exactly known, but one story credits a neighbor named Lucille who brought Mary Lou to her home for ice cream.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Heart and the Bottle

The Heart and the Bottle
written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
(Philomel Books) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

There is a young girl who loves the world around her and is encouraged to have a sense of wonder and curiosity. One day, the person who encourages her is no longer around. An empty chair symbolizes this loss. The young girl decides to place her heart in a bottle for safe keeping. While her heart is safe, the girl loses her sense of wonder and no longer notices the world around her. It takes another person filled with wonder to help the girl rediscover the world.

Oliver Jeffers had created a touching book about loss and how we can begin to recover by enjoying the world around us instead of insulating ourselves.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Joha Makes A Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale

Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale
written by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Omar Rayyan
(Marshall Cavendish Books for Kids) 2010
Source: Graham Public Library
** A special thank you to Betsy Bird. Her review is where I first learned about this book. Click and read the review. You'll be glad you did.

When you talk about folktales in North Carolina, you have to mention the Jack Tales. Jack is a kind but not always wise character who usually wins out in the end. While I was reading Joha Makes a Wish, I thought about the Jack Tales and how Joha would make an excellent contrast with Jack. Joha is a similar type character from Middle Eastern folklore.

In the book, Joha is walking to Baghdad when he stops to take a rest against a ruined wall.  The wall gives way and reveals a sealed jar.  Inside the jar are a stick and a scroll.  The scroll explains that Joha has found a wishing stick. His first wish is for a pair of red leather slippers. Unfortunately, his own slippers disappear when he makes this wish. Whatever Joha wishes for, the opposite happens. To add to Joha's troubles, a troop of the sultan's guards travel by and wonder why Joha does not wish a long life for the sultan like other citizens are doing.  Joha explains that he is having trouble with his wishes and does not want to do harm to the sultan. The sultan overhears this and tells Joha not to worry. He can make a smaller wish for the sultan.  This leads to more trouble for Joha who then has to make his escape.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Missing Books

Dirk Bones and the Mystery of the Missing Books
written and illustrated by Doug Cushman
(Harper Collins Children's Books) 2009
Source: Orange County Public Library
Dirk Bones is the skeletal reporter for The Ghostly Tombs (this would be great name for a rock band!). While interviewing scary story writer Edgar Bleek, it is discovered that the manuscript for Edgar's new book is missing. Dirk finds the only clue which is a strange spotted blue leaf. During his visit to the Ghostly Town Library to look for information, Dirk is told of a similiar mystery by Miss Elsa, the librarian (Miss Elsa looks a lot like a certain Bride of Frankenstein named Elsa). All of the Edgar Bleek books are missing from the town library and the same blue leaf was found next to the bookshelf. This prompts our intrepid Dirk to visit the Green Lagoon where a giant vine with blue leaves leads to the solution of the mystery.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Handiest Things in the World

The Handiest Things in the World
written by Andrew Clements; photographs by Raquel Jaramillo
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library

Have you ever thought about how handy our hands are? Andrew Clements did and used his hands to create this engaging concept book. Each set of pages contains rhyming lines that show what our hands can do and what they can do better with the help of something made by our hands. For example, on one set of pages, a young man is shading his eyes with his hand while another young man is wearing a ball cap.  On the left side the rhyming text says "Handmade shade for squinty eyes." On the right side it says "This will help with sunny skies." Pretty handy book if you ask me. Raquel Jaramillo's photographs provide terrific background and context for the words.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Dreamer

The Dreamer
written by Pam Munoz Ryan; drawings by Peter Sis
(Scholastic Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library
Eight year old Neftali Reyes is a sickly child who loves to read and dream. This infuriates his railroad foreman father Jose, who believes Neftali needs to roughhouse with the neighborhood boys instead of daydreaming and reading.  At the core of this story is the struggle between what Neftali wants to do and what his father thinks he should do. Neftali wants to read, write, and take in the beauty of the Chilean world in which he lives. Jose wants him to excel at math and become a doctor or dentist. He is ashamed of Neftali and does little to hide his disgust. Despite this struggle, Neftali continues to write and grows into becoming the poet Pablo Neruda, a name he takes to spare his father the indignity he would feel for having a poet for a son.

Friday, June 4, 2010

See Inside the White House



See Inside the White House
written by Marge Kennedy
(Children's Press) 2009
Source: Orange County Library

I'm really pleased when I can find good nonfiction for preschool-1st graders. See Inside the White House is one such book.  Readers are taken on a tour of six rooms in the White House (China Room, Gold Room, Red Room, Blue Room, Oval Office, and Yellow Oval Room).  The photographs are fabulous (loved the overhead view of an Oval Office meeting) and there are several text features (bold print, captions, diagrams, index, and pronunciation guide) that will enrich your teaching of the structure of nonfiction. Add this book to your collection of nonfiction mentor texts for k-2.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Beach Tail

A Beach Tail
written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
(Boyds Mill Press) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Gregory and his dad are spending a day at the beach. Gregory has drawn a "sandy lion" and wants to put a tail on it by walking down the beach. His dad gives his o.k. with the following instructions, "Don't go in the water, and don't leave Sandy."  As he walks down the beach drawing a tail, Gregory encounters several things associated with the beach including a jellyfish, a sand castle, a horseshoe crab, and a ghost crab. When he hears a loud "ROAR", Gregory looks up to notice that he is next to some rocks and he has lost sight of his father. By not leaving Sandy and retracing the tail he has drawn, Gregory finds his way back to Dad.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lawn to Lawn

Lawn to Lawn by Dan Yaccarino
(Random House Books for Kids) 2010
Source: Mebane Public Library

Pearl and the lawn ornaments are having a tea party when she talks about how excited she is about moving to a new home. The ornaments are not as excited about the move, but they love Pearl so they're willing to go. Unfortunately on moving day, the lawn ornaments are left behind. Rather than face the fate of the curb or worse, the garbage truck, the ornaments set off for a cross-country adventure to find their beloved Pearl and her new home. Betty the deer, Flo the flamingo, Jack the jockey, and Norm the gnome face many trials as they travel, but with perseverance find Pearl's new home only to find the entrance guarded by two "snooty" lions. A surprising twist provides a solution to this humorous tale.

I became acquainted with Dan Yaccarino's work through watching Oswald, his animated Nickelodeon series, with my daughter.  Lawn to Lawn, like Oswald, uses personification and quirky humor to show the importance of friendship. Students will make immediate connections to Toy Story, but the humor here is a little more subtle. I think one of the interesting aspects of this book is how each of the ornaments have opportunities to delay their quest, but they stay loyal to Pearl and continue their travels.

There are good lessons on character and personification that can be taught using Lawn to Lawn. Since Toy Story is so familiar to students, you could contrast it with Lawn to Lawn.