At the beginning of summer one of our local libraries held an event where the children saw books about fairy and gnome houses and then were able to make them themselves. It was a marvelous activity that really got their creative juices flowing. The houses were made with all natural items and intended to be left in the green areas behind the library. My daughter teamed up with a friend and they came up with a wonderful little house hidden under a miniature weeping willow-like tree.
Of course seeing them do this project, especially sponsored by the library, got the wheels spinning about all of the cool books out there that talk about fairies and encourage kids to use their creativity while still living in a world where fairies really do exist.
An ideal place to start learning about building a fairy house is in Tracy Kane’s book, Fairy Houses. This sweet story is about a little girl who spends the summer building fairy houses in Maine in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a fairy. The only rule in the woods where she is building is to not use artificial or living materials, much like the rules when we were building. As the little girl builds and adds to her house, you see how all of the animals are lured to it. The fairies leave her a note about how special her house is for that very reason. The back of the book gives ideas about what to use every season to make a fairy house.
In true Pinkalicious style, the “I Can Read” series offering of Pinkalicious Fairy House shows the magic of fairies seen through the eyes of a true believer but is shorter and easier for a younger reader to follow than Fairy Houses. In this book, Pinkalicious believes that fairies come into her yard and sprinkle fairy dust to make the plants grow. She longs to see the fairies so she and her brother build them a house. While she never actually sees fairies, as a true believer, she catches glimmers of light in the morning sky and believes they are fairies. A great encouragement for younger girls to build their own fairy houses.
I don’t normally review craft books, but since I’m talking about the idea of making fairy houses, this seemed appropriate. Fairy World Crafts, by Kathy Ross, is a great book that is absolutely do-able (said the very not crafty person). Staying with the theme of fairy houses, this book shows step-by-step instructions on things like toadstools, snail friends, fairy log houses, and a leaf table and bed.
The Hidden Folk, by Lise Lunge-Larsen, is a wonderful collection of stories about fairies, dwarves, gnomes, selkies, river sprites, and other hidden beings. As Lunge-Larsen explains, “for as long as there have been people, there have been stories about beings whose presence we feel but cannot see.” An excellent addition to books about fairies and other magical beings with an international point of view.
Most of the time we think of fairies as sweet little sprites. But many cultures tell stories of fairies who are not so sweet and instead are rather quite mischievous. Heather Forest retells an old Scottish story in The Woman who Flummoxed the Fairies that my 6 year old absolutely adores. In this story, the fairies come out at night and dance on dinner tables and feast on the crumbs people leave behind. But the fairies are never given a chance to taste the crumbs from the bakerwoman’s cakes because they are always eaten down to the last bite. The king hatches a plan to trap the bakerwoman in the fairy world, but she has a few tricks up her own sleeve. A fun story that kids love.
Too Many Fairies, by Margaret Read Macdonald, also looks at the idea that fairies might look sweet and innocent, but are not always so in real life. An old woman hates cleaning her house, but when fairies come to help her, she gets more than she bargained for. A great story showing the other side of fairies as well as highlighting that it is better to look on the bright side than to constantly complain.
Finally, for a true story about fairies, check out Shirley Raye Redmond’s Fairies! A True Story. This book tells about how different cultures all have different stories about fairies and how they each do different things. Over time, many people have told stories about actually seeing fairies, but most of these have been pranks. The second half of the book deals with the most famous fairy prank. In England in 1917, two cousins took pictures of themselves with cutout paper fairies. By moving the fairies while they were taking the pictures, it looked like they were real. This is a very interesting look at a make-believe subject and how it has permeated our history for so long. (Apparently this was also made into a movie in 1997)
My daughter and her friend had an absolute blast with the craft at the library. Here are some photos of them getting down to business, their finished product and one of the other houses made that day.
I first learned about Kate Warne, the first female detective hired by the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, in Kate Hannigan’s middle grade novel, The Detective’s Assistant. That was a fun novel based on her life, but now there is an awesome picture book biography that not only talks about Warne’s life, but can get kids excited about detective work and all of the creativity that it entails – Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective.
Marissa Moss does an excellent job of looking at how Kate Warne got her job at the Pinkerton Detective Agency and just how unusual that was in 1856. When Kate Warne applied for a job with the Pinkerton Agency, Pinkerton assumed she wanted to cook or clean, but he agreed to try her out as an agent. Assigned to a tough case with high stakes, Warne went undercover and not only found the stolen money, she got almost all of it returned. Continue reading →
One of the things that seems to be happening in many of the public schools, at least in my neck of the woods, is that there is such a focus on test scores, reading levels, and facts that we are spending less time encouraging our children to think and create. Childhood is a time where many children still believe in the power of stories and where their imaginations run wild. But between the presence of technology and the odd over-scheduling we can’t seem to escape from, kids often don’t get to experience the creative bursts that come from boredom. Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby’s story, Yokki and the Parno Gry, is a tale that highlights the power and wonder of a child’s imagination.
Yokki and the Parno Gry is a tale about the Romani people and the power of storytelling. In the same way Evan Turk’s book, The Storyteller, has the art of telling a story as the item that saved a people in their time of need, so too does Yokki’s story save his family. What sets this book apart from anything else I’ve seen is that it focuses ono the Romani culture and traditions, something we rarely see presented in books in a positive light. Continue reading →
All animals are pretty amazing, but what child hasn’t been fascinated by elephants? In North Carolina we are fortunate to have one of the largest natural habitat zoos, so watching the elephants roam and frolic is pretty special. The huge animals are pretty awesome to watch, especially if they are coating themselves in dirt or playing with each other.
One thing that we have been told about elephants is that they have amazing memories. In Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant, author Sandra Markle tells us of the true story of an older elephant in Tanzania who helped her herd find water during a drought. As the synopsis explains:
During a drought in Tanzania, Grandma Elephant is in search of water for her herd. Little Calf follows along and mimics her grandmother at each stop on their journey. When Grandma leads them to a watering hole she recalls from years before, the elephants are overjoyed and Little Calf splashes about with her tender leader. Grandma’s persistence and powerful memory is something Little Calf will never forget.
The story is told through the fascinating generational differences between Grandma Elephant and Little Calf. While Grandma leads the herd in search of water, we see how Little Calf hasn’t yet mastered getting water from her trunk to her throat. Unfortunately, the watering hole is being used by a wide variety of animals and soon there is not enough to go around. Continue reading →
A few years ago I wrote a post called “The Various Tales of Little Red Riding Hood” about retellings of the well known story. It actually gets the most hits of any blog post that I’ve written. While I’m not on the hunt for more stories about the crimson clad kid, if a great story comes out, I do pay attention. One such story is Alex T. Smith’s Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion.
Right off the bat there are a few noticeable differences in this story versus the traditional version. Little Red is a spunky, intelligent, African girl. The lion is, well, a lion and not a wolf, but more importantly, he doesn’t manage to trick Little Red. Smith uses some creative illustrations to move this story along and capture a completely different tone. The best part, in my opinion, is when Little Red walks into her Auntie’s house, notices the lion, and decides to teach him a lesson. Continue reading →
Teaching children grammar doesn’t have to be boring. In the same vein as the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Cece Bell has created a winner in I Yam a Donkey.
This book helps children see the difference in saying “I Yam” versus “I am,” comically explained to a donkey by a yam. The donkey in this story does not use proper grammar and the yam tries to correct him, but doesn’t get very far. What helps this story along is the fact that the donkey fails to comprehend anything that the yam says, which only gets the yam more riled up.
The fact that kids enjoy it is huge. In North Carolina, many of the school libraries participate in the NC Children’s Book Awards each year. I volunteer weekly in one of our local libraries and watch as the librarian reads them all of the nominated books and then has the kids vote on their favorites. This year, the winner of the picture book category, by an overwhelming majority, was I Yam a Donkey. Each year children nominate their favorite picture books, librarians read those books to their students, and then children vote on which was their favorite.
The fact that a third of the votes cast this year went to I Yam a Donkey speaks volumes. Kids loved this book. They read it in the library and then checked it out to read at home. A book about grammar! Parents will also get a kick out of the book, especially if they ever heard the classic routine of Who’s on First by Abbot and Costello (a childhood favorite of mine). A book that was completely silly yet drove its point home. Cece Bell, job well done!
One of the best things that has come out of blogging is being a part of the blogging community of amazing children’s literature reviewers. Learning about new books and getting other takes on how to encourage a love of books in all children is why I do this. Since we don’t live in a city with tons of great book stores and large libraries, there are many times that the only way I know a book exists is through the pages of other people’s blogs.
As long-time readers will know, I try really hard to be a part of the nonfiction picture book challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy every week. This week, Alyson posted about three books she had recently read, but one stood out to me, partially because this week also happens to be Children’s Book Week. The book was Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, by Michelle Markel. I happened to be at one of our local libraries that evening for a CBW event and did a happy dance when I found a copy there.
Balderdash! is a great biography about a man whose name is synonymous with children’s literature. The cover of the book even has such a wonderful illustration by Nancy Carpenter that the book screams out to be read. But even with Newbery being such an important name in children’s literature, I admit that I didn’t know much about him before reading this book. Continue reading →
The Story of Ann Cole Lowe is not one that I probably would have ever heard of if not for the new biography, Fancy Party Gowns, by Deborah Blumenthal. Her story, however, is important in the world of fashion, women, and African-American history.
Ann Cole Lowe learned how to sew from her mother and grandmother who were both dressmakers in Alabama. When Ann was 16, her mother had been working on a dress for the governor’s wife when she died. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” So Ann finished the dress.
Ann continued to work hard and in 1917 was sent to a design school in New York, but she had to study alone, in a separate room, because of the color of her skin. This image alone in the book is exceptionally powerful to help get the notion across to children just how unfair laws and practices were when it came to segregation. This didn’t stop Ann, if anything, it might have made her stronger. Continue reading →
My younger daughter’s current favorite book is the Usborne Illustrated Stories of Princes and Princesses. We are big fans of the Illuustrated Stories series in general because of their gorgeous illustrations and ability to take well known stories and bring them to younger audiences at an age appropriate level (Shakespeare for an 8 year old!). What sets this particular book apart is the fact that it brings forth many lesser known fairy tales from a variety of cultures and it is a book focusing on princesses, but without that common thread of princess needs saving from prince.
E found this book in our catalog and started begging for it, so of course I bought it, since I’m a sucker for that desire. We were quickly surprised by the content of the stories. Many are well known tales like Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, and the Frog Prince. But then there are stories that have never made their way into my fairy tale loving family – The Princess and the Glass Hill, Princess Nobody, and the Seven Ravens, for example. Each story is beautifully told with illustrations and an easy to read font. Continue reading →
Being a kid is hard. Every day a new challenge comes around that might stop you in your tracks. How you deal with it is key.
There are a lot of books out these days about believing in yourself. I’ve written a bunch about the idea of believing in yourself in the past, but it is a topic that resonates with me and with children. When you are learning to do something new, it is so easy to just give up when it is hard, but where would that get you?
Not giving up is the main focus of Ashley Spires’ new book, The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do (Kids Can Press, May 2017). In this story, Lou and her friends are brave adventurers who have big dreams and can do anything. Except that one day when they decide to play pirates, her friends suggest that the pirate ship be a tree and she has never climbed one before. Lou suggests other games, comes up with excuses why she can’t climb the tree, and finally admits to her friends that she just doesn’t know how. With a little help and encouragement, she decides that she will give it a try. What’s even better? Spires doesn’t actually show Lou getting up the tree. She gives it a go, still doesn’t make it, but she will be back another day to attempt it again. We loved Spires’ earlier book The Most Magnificent Thing, and this is a great addition to books about perseverance and determination. Continue reading →