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 →
Summer is upon us and that means that it is time to find ways to keep kids engaged with their books and reading. Getting J to read isn’t a problem, but I would like to find ways to spice it up for the summer. I also really want to encourage her to keep writing about what she reads. She loves a good challenge and she also loves this blog, so my mind has started to churn.
One big way to make summer reading fun is to make sure that all of her friends are reading and perhaps even taking some cues from the books that she loves. J always enjoys sharing her books with her friends, although her reading level can at times make this challenging. J often talks about being a teacher, so we will be working on our summer reading list for her friends. I’m hoping to get her to write a line or two about each book and why she liked it.
There are a slew of summer reading challenges out there. One big thing that tends to get focused on is reading for a certain amount of time each day. As I said, this is not an issue for us, since I often have to tell her to stop reading and go outside, but I thought it would be fun to join in. Our local library has a wonderful program that encourages reading and coming to great programs at the library. I tried doing the program last year, but struggled with recording the minutes that she read. I just signed her up (locals go to http://tinyurl.com/spplsrp to sign up!) with a goal of 1500 minutes. I have no idea if that is high or low. I figured that it is 13 weeks and it seemed like a nice round number. We also joined Scholastic’s reading program which has a reading timer app that I installed on J’s iPad. The program at our library allows kids to earn “book bucks” as they read and the more they read, the bigger the prizes they can receive at the end of summer. We will get additional bucks for coming to some awesome programs that the library is having over the summer kicking off with a Mad Scientist Lab. It’s already on my calendar!J is super excited for some books that we are going to be reading this summer. Until we get our book list going, here is her list of summer reads….
1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I’ve made her wait months before she could move on to book 5 in this series. Given that this book is 870 pages, it might actually take us a little time to get through it!
2. Wednesdays at the Tower (Castle Glower #2) – we both loved Tuesdays at the Castle. This series features an incredibly strong female lead and her siblings who are sworn to protect the castle that they live in. The castle just happens to also be alive and adds something to the building every Tuesday. The first book finds them fighting against an outside presence that wants to take over the castle. In the second book, the castle is hiding some new secret.
3. A Grimm Warning (The Land of Stories #3) – This series by Chris Colfer has become one of our definite favorites that we recommend to EVERYONE! Seriously, girl or boy, adult or child, this is a great series. Who knows what new test the Bailey twins will come up against in this installment.
4. Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot – A friend recommended this book series so I went ahead and bought the boxed set of the first 4 books. The series looks sweet and I think J will enjoy it.
5. Rosemary in Paris (The Hourglass Adventures #2) – We just finished book #1 in this series where a 10 year old girl travels back in time and meets a 10 year old relative. The books are a nice melding of adventure, travel and brain teasers as Rosemary Rita solves various problems and puzzles.
That’s our jumping off point. What summer books are you planning on reading?
My three year old is completely infatuated with Ladybug Girl. I don’t really mind this, except when she gets upset when return books to the library. My seven year old never really got into the series. I know that we read a few of them, but I think some were even just board book versions and they never really jumped out at her. Now that E is reading them, I have come to really enjoy the series and see them as a great way to teach kids some valuable lessons about independence, believing in yourself, bravery, sharing, caring and friendship. It’s nice when these come wrapped up in fun stories and cute pictures and are not overly dogmatic.
The first book that E really got into is Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad. This is the first official play date of a group that meets during Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy. Ladybug Girl, aka Lulu, has big idea of exactly how the play date will go and what they will do. Things don’t always go her way, but usually she is okay with it. When they are given cupcakes with candles and one child doesn’t blow the candle out exactly as Lulu specified, she blows it out for her resulting in hurt feelings and anger. Lulu feels badly and wants to apologize but doesn’t quite know how. However, Ladybug girl isn’t afraid of anything and figures out how to do it. It is a great story about playing with others and understanding that you can’t always be the boss.
A week or so ago we also checked out the original Ladybug Girl story, which I’m sure we only had in board book version. This is another wonderful book about a little girl who has to figure out what to do with herself for a day and just like most little girls, she looks around her room that is full of toys and says that there is nothing to do. Her older brother is playing baseball and tells her that she is too little to play. Luckily, she has an absolutely awesome backyard to go exploring in and she shows him that she is not too little – she is Ladybug Girl! She has marvelous adventures and proves to herself that she can do anything – from helping ants to building forts and catching flying leaves. Not only does she have a great day, but she is doing it outside.
The only regular Ladybug Girl book that we actually own is Ladybug Girl and the Beach. In this story, Lulu experiences the beach for the first time but is frightened by the pull of the water. She keeps herself busy doing all sorts of other things, but when the ocean starts to pull away her favorite pale it is Ladybug Girl to the rescue and she realizes that the ocean isn’t so scary after all.
We’ve read Bumblebee Boy, but I don’t remember it very well. Looks like I’m going to have to check that out as well as the other two and update this post after we read them. If you’re looking for a great story for young kids, this is a great series.
We stopped off at the library today before the roads got their first snow of the year. You must understand, we live in North Carolina and school was cancelled today when they thought that snow would be hitting us around noon or 1pm and they wouldn’t be able to get the high schoolers home in time. The snow didn’t actually get here until 6pm. Anyway, I digress. While combing the bookshelves, I happened upon a “new” book that looked interesting. J actually decided that I could read her three picture books at bedtime tonight and selected Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln as one of them. I was so impressed with the book that I needed to write about it right away.
Michael and Derek are off on vacation with their Grandmother. They get on the train and she tells them “No electronics on this trip – no music, no texting, no tweeting, no e-mailing.” The boys don’t know what to do, but they have no choice but to go along with it. The next morning, they get off the train at Harpers Ferry and meet Mr. Portufoy, a “true expert” on the Civil War. “The boys looked at each other, bored,” but their adventure is just about to begin. Mr. Portufoy takes them into his museum and the boys are bored until they see the weapons. Michael explaims that “It must have been cool to fight in that war!” Mr. Portufoy asks if they would like to play a real game, better than a video game. The boys agree and soon find themselves in 1862 right after the battle of Antietam.
As Goodreads says: “Patricia Polacco’s time-travel premise is fascinating – who knew that history museums could literally be doorways into the past? She makes history exciting for young readers, drawing them into a pivotal part of our nation’s development.”
While this book had some weak moments – the older brother knew random bits of Civil War history yet was only interested in the weapons in Mr. Portufoy’s collection, being allowed to try on “authentic” civil war uniforms, getting into a lengthy conversation with Lincoln and telling him a little about the future including that a black man will become president – overall I thought it was a great read. My daughter has never been very interested in Civil War history and I felt that this book made it a bit more real than other books. The full page spreads of the death and destruction that war brings were especially powerful.War is hard for children to comprehend. These kids thought that the weapons were “cool” and fighting must have been fun. With all of the games and movies that treat violence with such nonchalance, it is especially important for them to understand that war is not something that any government should go into lightly. While Patricia Polacco definitely took liberties, having Lincoln muse about whether the death of so many young men was worth it makes a strong statement. Lincoln of course wants to know that it is worth the price – “that slavery will be abolished and the Union restored.”
J and I enjoyed reading this book tonight and I would highly recommend it for kids 1st grade and up.
It’s Monday, so it is time for my weekly round-up of the picture books that we have read. We are starting to do a lot of repeating, but those that are new fall all over the place. We are currently at 61 of 300! Thank you Child-Led Chaos for creating such a great thread!
Yesterday I gave you my official post for Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature. However, as I mentioned, the whole concept of celebrating diversity in children’s literature got me thinking about the bigger picture of the books we read and I wanted to focus my posts this week on other great books that we have happened upon that meet the multicultural theme. I want to point out that any book I happened to check out of the library (which is most of them) I picked up before deciding to focus on multicultural literature.
The main group of books I wanted to focus on that we read last week are from a book bag at the library about folk-tales. This is a great place to find multicultural texts. The four books that we read from the bag were Zomo The Rabbit, Only One Cowry, The Great Ball Game, and The Shadow of a Flying Bird.
Zomo The Rabbit is the tale of a trickster rabbit from West Africa. While the book only has animals, you do get the sense of the African theme from the colors that were chosen throughout the book and the fact that the animals are all black. Zomo was a clever rabbit who wanted wisdom. He asked the Sky God for wisdom and was told that he needed to earn it by doing three impossible things. He tricks the three animals he needs to get things from and finds that his lesson is “Three things in this world are worth having: courage, good sense and caution…Little rabbit, you have lots of courage, a bit of sense, but no caution. So next time you see Big Fish, or Wild Cow, or Leopard…better run fast!” Folktales are meant to teach lessons and this one explains why rabbits run fast and that all of our actions have consequences.
The Great Ball Game is a Native American story that tries to explain why birds fly south every winter and also teaches the lesson of acceptance. It is awesomely illustrated with mixed media art rather than straight drawings. The story itself revolves around an argument that the birds had with the animals over which was better, wings or teeth. They decide to have a ball game to decide the argument and the winning side will get to choose the penalty for the losing side. When the teams were formed, one creature was left out – the bat! He had wings and teeth, so where did he belong? First he went to the animals who said it wouldn’t be fair for them to take him since he has wings and must be a bird. The birds wouldn’t accept him because they said that he was too little to be of any help. He went back to the animals and begged to be on their team. Bear, being the wise animal he is, took pity on the bat knowing that “sometimes even the small ones can help.” In the end, it was because of Bat that the animals won and the punishment for the birds is that they had to leave this land for half of each year.
Only One Cowry is a Dahomean tale from Benin, Africa. The summary from Goodreads says “Dada Segbo, the first king of Dahomey, wants a bride. He can afford the finest gifts to bestow upon her family, but he prefers not to part with any of his wealth. So he offers only one cowry shell. How can he find a worthy bride for such a pittance?”I will find the king a wife for only one cowry”, promises Yo, a smart young fellow. And, trade by trade, he does.” But the woman who is to be the King’s bride is also a smart woman and when she finds out that the King only offered on Cowry for her dowry, she tricks him into sending food, wine and clothing for her entire village. It is a great tale and a very fun read.
The Shadow of a Flying Bird is drawn from a Kurdistani tale based on the Old Testament story of the death of Moses. This book was unexpected, but not necessarily in a good way. I had never heard a story of Moses begging G-d to allow him to live, even in another form. G-d tells Moses repeatedly that “everything born has a time to die.” There is a whole portion of Moses fighting to live and then various angels refusing to take his soul, which I am going to admit confused us. This is one of the few times I would have to say I wouldn’t pick it up again.
This is just a jumping off point. Some of my favorite folk-tales that we have read over the years include: Tikki Tikki Tembo, Anansi the Spider, Stone Soup, Something From Nothing, Abiyoyo, and of course all of the many Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and other classic tales retold by every culture.
For more information about Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature, please check out Jump Into a Book and Pragmatic Mom. The mission of this event is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. The event itself is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.
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I went into one of our local used book stores the other day and made a great find – an illustrated abridged version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I’ve wanted to bring J in to the world of Narnia for some time, but we started with The Magician’s Nephew and I believe she got bored. The story jumped around a lot. I think that The Lion is a more cohesive story and J immediately got sucked in to it. She thought I had brought home yet another library book and when she realized that she got to keep this one she was incredibly excited. I also purchased a used copy of the full The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe knowing that at some point in the not to distant future she would want to read that as well.
What makes this book special is that it is not a dumbed-down version of the story and it is filled with absolutely beautiful illustrations. There are other illustrated versions out there, we just got lucky to find this one at a used shop. The original is still the best, but sometimes these editions help draw our kids in.
Here are some other illustrated versions I was able to find online.
We are finished with week #2 of the picture book challenge hosted by Child-Led Chaos. While we read a ton of books, I’m finding the process a tad challenging because my 6 year old is going through a phase where she refuses to read or listen to picture books. She only wants to read Land of Stories or Harry Potter. She doesn’t even want me reading to her at bedtime right now because we have book 2 of Land of Stories on audiobooks. My 3 year old more than makes up for it, but there was a day of a pile of board books, which I’m somewhat torn about posting.
The whole thing pains me because I have found some absolutely fabulous picture books lately at the library. I’m going to have to go against my general notion of what I planned for this blog to be and write about a few of those during this period of her reading such long books. There are just so many outstanding books out there!
Anyway, back to the challenge. We are at 45 books read. I have a feeling we will be climbing higher than 300. My younger daughter and I went to a bookstore this week and she handed me book after book to read. This is a section of what we read this week:
Highlights from what we read…..
The Three Cabritos by Eric Kimmell is a retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff set in Texas where the three goats must cross a bridge over the Rio Grande in order to get into Mexico for a party. We have a soft spot for Eric Kimmell and this story didn’t disappoint.
Dancing With Degas by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober- This is one of my favorite board books. You get placed into Degas’ world of ballerinas with simple poetry and those stunning paintings. It is a great way to bring in the beauty of ballet to your child as well as introducing them to one of the great artists.
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson – I went looking for Monkey Puzzle after reading Claire’s post from last week’s link-up. I did find a copy at my local library, although it is called Where’s My Mom? in America. While there, I looked through her other books for ones we hadn’t read yet and found Stick Man. The Goodreads synopsis reads “Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three. But it’s dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan builds her nest with him. He even ends up on a fire! Join Stick Man on his troublesome journey back to the family tree.” It was a cute story, though I wouldn’t say it was my favorite of hers (loved A Gold Star for Zog).
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems – Loved this book. If you missed it, I wrote about it here.
Surprise in the Kitchen by Mary Lee – We downloaded this for free on the Kindle at some point in the past and my three year old loves it. It is a sweet story about a little girl named Mia who loves it when her mom cooks for her and wants to show her mom how much she loves her by making her breakfast in bed. Unfortunately, Mia does not like to cook and is too small to reach some items in the kitchen. She winds up making more of a mess than anything else, but sometimes it is truly the thought that counts.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs #3: Planet of the Pies by Judi Barrett – I don’t generally write negative reviews if I can help it, but I did not like this book. I think it was a tie in with the 2nd movie and in my mind they should have left it at that. The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of my all time favorites and the sequel to that was decent. Don’t let this book color your judgement on a classic tale.
Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman – This is such a fun book to read with a small child. Each animal daddy kisses his child in various places – on the nose, the neck, the paw…And then my daddy kisses me all over. Even as a mom reading it to her child, it is so fun to shower your child with kisses all over at the end of the story and it is a great way to have really little ones learn various body parts.
What happens when you take Mo Willems and give him free reign on Goldilocks? The awesome book Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.
“Once upon a time there were three hungry Dinosaurs. One day – for no particular reason, the three Dinosaurs made up their beds, positioned their chairs just so, and cooked up three bowls of delicious chocolate pudding at varying temperatures.” And then, for no particular reason, they went “Someplace Else and were definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by.”
So begins the re-imagined tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The dinosaurs laugh mischievously and place signs directing Goldilocks to their house, and try to not give away the fact that they are setting a trap for her. “Either way, Goldilocks was not the type of little girl who listened to anyone or anything” like not barging into other people’s houses. She sucks down three enormous bowls of chocolate pudding, who cares about the temperature, it was chocolate, and needs to take a rest. The dinosaurs watch her from outside their bedroom window, waiting for her to go into a chocolate pudding induced slumber, when she finally hears one of them mentioning that their chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon isn’t quite ready and will taste better when she’s rested. Little miss actually takes a moment to think about it and realizes that she is not in the three bears’ house but rather in the dinosaur’s house and high-tales it out of there leaving three very disappointed dinosaurs.
This book was uproariously funny. I loved the tongue in cheek aspect and the simple illustrations. There was a lot of subtle humor through both words and visual gags. I think I laughed even more because my daughter really enjoyed the book but didn’t realize that the dinosaurs were trying to fill her with chocolate so that they could eat her. Part of that was because she had never heard the term bonbon, but regardless, she just thought the story was fun. I have a feeling that if I returned to this book in a few months with her, she would respond differently.
This was a wonderfully funny fractured fairy tale that kept mom and kid smiling throughout.
The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat is coming up next week. Tu B’Shevat is the New Year or birthday of the trees and historically has to do with when you could eat the fruit off of a tree. In Israel, schoolchildren take to the hills and valleys and plant trees “as a response to and celebration of the critical role trees play in our environment and for life itself.” There are not a huge amount of great books specifically aimed at the holiday itself, but there are some really wonderful books about the trees – what they give us and how we can give back to them and the environment as a whole.
Happy Birthday, Tree by Madelyn Rosenberg
This is a special book about appreciating nature and how it is our job to take care of the nature around us. The story is of a young girl who has a favorite climbing tree in her front yard. When Tu B’Shevat comes around, she wants to help her tree celebrate its birthday. She and her friend find lots of ways to honor the tree and realize that the best thing to do is to plant another tree so that it has a companion. The fact that they give the tree a companion shows how we need to remember that nature is alive and we need to love it just as much as the people around us. There are also notes at the end of the book on various ways for us to help the earth.
It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower
This is a great board book for younger kids to understand the holiday. One of the big themes of the holiday is to plant trees. This book focuses on that aspect at the beginning and then highlighting all of the wonderful things that we get from trees – fruit, shade, clean air, a place to swing…This is a great book for young Jewish learners.
A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry
This beautiful picture book is simple and speaks in a language that children truly understand. “Trees are nice. They fill up the sky. They make everything beautiful.” We play in their leaves, we swing from their branches. We pick apples (and other fruit). They are homes to animals. They give us shade. They help keep our homes cooler in the summer and protect us from weather in the winter. A tree is nice – so go plant one. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when we first received it years ago, but it has completely grown on me and now looking at it in comparison to other books out there, I appreciate the beauty in this book and understand the reason it won the Caldecott in 1957.
The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
A very sweet book with outstanding illustrations about some of the jobs that trees do – from feeding and sheltering animals, providing oxygen and being a place for children to play. Short and poetic, but great for explaining the role of trees to a young child.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter (#nfpb2014)
This is the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize. After Kenya gained their independence in the ’60s, commercial farming took root but devastated local farming. Life became incredibly difficult when women had to walk miles to get the wood necessary to cook their food and heat their homes. Wangari planted seedlings and then had village women plant the trees and take care of them. These were “seeds of hope.” Women all over Africa began to plant trees. This book is accessible for young readers and especially powerful after having the more detailed, but less accessible Planting the Trees of Kenya (a great book, but better for older kids).
The Inside Tree by Linda Smith
This is a very silly story about a man who winds up with a tree inside his house. I wouldn’t say that it is exactly “about” trees, but it is a funny look at how you can’t keep them contained.
***********************Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge*************************
I also wanted to note that Wangari’s Trees of Peace is the first of our books that we are counting towards our 50 non-fiction picture books. We are participating in the awesome challenge created by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy. Alyson has listed some awesome books coming out in January and February that I will definitely have to add to my “to read” list.
Generally, I will devote a full post to my non-fiction Wednesday selections, but I wanted to get a few in for the holiday. All of our non-fiction picture books that we read this year will be kept in a bookshelf on Goodreads. Make sure you stop over at Kid Lit Frenzy to see all the other nonfiction picture books showcased by other bloggers.