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!
I love taking a look at different versions of well known fairy tales. While the originals are a force to be reckoned with, there is such a wealth of creativity when authors dream up alternate versions of stories that we know by heart. Recently, we decided to take a look at a wide variety of Goldilocks options.
James Marshall’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic retelling that has been slightly modernized with Marshall’s whimsical illustrations. Goldilocks is a naughty little girl who often ignores her mother’s rules. At the bears’ house, baby bear’s porridge is too hot to eat, so the family goes out for a bike ride and Goldi enters and does her usual damage.
Jan Brett takes the classic story and moves it to Alaska. In Three Snow Bears, Goldilocks is a little Inuit girl who wanders into the bears’ igloo when they go out to let their breakfast cool. She drinks his soup, finds his fur lined boots super comfortable, and gets cozy under his furry blanket. Like most Goldilocks heroines, she runs away when the bears come home, but these bears don’t seem to mind that she visited and wave good-bye to her as she leaves.
For those looking for a non-traditional, non-blonde version of Goldilocks, Yolanda King has written Curlilocks and the Three Pink Pandas. In this story Curlilocks gets sidetracked by butterflies while picking blueberries and gets lost. She finds the pink pandas’ house and goes in. She eats their oatmeal with ghee, untangles her curls with their brushes, then falls asleep in the youngest panda’s bed. When she runs home, she tells her parents what happened. They take her back to the panda’s house so that she can apologize for breaking Pumpkin’s comb and messing things up. Then both families enjoy a lovely meal together. A nice update to the story, especially with her going back to their house and making things right.
Diane Stanley put a great spin on the traditional Goldilocks story by modernizing it and making it less about a nosy girl and instead about a little girl who was looking for a friend. In Goldie and the Three Bears, Goldie knows what she likes and what she doesn’t, but she can’t seem to find a friend who gets her and likes to do similar things. One day she accidentally gets off the school bus at the wrong stop and looks for help. She goes into the house of the three bears and has her usual misadventures. When baby bear finds Goldie in her bed, she is m-a-d mad. But when the little bear takes a running leap into the bed to pounce on Goldie, the two girls wind up using the bed like a trampoline. Rather than running away, Goldie explains what happened and she and Baby Bear become good friends.
Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton change things up by bringing in a musical aspect in Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears. In this story, the three bears are in a rock band but are in need of a soprano to take their group to the next level. While they go out to hold auditions, Goldi finds their house/studio. Rather than the traditional porridge, chair and bed, Goldi tries out their microphones, headphones and instruments. When the bears return unsuccessful, Goldi hits a perfect high C in fright when they wake her up. Once she gets over her shock, they ask her to join the band and they all live happily ever after.
Goldie goes Western in Sunny Lowell’s Dusty Locks and the Three Bears. In this version, Dusty was a dirty little girl who hadn’t bathed in a month. When she runs away from her mother one day, she finds herself at the home of the three bears and barges in. Comically, we are told that if she had just waited, the bears probably would have offered her some of their beans with Western hospitality, but she couldn’t wait. When the bears do come home, they are shocked and amazed by her smell thinking perhaps that she is a skunk. Unlike most Goldilocks stories, this one shows what happens when she gets home – she is scolded for running away and immediately bathed. If she ever ran into the bears again, they wouldn’t recognize her.
One of my all time favorites is Mo Willems’ Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. In this laugh out loud version, there are three dinosaurs who set up chocolate pudding 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.” The dinosaurs are trying to make a tasty meal of the nosy child, but she fortunately figures it out and high tales it out of their house before doom befalls her. I actually did a complete review with pictures a few years ago which you can read here.
Marilyn Tolhurst wrote Somebody and the Three Blaires for her son “who used to be outraged at the way Goldilocks treated the baby bear.” As you may recall, Goldilocks destroys everything that belongs to Baby Bear and then runs away screaming. In this book, the Blaires decide to go for a walk and a bear called Somebody comes into their house. She messes up all sorts of stuff because, as a bear, she doesn’t know any better. Baby Blair thinks each thing is rather comical, especially when he finds Somebody in his crib and says, “Issa big teddy bear.” Somebody escapes down the drainpipe and Baby Blaire invites her to come back to play.
A fun twist on the story comes when we hear the story from a very modern Baby Bear’s perspective. In Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!, Nancy Loewen has taken the story that we all know so well and completely turned it on its head. In this story, Sam (aka Baby Bear) can’t stand porridge so his parents make him go for a walk, because if you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat anything. He sneaks back home and finds Goldilocks in his house taking selfies of herself eating porridge and sitting in various chairs – she’s been dared by Red Riding Hood. When Goldi starts jumping on the beds, Sam asks to be let in so they can play together. Sam pretends to chase Goldi out of the house, but while they are running they trade phone numbers. A great addition to the truly fractured fairy tale grouping.
In a similar vein, Beware of the Bear, by Alan McDonald, shows the bears attempting to get back at Goldilocks for the havoc she wrecked on their house. The bears enter what they believe is Goldi’s house and mess it up – they have a cereal food fight, dance on her furniture, use her bathroom supplies, and have a pillow fight. When Goldi enters the house, the bears jump out to tell her that they decided to pay her a visit. The extra twist happens when we learn that this was just another of the many houses she randomly sneaks into and that it belongs to the big bad wolf!
It is really amazing how many different versions of the same story are out there. Plus, we also enjoy what Chris Colfer does mashing all of the fairy tales together in The Land of Stories series. Do you have a favorite version of a fairy tale?
Today is Roald Dahl day. The comedic genius would have turned 100 today! We have had a long fascination with Dahl so I thought it was appropriate to share J’s summer reading project today since it focused on one of his books.
Roald Dahl wasn’t a big part of my childhood, but J has really taken a liking to his work. I personally love his style and think that he has a marvelous way with kids. Especially in a world where we are focusing so much on science and teaching to tests rather than encouraging a child to explore their creativity, Dahl is an amazingly fresh voice. His stories speak to kids and grab them quickly. He makes the children the heroes and often turns the grown-ups into the villains.
The first book that J ever read by Roald Dahl was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Reading it with her, I realized that it was one I had never read as a child, but the story was one that we both enjoyed together.
When we started getting obsessed with Broadway I introduced J to “Matilda the Musical.” I had to explain the story to her, which then, of course, got her intrigued by the book. She loved it so much that we managed to convince our kids’ book club to read Matilda as well.
Over the summer, she decided to take Dahl’s The Witches with her to summer camp. She fully enjoyed the book and when she was faced with having to do a book report project upon returning to school, she chose The Witches as her book.
The Witches is pure Dahl. As the synopsis says, This is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Ronald Dahl has done it again! Winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, the judges’ decision was unanimous: “funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master.”
J’s project for school was actually to write a picture book version of the novel. She’s never been a huge fan of drawing, but I think she is completely fascinated by Quentin Blake – she notices his work regardless of the author he is illustrating for.
In The Witches, Roald Dahl decided to really focus on the ugly side of witches. Witches have been portrayed in many ways by various authors, but Dahl had a lot of fun making them disgusting, nasty creatures. Who else would think to create witches with such grotesque features?The details of what the witches looked like made for my favorite page in her project.
This story is rather crazy. A young boy and his grandmother wind up in a hotel that happens to also be hosting a witches convention. He accidentally gets himself locked into the room with them and they turn him into a mouse. But it is more than that, they plan to turn ALL children into mice! The young boy and his grandmother turn the tables on them and instead set out to rid the world of witches.
Not everyone is a huge fan of Roald Dahl, but J has certainly gotten a kick out of his work. We love the strength of his young heroes even in the face of some very difficult odds. His work encourages children to think on their toes, to believe in themselves and their power, and to be kind even when those around them haven’t been kind to them. So happy birthday, Mr. Dahl!
My 3 year old loves books with counting. So when I saw the book Count the Monkeys at our library, I decided to check it out for her. It turns out that this is a book that my 3 year old and 7 year old both love to read. That is always a win-win situation.
The Goodreads summary is pretty spot on – “Kids will giggle as they count all the animals that have frightened the monkeys off the pages. Full of fun reader interactions and keeps readers guessing until the very last page! Matching Mac Barnett’s brilliant wit are Kevin Cornell’s luminous illustrations, which will have young readers begging to count the monkeys all over again.”
The joy in this book is that while you think you are going to get to county monkeys, you really get to count everything else. First it’s the king cobra who has scared off all of the monkeys. The reader is told to “turn the page very slowly, very carefully so he doesn’t notice us.” It continues in this vein as each page gives you something to count, but not the monkeys you were looking for. Each page has something for the children to do – roar at grizzly bears, thank the nice beekeepers who shoo off the swarms of bees, high five the lumberjacks. But then you finally get rid of all of the intruders and there are no pages left!
Interactive books are great fun for kids and make read-aloud time even more special and engaging. My 7 year old mentioned that they read this book in her class and all of her friends loved it as well. If you are looking for a good story-time read, this one is top notch.
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. But what if Old MacDonald decided to get a dragon? This very funny story by Ken Baker takes a look at that possibility.
Old MacDonald sits on his porch one day and starts to sing the classic tune that everyone knows and loves. Suddenly, his cow walks up and interrupts him – “I’ve got a beef with you. Dragons don’t belong on farms.”
He tells MacDonald that it is him or the dragon. “Faster than the farmer could sing E-I-E-I-O, the dragon swooped out of the sky, gulped down the cow, and swallowed it whole.” This continues as the pig and ram both give the farmer the same type of speech. When the dragon swallows Roscoe the dog, the farmer finally has enough.
To add to the humor, at least for the adult reader, each time the dragon swallows an animal he makes some sort of lip licking comment like “delicious dairy” or “savory swine.” Additionally, the dragon is swallowing the animals without chewing them and grows larger and larger with each animal. When he swallows the cow, he flies away. By the time it got the sheep, the whole herd of them, he “wilted its wings and waddled away.”
We have had a lot of fun with this book. I read it to J, I read it to E, J read it to E, this one has gotten a lot of play in the last two weeks. There was great repetition, fun singing the song that we all know by heart, and the book was just plain silly, ending with the whole gang being burped out in a slimy heap. When reading it to E, it was also a great opportunity for her to ask questions about unknown words – “what’s dairy?” This would be an awesome book to read during story time or just when you want a good laugh with your kids.
There comes a time when you realize that you and your child have very different viewpoints on what makes something good. Take Dora for example. J loved her for a number of years and I can’t bear to listen to the theme song at this point. But it happens with books too. A big part of it has to do with what kids find funny versus what adults like. Disney has done a great job with their movies in making them appealing to both audiences, but it doesn’t always work (take Mulan). Well, Chloe and the Lion is one of those books that I wouldn’t include on our list, but J keeps asking me to read it to her and since this is her blog too, I need to be sure to showcase stuff that she really likes. Apparently, it seems that I’m in the minority anyway, because this book gets rave reviews on goodreads.
The books really isn’t about Chloe and a lion. The book is really about Mac Barnett and Adam Rex. It starts off normally enough. After meeting the author, the illustrator, and the main character, we learn that Chloe likes to spend her weeks looking for loose change so that she can ride the merry-go-round on the weekends. One week she finds so much change that she rides over and over, gets a little dizzy and loses her way in the forest. Then a “huge lion leapt out from behind an oak tree,” except it wasn’t a lion and this is where the 4th wall of our story comes crashing down.
At this point, the story really becomes about the relationship between author and illustrator and the trials of working with someone else.In the end, it is Chloe who saves the day and gets Adam out of the belly of the lion. Way to go Chloe!
I think that showing how two people need to work together when collaborating on a project is a great topic and this book approaches it in a marvelous way. Somehow the book just wasn’t my style. As I said though, J loved it. This was definitely different from a lot of the other books we’ve read, so in that sense, it was great to see her enjoying something completely different. It gets hard to find picture books that capture a child’s attention when they are strong readers well versed in chapter books, but we are always on the lookout for something good.