Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book #213: A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein

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This cumulative book features a small boy and his pet giraffe and considers the question, “If you had a giraffe…and he stretched another half…you would have a giraffe and a half.” The turn of each page adds another rhyming element to the list – a rat in a hat, a rose in his nose, a bee on his knee – until the giraffe is precariously covered with animals and objects. Luckily, the second half of the book is devoted to removing one rhyme at a time, until the boy is left standing with a giraffe.

The tongue-twisting text is a challenge to read aloud, but you’ll win over the kids just by trying. There is no dialogue, just rhyming description of the actions. The book is illustrated in Silverstein’s classic black ink on white paper style. The giraffe himself is quite amazing; he dances, rides a bike, plays a flute, and all sorts of ungiraffe-like activities.

Pair this book with Giraffes Can’t Dance for a giraffe or “G” storytime. Check out the National Geographic Kids Giraffe Creature Feature page. Follow up with crafts like giraffe handprints (make the necks really long if you want to make giraffe and a halfs) or giraffe headbands.

After you read the book, ask the kids to name rhyming pairs they remember from the book. Then ask them what other rhyming pairs they could add to the story. Write the words on a whiteboard so kids can visually see the word pairs. You could also have them choose an animal to create their own book with rhyming pairs. This can be done individually or in groups. If possible, bring in a few rhyming dictionaries for kids to consult. Follow up with more books with rhyming pairs, such as The Magic Hat and The Hungry Thing.

Have a Shel Silvertein celebration (his birthday is September 25) and pair this book with Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?


Monday, July 30, 2012

Book #212: To the Beach by Thomas Docherty

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It’s a rainy day, but this little boy is ready to go to the beach. He’s got his goggles and snorkel, his flippers and bathing suit, his bucket and shovel, and of course, his big yellow inner tube. Looking out the window, he imagines what else he’d need to get to the beach. An airplane, a sailboat, a truck, a camel! After frolicking on the beach, he hops on a tanker, a helicopter, a bike, and a tractor and finally he’s home. But where will he go next?

The watercolor, pen, and ink illustrations are the focal point of this sundrenched book. Each mode of transportation takes the boy into a new landscape from the lush green jungle forests to the icy plains of Antarctica. The boy always travels left to right propelling the reader forward to each page turn. The illustrations also give clues to the reader about the next mode of transportation. The text is minimal. After the boy begins his journey, most pages simply state the name of the transportation he’s traveling on.

This is a wonderful book to use as a snappy wrap up at the end of storytime when kids have a shorter attention span because the plot is simple and short. Engage the group by having them act out movements, such as using your arms like the wings of an airplane, moving your legs like you’re riding a bike, and bouncing up and down on a truck.

This quick read can be paired with How Will We Get to the Beach? and The Rattletrap Car for a beach or summer themed storytime

You could also use it for a transportation or traveling storytime and pair it with Along a Long Road, Boats: Speeding! Sailing! Cruising! and Toot Toot Zoom!

After you read the book, ask the kids what other kinds of transportation the boy could use to get to the beach. Extend this into a writing activity by having kids write and illustrate how they would get to the beach, the lake, the mountains, or another destination of their choice.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book #211: Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

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Ella Sarah knows exactly what she wants to wear this morning:

“My pink polka-dot pants,
my dress with orange-and-green flowers,
my purple-and-blue striped socks,
my yellow shoes,
and my red hat.”

Unfortunately, the rest of Ella Sarah’s family has other ideas. Her mother thinks the outfit is too dressy and suggests she wear a nice blue dress. Her father thinks she should wear her yellow T-shirt and white shorts. And her sister pulls out her old overalls. But Ella Sarah is adamant and so she puts on her colorful outfit. She thinks she looks just right and so do all her friends who arrive for a fancy pretend tea party.

The illustrations in this Caldecott Honor book are bright, created with silhouetted shapes and printed patterns. Vibrant colors and a variety of printmaking techniques are used to create Ella Sarah’s world. Chodos-Irvine has clearly put a lot of thought into the layout of the illustrations. Sometimes the whole page is filled with a close up of Ella Sarah’s face, while another page features a series of smaller illustrations that show Ella Sarah getting dressed. The text moves along quickly. The description of Ella Sarah’s preferred outfit is frequently repeated, much like the chorus of a song.

I love Ella Sarah’s unique sense of style and the way she solidly sticks with her choice of clothing. Although her family suggests other outfits, they allow Ella Sarah to make the final decision.

Use this book for a storytime about colors and/or patterns and pair it with Press Here. You could also use it for a storytime about clothes and getting dressed, paired with Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

This is a great story to read with a flannelboard. Make felts pieces for each item of clothing Ella Sarah wants to wear. Each time you repeat the list in the story, point to the pieces on the felt board so the kids can repeat the list with you. When Ella Sarah finally puts her outfit on, you can put all the pieces together.

Follow up by making clothes from scrap paper, fabric, and notions for Ella Sarah paper dolls. If you use fabric, you may want to use cardboard to back the paper dolls to make them stiffer.

Have an Ella Sarah tea party. Put out dress up clothes for kids to choose an outfit or ask them to wear their favorite outfit to the party. Serve water or juice in colorful tea cups. You could make cookies with pink or for a healthier option celery sticks with peanut butter and raisin "polka-dots."

Scholastic has a short lesson plan, which also includes a PDF with reproducible drawings of Ella Sarah’s clothes.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book #210: What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson

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At the concert tonight the animals will be performing a new song composed and conducted by Mr. Hebert Timberteeth. The curtains open and the song starts out simply enough; lions that like to prowl, wolves that like to howl, pigeons that like to coo, and cows that like to dig. Wait, what? Cows that like to dig? Hebert can’t believe his ears. One animal and then another and another  changes the lyrics to sing about what they really like to do. Finally, they convince Herbert to let them sing the song their way. Pretty soon the pages are full of ballet dancing pigeons, deep-sea diving horses, ping-pong playing kangaroos, and more. As the animals sing their thanks the curtains close and the audience cheers for the wonderful, new song written by Mr. Hebert Timberteeth.

The text begins with rhyming text, but just like the song, the text veers off into the unknown in a delightfully chaotic manner after the animals take over. Herbert, a beaver in a tuxedo, is a charming straight man against the offbeat animals. The pen, ink, and marker illustrations continue the tongue-in-cheek style of humor. Robinson’s precisely drawn characters cavort across the pages, using every bit of space available. This is a concert, so the animals are dressed in evening clothes; it’s hilarious to see the worms bowling in their bow ties and the warthogs parachuting in their pink puff-sleeved dresses. The book is cleverly designed with two sets of flap pages for the opening and closing of the stage curtains.

The book is all dialogue, which makes it a fun book to read aloud. I like to sing the lyrics of the song to some sort of tune (usually one made up on the spot) and I read Herbert’s lines as dramatically and outrageously as possible. At one point, Herbert directly addresses the audience to ask if they would like to hear what the animals really like. Make sure to pause for the kids to shout, “Yes!”

Behind the silliness of the story, there’s also a message about not making generalizing about individuals just because they belong to a group. Have kids make a list of activities they really like to do. They might be surprised to find other people in the group like to do the same activity, too.

Use this book with Zoozical for a storytime about musical performances by animals. Both books would be appropriate for a preschool or older group.You could also pair this book with Giraffes Can’t Dance for a storytime about being yourself and dancing to the beat of your own drum.

Many of the male animals in the book wear bow ties, so follow up with a bow tie pasta or Farfalle craft. Draw animals and then glue the pasta on to make bow ties, hair bows, or dresses made of bows. 

If you have a group of older kids try singing the Orchestra Song, also called the Instrument Song. You may recognize it from You've Got Mail. I’ve found quite a few different versions of the lyrics, but the version from the movie is the one I know best.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Book #209: Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
This collection of 24 haikus is divided into sections for each of the four seasons, starting with spring and ending with winter. As Racka points out in his author’s note, haikus are written in present tense and all of the poems in this book feature present tense activities. Reynold’s simply colored illustrations show the boys in this collection in constant motion; they fly kites, climb trees, rake leaves, and have icicle sword fights. As well as being concise and clever observations, many of the poems conclude with a snappy punch line.

“Pine tree invites me
to climb him up to the sky.
How can I refuse?”

Reynold’s multicultural cast of boys is wonderful. By turns mischievous, playful, thoughtful, and serious, the boys celebrate the joys of nature and boyhood. For each season Reynolds has chosen a single color to augment his simple color palate of browns, blacks, whites, and grays. For instance, summer uses a sunshine gold, while winter is surrounded by cool blue reminiscent of shadows on a snowy landscape. The poems are delightful as a collection, but also stand well on their own. Together the poems create a tapestry of the season, but read alone a single poem captures a moment in that seasonal time.

Although the poems are geared towards young boys, they can be enjoyed equally well by girls. Read the entire book cover to cover for an introduction to the haiku form of poetry. Alternatively you can use selected poems as transitions during a seasonal storytime.

Pull out Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors, Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems, Mathematickles and any other seasonal or nature themed poetry in your collection and have kids select poems for a four seasons poetry performance. If you have a large group, split into four groups and assign each group a season to select and perform.  

The Guyku website is wonderful. Check out the tips on writing guykus and then encourage your boys to write and illustrate their own haiku to join the Guyku Club. And don’t worry if you’re a girl, you can still join the Guyku Club by writing a galku.

Show the kids these meet the author/illustrator videos that feature Raczka and Reynolds talking about the reasons for creating Guyku. Raczka’s interview closely follows his author’s note at the back of the book. Reynolds covers the topics in his illustrator’s note, but he also includes more insight into his work and motivations.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book #208: Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky,

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Zebra’s in charge of this alphabet show and he’s determined everything will run like clockwork. Unfortunately, Moose is a little over zealous. It’s just so difficult to wait for his turn! M is halfway through the alphabet! Will Zebra be able to keep the show running smoothly? Will Moose get to be in the show?

Each mixed media illustration is framed with a band of color and shows animals and objects against a simple pastel background. Each page features a single letter and what it stands for, “A is for Apple, B is for Ball.” Against this trite background, Moose’s humorous antics pop to the forefront. The text of the alphabet book is printed in large letters with dialogue between characters in speech bubbles. As with the text, the fun illustrations appear when Moose interrupts the orderly show. I love the pages that shows Moose having a tantrum because Mouse has been chosen over Moose for the letter M, he stomps his feet in the pie (for the letter P) and upsets the queen and owl (for Q and O) turning the page into a jammy mess of hoof prints and letters.

This is a fun alphabet book for Kindergarteners who already know their ABC’s. They’ll be eager to correct you when you say “D is for Moose” and by the end of the book they’ll be cheering for Moose to have his moment in the spotlight.

Play around with the Alphabet Song after you read this book. Stand in a circle, see if you can sing or recite the alphabet backwards with each person saying one letter. Can half the group sing it forward and the other half backwards? Can you meet at M in the middle?

Pair this book with Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein for an interrupting storytime. Follow up by telling interrupting jokes (interrupting cow, interrupting chicken, etc.).

Have an entire storytime about moose (Moose would approve). You could also read If You Give a Moose a Muffin and them make some moose hand-print headbands (the website calls them reindeer antlers, but they work as moose antlers, too).

The book trailer is hilarious and provides a “behind the scenes” look at the making of this book. With a few interruptions by Moose, of course.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book #207: This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, Illustrated by R. G. Roth

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Set to the classis children’s song, This Old Man, this book features 9 iconic and legendary jazz musicians. From Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the jazz men in this book tap, scat, and jam their way across the pages in a musical and rhythmic celebration of their lives and music:

“These jazz men, they play ten,
We beg them to play again,
With an ‘Encore! We want more!’
Give them all a hand,
These jazz men make one great band!”

Ehrhardt’s text is rhythmic and playful; each verse of the song features a number and a line of scat. The illustrations, created with mixed media collage and printmaking techniques, are a riot of colors, patterns, brush strokes, and shapes. Like jazz, the illustrations combine clean, crisp lines and shapes with free and loose brush strokes and paint splatters. Each two page spread features the musician playing, singing, or tapping with panache. Curling around each musician are hand-drawn words that provide a scatting version of the music of that man, “Ticka-tocka-ticka-tucka! Slap! Pop-pop!”

At the end of the book a brief biography of each of the 9 musicians is provided. Information includes place of birth and major songs played/composed. As per the title, all the musicians are male. Although the feminist in me wishes the book featured a few women, I know that there weren’t nearly as many female jazz musicians during jazz’s formative years.

This book holds up well with or without discussion of the musicians in the book. You can simply read or sing the book, great for a group of preschoolers. If you have older kids you can read the book and then spend some time talking about the musicians and then read the book again. Try singing the original version of This Old Man before you read the book to refresh everyone’s memory.

Pair this book with The Three Swingin’ Pigs, Jazz on a Saturday Night, Jazzy Miz Mozetta, How Do You Wokka-Wokka? or Rap a Tap Tap:Here’s Bojangles – Think of That! for a jazzy storytime. It also makes a great addition to a Black History Month storytime or book display.

Put together a playlist of songs performed by the musicians in the book and play it as kids are coming into storytime. You might also want to play short clips of some of the musicians as you read the book or before you read. Display jazz CDs for parents and kids to check out after storytime.

You can also write all the different sounds the jazz men make on a whiteboard. Then when you get to the last verse have the entire group repeat all the sounds.

Cut kitchen sponges into the shapes of musical instruments to make stamps to use with paint. Have kids stamp a few instruments on a piece of paper and then draw the musicians, the curtains, and anything else they can think of around the stamps. Ask the kids what song their musicians are playing and have them write the title on their drawing. Kids can also make up a line of scat and write that on the page too. You can also use scrap paper if you want to incorporate collage elements like Roth does in the book.

For more activities and ideas, check out the curriculumguide written by Ehrhardt and Susan B. Katz.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book #206: Hey, Pancakes! by Tamson Weston, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
There’s nothing like a stack of pancakes covered in butter and syrup to make getting out of bed easier in the morning! The three siblings in this story cook up a pancake storm with a “sift, stir, whir, whisk.” They don’t just cook and eat the pancakes; they celebrate the wonderfulness of pancakes with snappy rhymes and exuberant joy:

“With a little dab of maple behind each ear,
go out in the world and give a pancake cheer!”

Weston’s rhyming text is more like a chant or cheer, with lots of exclamations, “Shazzam!” “Holy Cow!” Gammell takes the text and runs; there’s no end to the imaginative ways the kids cook and eat pancakes. They cook pancakes in different shapes, flip them through the air, eat them with syrup and jam and berries, and even stash a few in the basement (for later). The illustrations are colorful and chaotically joyful. Splatters of color (or maybe pancake batter?) adorn each page, as the round-faced, button-nosed children eat pancake after pancake.

If you have access to a kitchen, the most natural thing to want to do after reading this book is to make some pancakes. Luckily, Weston and Gammell have included a recipe for Grandma’s Pancakes in the back of the book. Make round pancakes and have kids make pancake faces with jam, berries, and any other toppings you can scrounge up. Or make pancakes in different shapes and take turns saying what you think it looks like.

Use this book for a storytime about food or breakfast and pair it with If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff, Pancakes Pancakes by Eric Carle, or The Hungry Thing by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler. Older kids will love songs like Fried Ham and Apples and Bananas.

Most of the pancakes in the story are round (or round-ish), so use this book for a storytime about circles. You could use books about other round foods, such as The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems, or just circles in general, like Press Here by Herve Tullet. Use some round potholders and have a pancake toss, instead of a water balloon toss.

Make some pancakes out of cardboard and practice counting, addition, and subtraction. Ask kids how many pancakes they’d like to eat, have them count that number onto their plate. Then ask them how many pancakes they would have if they ate 2 or if you gave them 3 more. If your kids really get into the counting, see if they can count all the pancakes in the book!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Book #205: Bea at Ballet by Rachel Isadora

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Bea loves to dance and she especially loves her ballet class. She puts on her tights, pink leotard, and ballet slippers and steps into the studio with her friends. The book follows the preschoolers through their class from circle time, through the five positions, to bowing, or reverence, at the end of class. Bea and her friends show the reader the different ways dancers move their feet, from point to flex to relevĂ©, as well as a few other steps, such as arabesques and attitudes. As Bea leaves the studio, she turns to wave, “See you next week!”

Through this book Isadora, a former dancer, shows children what to expect from ballet class. The text is simple and printed in a large and round font. The children add their own comments to the story in colorful speech bubbles. Isadora takes care to label items and movements so that children learn the correct terminology. I especially love the pages that show the clothing Bea and her friend, Sam (a boy), wear to class. Set against a simple white background the leotards, tights, and other attire provide the color in the pen and ink illustrations. The 3 boys and 6 girls in the class, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, perform the movements at differing levels of expertise and with childlike enthusiasm. Through it all, Isadora, as well as Bea's love of dance is evident.

If your child is starting ballet class soon, this is the perfect book to introduce them to the format and conventions of class. The children in the book are playful, yet respectful of their teacher, Ms. Nancy, the pianist, Mr. Paul, and the class as a whole.

You can also use this for a ballet or dance themed storytime. Try pairing it with Brontorina, Rap a Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles - Thinkof That or The Twelve Dancing Princesses (I like the version retold by Brigette Barrager). Get the children up to try the positions and movements mentioned in the book. After you read the book, turn on music and clap along to the rhythm as kids do in the book. And, of course, pull out that box of scarves and let the kids dance!

Have kids draw pictures and label the clothing they wear to class or another group activity (such as soccer, swimming, or even storytime). There are no wrong or right answers to this activity. If kids have a difficult time getting started, ask them questions like, “What kind of shoes do you wear?” or “Do you wear a hat for this activity?”

If you want to follow up with a craft, try making these ballerina finger puppets. The puppet slips onto your fingers and your fingers become their legs. To make this craft faster, pre-cut the dancers. You may want to provide a child size and adult size puppet since children have much smaller fingers than adults.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book #204: City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Illustrated by Marcellus Hall

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

This collection of 18 poems takes the reader on a journey to cities around the world. With his backpack in tow a small brown dog travels the world observing as he goes. From New York to Cairo, Moscow to Rio De Janeiro, cities everywhere are celebrated:

“Sing a song of cities.
If you do,
Cities will sing back
                                    to you.”

The poems are a mix of previously published poems and new pieces by Hopkins. Some poems are short; just a few carefully chosen words convey a world of meaning. While others are longer; with phrases that sing like a repeating chorus. Alliteration and imagery are present at every corner of Hopkins cityscape of poems. The illustrations, created with brush, ink, and watercolor, underline the movement in the text with movement on the page. Hall strikes a wonderful balance between the straight lines of skyscrapers and streets with swirls and curves of music, movement, water, and people. The illustrations have a timeless quality, although there’s no doubt the dog is traveling in modern times. Speaking of the dog, he seems to be the unnamed protagonist of the book, even though we never figure out why he’s traveling.

Make sure to point out the map on the endpapers because it shows each of the cities featured in the illustrations. See if you can match each illustration to it’s city. Pull out a map and figure out how many miles the dog has traveled between cities.

Kids who live in big cities will identify with the objects, people, and concepts in these poems quite easily, but children who live in rural or suburban settings may need more introduction and explanation. For instance, there are many kids who have never even seen a taxi, so they won't have a clue how to hail one! Other things that may need explanation include gondolas, fire hydrants (used for play, rather than for fighting fires), and subways.

Several of these poems are good candidates for a children’s poetry performance. For instance, have children stand shoulder to shoulder or chair to chair as they pretend to bounce along on a subway. Break up the lines of “Subways are People” with one, two, or a few children per line. The opening and closing poems, “Sing a Song of Cities” and “City I Love” would be fun as a choral reading. Try meshing two poems with similar or juxtaposing themes alternating a line from each for a poetry performance in counterpoint. This would be fun to do with “Snow City” and City Summer.”

Check out this jazzy book trailer for an idea of the flavor of the book.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book #203: Will Rogers: An American Legend by Frank Keating, Illustrated by Mike Wimmer

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This beautifully illustrated picture book biography captures the spirit, as well as the depth and breadth, of Will Rogers, legendary comedian, entertainer, actor, pilot, politician, and philosopher of the early 20th century. The book begins with Will’s humble beginnings on his father’s ranch in Oklahoma and ends with an illustration of a newspaper clipping of the plane crash that tragically ended his life. The pages between briefly touch on the many aspects of Will’s life, from his love of learning to his love for his wife and children, from his passion for aviation to his ability to connect with all types of people and make them laugh.

The text, just a few lines per page, provides a sketch of the man, rather than a detailed history of his life. There are no dates or years in the text, however each page does include a quote from Rogers. The text is presented as typewritten notes on the left side of the page with detailed photo-realistic paintings on the right side of the page. Some illustrations are based off of famous photographs of Rogers, while others come from Wimmer’s imagination.

The only thing I would add to this book would be back matter with more information about Rogers, such as a chronology timeline of his life and a further reading list. However, the author does include a short bibliography of quotation sources on the copyright page.

Use this book as an introduction to Rogers for kindergarten through 2nd grade kids or as a teaser to kick off more in-depth research on Rogers’ life for upper elementary or middle school kids.

For more information about Rogers’ life, as well as photographs, quotes, and more check out the website for the Will Rogers Memorial Museums in Claremore and Oologah, OK. The museum also provides a link to the PDF of their kids scavenger hunt. Although the information is meant to be discovered in the museum exhibits, many of the questions and answers will be of interest to kids.

In 1929 Will Rogers ran for U.S. President, so this book can be a great tie in to a social studies unit on American politics. Check out the Will Rogers & American Politics lesson plan meant for 4th grade and up. You must have a login to see the teacher materials, but the interactive student materials are available to the public.

Watch Rogers in this excerpt from the silent film, The Ropin’ Fool, to get an idea of his mastery of the lasso. It’s harder to twirl a rope than you might think (trust me, I’ve tried). Check around your area to see if there’s a lasso artist willing to perform for your group. If kids want to try it themselves, make sure each child has plenty of room so you don’t end up with rope injuries.

Rogers’ life was celebrated in the Broadway musical, The Will Rogers Follies, which features a great song based on one of Rogers’ famous sayings, Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like. Play the song for the kids and talk about the different kinds of people mentioned in the song or even better, teach the song to the kids. The finale version includes more verses.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Book #202: 13 Words by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Maira Kalman

Image from LemonySnicket.com
The ever clever Lemony Snicket, author of The Series of Unfortunate Events, has created a surreal and humorous story out of 13 seemingly unrelated words. The story begins with a bird (word #1) who is despondent (word #2) so he eats some cake (word #3) with his friend, a dog (word #4). The dog decides to cheer the bird up by getting him a hat (word #8) from the haberdashery (word #9). The bird likes her hat very much and then a mezzo-soprano (word #13) walks in with more cake and sings about the events of the day. Everyone eats cake, but the bird is still just a little bit despondent.

Snicket, the pen name for author Daniel Handler, doesn’t just connect the dots in this story, he adds his unique blend of ironic and black humor to create a surreal story that is oddly captivating. You really don’t know what the next word will be. What new event will be revealed? Who will walk through the door next? The vocabulary is impressive and sophisticated, but Snicket manages to define words within in the story in a witty way. There are details that seem to be included in the story, just because they tickled Snicket’s funny bone, such as the goat in the spiffy jacket that drives the convertible. You may ask “why?”, but I think Snicket might answer, “why not?”

The painterly illustrations create a surreal visual world to go along with the text. Realism has no place here. Perspective and relative size are disregarded. For instance, as the dog and the goat drive to town, the road winds through a landscape of multicolored hills, giant animals, twisted trees, and even an angel with a tambourine.  The colors are bright and the brush strokes are proudly displayed.

For a look at the illustrations and a list of all 13 words, check out this book trailer humorously narrated by Snicket.
This story is great for older kids (8-12), who will be able to appreciate the humor of the story. Before you read the story, ask the kids what they think the title means. What are the 13 words? Do you think there’s a reason Snicket picked 13 instead of 12 or 14? As you read the story, write the 13 words on a whiteboard so that kids can have a visual reference throughout the reading.

Have kids write their own story using 13 words. You can have them pick words out of a dictionary at random or write words on slips of paper and have them draw them out of a hat or, if you have a large group, put together envelopes with 13 words each and pass them out. I would suggest a mix of animals, verbs, object nouns, and adjectives. Provide plenty of dictionaries and thesauruses so they can look up their words. If you have time, have them illustrate their stories as well. Invite kids to read their story aloud to the group.

At the end of the book, the mezzo-soprano sings a song that recaps the events of the story. If you’re feeling creative, make up your own tune for the lyrics or play Nico Muhl’s version of the song.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book #201: One More Sheep by Mij Kelly, Illustrated by Russell Ayto

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

It’s a wild and windy night, so Sam brings his sheep inside to sleep. He knows he has 10 sheep and he knows he should count them all, but when he gets to 4 he falls fast asleep. It’s really too bad that happened to Sam because there’s also a wolf who lives on the moor and pretty soon he's dressed like a sheep and knocking on Sam’s door. The 10 sheep know he’s not one of them, but Sam isn’t sure because he’s never able to count the sheep without falling asleep! Will the sheep be able to convince Sam before he let’s the wolf in the door?

The watercolor, pen and ink illustrations are angular, full of stripes, lines, and plaids. Ayto uses a pattern of overlapping squares to represent the moors, as well as the quilt on Sam’s bed. The rhyming text rolls off the tongue with ease. The indignant sheep frequently add their own two cents to the story. Their vocabulary shows they aren’t just dumb and boring sheep; they use words like, “uncouth” and “appalling.” The layout of the text is notable as well; the narrative says in nice, neat lines, but the dialogue from the sheep criss-crosses the page.

This book is great for a storytime because there’s just enough counting to engage the kids, but not so much that the story becomes tedious. If you’re reading the story at home, you could stop to count all 10 sheep on nearly every page.

Use this book with Woolbur, Where is the Green Sheep, or Another Brother for a storytime about sheep.

Play a game of Hide and Sheep. Have one child be Sam and the others hide as the sheep. If you have a large group, set a timer to see how many sheep can be found in 5 minutes or stop when Sam finds 10 sheep. I also like the idea posted on the Vote For Books wiki to create an accordion book to count the 10 sheep.

You could also pair this book with Pajama Pirates, Timothy and the Strong Pajamas, or Maybe a Bear Ate It for a pajama storytime. Follow up by folding origami pajama tops and bottoms. I posted this craft for another book, but it’s one of my favorites. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book #200: President Pennybaker by Kate Feiffer, Illustrated by Diane Goode

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

It all started because Luke Pennybaker wanted to watch TV and his father wouldn’t let him. Luke realized life was unfair and he decided to become president so he could do whatever he could to change that. And that’s how Luke Pennybaker became the youngest boy ever to run for president. He campaigned from coast to coast and he answered questions from the press. And even though he wasn’t old enough to vote in the election, Luke Pennybaker, and his VP, his dog Lily, won by a landslide! But what happens when being President isn’t exactly what Luke imagined it would be like?

Feiffer’s text is perfect for a read aloud and kids will identify with the unfairness that Luke Pennybaker encounters as a child. There’s a humorous style to the writing as well, which children and adults alike will enjoy. The watercolor illustrations set the story around the 1920’s or 1930’s. There are old cars, TVs, and telephones. The orange and blue theme that runs throughout the book helps to tie the illustrations together.

Pair this book with Madam President by Lane Smith for a Presidential election unit. As both books address the somewhat complex idea of the presidency, it is best to share them with an elementary school aged group.

This is also a good book to read if your school has class president elections. Even if your class doesn't, have a mock presidential election. Encourage all students to write their own campaign speech. What things would they change? What would they promise? Would they have a slogan? Who would their vice president be?

After you read the book pull out a U.S. map and find all the states mentioned in the book.

Check out this book trailer for a look at the illustrations.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book #199: Extra! Extra! Fairy-Tale News from Hidden Forest by Alma Flor Ada, Illustrated by Leslie Tryon

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Extra! Extra! Ada and Tryon use a clever newspaper format to tell the stories of several fairy tale characters. Through sequential issues of the Hidden Forest News classic stories, from Jack and the Beanstalk to the Tortoise and the Hare are told. The newspaper includes headlines on the strange massive beanstalk that has sprouted in the forest, op-eds on what should be done about the beanstalk, international news about Geppetto and the Half-Chicken of Mexico, as well as tongue in cheek advertisements on the back page.

The book uses illustrations in two ways. First, as black and white spot illustrations printed in the newspaper. Second, there are color illustrations that show Peter Rabbit delivering newspapers to residents all over Hidden Forest. These illustrations serve to not only show who is reading the news, but also serve as dividers between issues. Ada uses newspaper conventions, such as headlines and quotations, to provide visual, as well as textual interest. Ada’s vocabulary is rich with descriptive words to learn and share, such as “proposed,” “eliminated,” “extracted,” and “resilient.”

This book is best shared with an elementary school aged audience, as the book has a lot of text and several plots are presented at the same time. You may want to read the classic fairy tales mentioned in this book first so that kids will catch the references in the newspapers. After you read the book, have the kids help you make a list of all the fairy tales and characters mentioned in the newspaper.

After you read the first issue, encourage the kids to volunteer to read the next column or headline. Make sure to note the date of each newspaper as you read and refer back to the last issue so that everyone can see how many days have passed. As you read, discuss the difference between news stories and the opinion-editorials. Which type of story presents the facts and which one is written from a personal point of view? Why do you think it’s important for the newspaper to include both?  

Best of all, have the kids make their own newspaper. You can complete a simple newspaper in a few short hours or you can stretch this project out over days, weeks, or months. If you want them to write about other fairy tale characters provide collections and picture book variations and versions of fairy tales for the kids to use as source materials. Other possible topics for a newspaper include news from:
  • A single children’s book (such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda)
  • A children’s book series (think Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, or The Penderwicks)
  • A specific genre (such as mystery or fantasy)
  • A single author/illustrator’s works (such as Shel Silverstein or Tomie DePaola)
  • A favorite movie
  • Or people/animals in a certain location (like animals in the zoo or sea creatures in an aquarium).

Have the kids make a list of the types of columns to be included in the newspaper (headlines, sports section, op-eds, ads, etc.). Then you’ll need to assign writers to each column, choose a name for the newspaper, and don’t forget to include illustrations! If you have a digital camera, you can also give the kids the option of acting out a scene so a picture can be included in the paper.

Depending on the technology and the kids preference, you can create the newspaper in a completely digital format, it can be all hand-written/drawn and then scanned, or you can create a combination of the two techniques. Just make sure you have a way to print copies of the newspaper for everyone in the group. If you have the money, you may want to print off extra copies that can be delivered to other classes/groups or posted on a community board.

Consider letting your local newspaper know that your library is hosting such a program, they may want to feature reporters in the making. A great confidence boost for the kids and good marketing for the library!

For more news about the residents of Hidden Forest, check out Ada’s other books including With Love, Little Red Hen, Yours Truly Goldilocks, and Dear Peter Rabbit. Each of these books presents information as letters written from and to fairy tale characters.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Book #198: “More More More,” Said the Baby: 3 Love Stories by Vera B. Williams

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

Each of the three very short stories in this picture book for babies and toddlers features a charming baby and a caring adult – a daddy, a mama, a grandma. Blonde-headed Little Guy runs away from his daddy, only to be thrown up in the air and then kissed right in the middle of his belly button. Little Pumpkin scoots down the hall, but Grandma is faster and she scoops Little Pumpkin up to kiss his toes. And then there’s Little Bird, who falls asleep so fast Mama catches her just in time, rocking her into bed with a kiss on each sleeping eye.

Each story in this Caldecott Honor Book repeats the same structure, making kids feel comfortable and safe. The positive text uses repetition of phrases and the babies are praised for just being their wonderful selves. The painterly illustrations are bright, with visible brush strokes adding texture and movement to the page. Williams uses a multicultural cast of babies and adults to create an atmosphere of acceptance and love. I especially love that African-American Little Pumpkin has a grandmother with bright blonde hair.

This is a fun story to read at a lapsit or toddler storytime because there are lots of places for parents to catch, kiss, and otherwise interact with their child. The other nice thing about this book is that if you feel the reading is getting too long you can easily end it after the first or second story. You could even stop between stories to do a rhyme or song, like Say, Say Oh Baby (to the tune of Say, Say Oh Playmate) or Two Little Hands.

Check out the parent’s guide written by King County Library System, which includes tips for sharing this book with your baby, as well as rhymes and discussion topics.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book #197: Night Knight by Owen Davey

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Knights, even this small one, know that going to bed is an adventure. This young knight knows that you have to be careful of alligators while brushing your brush and that your armor and other valuables must be put away before climbing the tower into bed and falling asleep next to your trusty steed. Night knight!

This short and sweet book is great for a toddler or preschool audience. The pages are full up with castles and dragons, armor and animals, with just a few words describing actions per page. The digital media illustrations stylishly render the boy’s world in mustard-y golds, burnt reds and oranges, and creamy ivory. The flat images are simultaneously reminiscent of medieval tapestries and 21st century graphic design. Light and dark are emphasized in many of the illustrations. The book begins with the sun shining brightly off the knight’s armor and finishes with a full moon floating above his bedroom.

Pair this book with The Knight and the Dragon or King Jack and the Dragon for a storytime about knights and dragons.

If you are reading with a small group, have the kids look for the details in the illustrations. Look for the objects that keep the boy’s imaginative adventures ever-so-slightly grounded in reality, such as the closet door in the mountain, the sink faucets in the alligator’s lagoon, and the sandwich in his chest of treasures.

Other elements to look at during subsequent readings include finding all the animals cleverly incorporated into the illustrations. I found an owl, a fox, cattle, a ladybug, a crab, a turtle, just to name a few.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book #196: Apples & Oranges Going Bananas With Pairs by Sara Pinto

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“How are an apple and an orange alike?”

Did you say they were both fruits? No. Foods? No. From trees? No. They both don’t wear glasses! So begins this book of illustrated offbeat and quirky riddles. Each page shows a pair of items, such as a bike and a motorcycle, a spoon and a fork, and a bird and a kite, that have an obvious connection. But turn the page and you’ll find the answer to the riddle isn’t exactly what you had guessed it would be.

The text in this book is presented in a straightforward pattern: riddle, answer, riddle, answer. Each answer is always something that the objects or animals don’t do. The watercolor and ink illustrations follow the same pattern. First, the two items in the riddle are shown against a simple background. Turn the page to see an illustration of the two objects/animals doing the ridiculous things the riddle says they don’t do. My favorite is the picture of the cupcake and ice cream cone scuba diving. The book ends with an open ended riddle: “How are you and I alike? We both don’t…” which encourages the reader to answer the riddle on their own.

Use this book to get quiet kids to interact and say their answers out loud. Kids love jokes, even corny ones (I know, because the only jokes I know are corny ones), so make sure you give them time to guess and time to laugh. Have them write their own answer to the riddle at the end of the book or more riddles of the “both don’t” variety. If kids have a difficult time getting started, try giving them pairs to get them started, like a sock and a slipper, an umbrella and a raincoat, or a cup and a bowl.

Invite kids to read their jokes aloud for the group or have kids put their jokes in a hat, mix them up, and have kids choose another person’s joke to read aloud at random.This supports oral fluency and it's a boost to your confidence when other people laugh at your jokes, even when someone else is reading it.

You can introduce Venn diagrams by making lists of all the ways the two items are same/different and then making a diagram to see how they overlap.

Read this for a fruit themed storytime and follow up with the classic Raffi song, Apples and Bananas.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Book #195: What to Do About Alice: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Crazy! by Barbara Kerley, Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

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This picture book biography follows Theodore Roosevelt’s high spirited daughter, Alice, who spent her life, “eating up the world.” Beginning with her childhood and continuing through her marriage to congressman, Nicholas Longworth, Alice’s life is never dull. Although her behavior - dancing all night, owning a pet snake, driving fast cars, traveling the world - was looked upon as outrageous at the time, she became a national celebrity. People all over the country read the papers each morning to see what “Princess Alice” had been up to. In addition, she became one of her father’s most trusted advisors in his political career.

The digital illustrations capture the spirit and vitality of Alice’s character in deep velvet reds, creamy yellows and greens, and of course, “Alice Blue.” Often the text and illustrations egg one another on; the text briefly mentions an event and the illustrations show how Alice brought her unique signature to the situation. Fotheringham deftly captures Alice at many different ages, from curly-headed baby to married woman, however he makes sure Alice is always recognizable. The narrative is told in third person and moves along swiftly. The text is grounded in research and the endpapers at the back of the book include an author’s note with more information about Alice and her father, as well as citations for each of the quotations used in the text.

When you read the book, make sure to define words, terms, and concepts, such as "shriveled" and "runabout." Pull out a world map and find all the places Alice visits in the book. Airplanes hadn’t been invented when Theodore Roosevelt was president, so talk about how Alice might have traveled to each of these locations.

This Sibert Honor Book is perfect for a unit about children of U. S. presidents (a sneaky way to learn about presidents). You might also study John and Caroline Kennedy, Chelsea Clinton, and the Obama girls.

Tie this book in with a music lesson by teaching the children the song, Alice Blue Gown, written for the stage musical, Irene, in 1919 and inspired by Alice Roosevelt Longworth. The lyrics are simple and the tune is easy to learn (scroll down to the last two paragraphs for the lyrics to the chorus featured in the video).

Get the kids up and moving by learning popular dances that Alice would have done, such as the Turkey Trot and the Two Step mentioned in the book, or simple ballroom dances like the Polka or the Waltz. You may want to have kids dance alone instead of in pairs, at least while they learn the steps. That way everyone can face the same direction and there’s less of a chance of accidentally hitting someone else. I couldn’t find good Internet resources for all of these dances, so I suggest checking your local library for a book or DVD on basic ballroom dancing.

Luckily Alice was very popular with the press, so there are many wonderful photographs of her throughout her life.