Friday, August 31, 2012

Book #244: Guinea Pigs Far and Near by Kate Duke

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Learn about the concepts of far, near, above, below, here, and there in this lighthearted book full of guinea pigs. With their tiny eyes and round, cuddly bodies, these guineas pigs set off on a series of adventures around the sunlit countryside.

The text features one word per panel, which explains the action or relationship between characters and items. Duke’s illustrations set in one or two panels per page, not only convey the concept stated in the spare text, they also tell episodic stories. The action centers on the smallest guinea pig, a joyful and expressive little guy easily identifiable in his red and white striped shirt. The humorous episodes involve interactions that young children will understand, such as wearing your shirt inside out, losing a pet, and sharing snacks. Each incident has a humorous ending that will have adults and kids alike laughing.

Use this book for a lapsit or toddler storytime about opposites. Try pairing it with Where is the Green Sheep? or one of the many concept books by written by Marthe Jocelyn and illustrated by Tom Slaughter, such as Over Under or One Some Many (Scroll to the middle of the page). Try pairing it with rhymes like Very Very Tall. This is also a great opportunity to play the classic Sesame Street clip of Grover explaining near and far.  I will admit I have a soft spot for lovable old Grover.

Check out Duke’s website, which has a delightful section on how she makes her art that kids will enjoy.And if you just can't get enough of guinea pig books, check out Duke's other books featuring the cuddly creatures.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book #243: Hello Baby! by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

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What kind of baby are you? Are you a monkey baby with clever toes or a hippo baby with yawning jaws? An elephant? A warthog? Maybe a zebra? A lion? Finally, the book asks,

“Then who are you, baby?
Wait, let me guess –
Are you my treasure?
The answer is…Yes!”

Simple, but descriptive questions comprise the text of this large, square book. The text and illustrations are set off against a pure white background, making it easier for babies and toddlers to focus. Jenkins’ signature paper collage illustrations, always so detailed and precise, are the perfect compliment to Fox’s text. Each baby animal, carefully created from textured papers, is seen doing the action described in the text. Animals are also anatomically correct, even though the text is anthropomorphic at times. Each page also includes a color silhouette of the animal, which is then repeated at the end of the book so that readers have a visual recap of the animals in the book.

This book is great for a baby or a toddler time and could easily be paired with Is Your Mama a Llama? or Hug for a storytime about babies in the animal world. Try songs like Hush Little Baby and Over in the Meadow.

I’m a big fan of Jenkin’s non-fiction books about the animal world for kids. Although they are a bit too information packed to use in a storytime, the beautiful covers and illustrations make them great for browsing. Try bringing some in to display for parents to check out.

Celebrate Fox’s birthday (March 5) with an all Mem Fox storytime. For younger kids try Where is the Green Sheep? and Ten Little Fingers. For older kids I love The Magic Hat and Wilfrid Gordon McDonald. Fox has a long list of picture book titles. Check out Fox’s webpage on this book for insight into the writing inspiration and to listen to her reading the book.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book #242: Think Big by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

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Get out your art supplies and put on your thinking cap, it’s time to make art with the creative preschoolers in this book. As the kids put together all the elements of their school play in the beautiful illustrations, from painting sets, playing music, learning the dances, and even making snacks for the audience, Scanlon’s spare, rhyming text pushes the story along at a skipping pace. These kids all come to the same conclusion, it's fun to “Make art!”

Scanlon’s brief text, just a few words per page, makes this a great book for toddlers and preschoolers with short attention spans. Although minimalist, the text manages to describe the actions, sounds, and joys of creating art. The illustrations feature a cast of racially diverse children dressed in bright colors, stripes, and patterns. The illustrations use a variety of mediums to create dynamic and colorful compositions. I especially love the collage elements, such as musical notes made from sheet music, photographs of real art supplies and equipment, and word definitions from dictionaries.

Use this as a quick introduction or a snappy wrap up for a unit or storytime on art. Good pairings for younger kids include, Green and Dragon Dancing. For older kids, you could use Crafty Chloe, Zoozical or The Pink Refrigerator.

Ask the kids if they can guess what the characters in the book are getting ready to do and how their art will help. When you get to the last page, point out the different elements of the show and ask the kids if they remember the characters making that piece earlier in the book. Flip to those pages to show the art in progress and then go back to the final page to see the finished product.

Ask the kids what kinds of art they noticed in the book. Make sure to define and explain as you go along. Have lots of how-to arts and crafts books available for check out.

The possibilities for extending this book into crafting activities are unlimited. Turn to any page in the book for ideas including, finger-painting, sewing, knitting, clay work, and painting. If you have a lot of time and energy, have the kids put on a play of their own just like the kids in the book. It can be a show about what each child wants to do when they grow up, like the play in the book, you can choose another theme (colors, seasons, etc.) or let the kids mash all their ideas together and call it a variety show.

Read this short article by Scanlon on the Cynsations Blog about the inspiration behind this book. I also like the kid-friendly About Me section on Scanlon’s website.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book #241: Anatole by Eve Titus, Illustrated by Paul Galdone

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Anatole lived happily and contentedly in a small mouse village near Paris, France, with his loving wife, Doucette, and their six children. Until one night when he’s foraging for food from the human houses. There he hears the humans complain about dirty mice that steal food, “They are a disgrace to all France.” Anatole is greatly upset by this and yearns to be able to give something back to the humans from which he steals food. So he types up signs that say, “Extra ‘Specially Good,” “Good,” “No Good,” puts them in his briefcase and slips into the Duval Cheese Factory. He tastes all the cheese, leaving his signs and notes for the cheese-makers, “add a little vinegar” or “needs more grated onion.” What will happen when Monsieur Duval finds Anatole’s notes? What will happen when the cheese-makers follow Anatoles suggestions? Will Anatole’s secret identity be revealed?

Originally published in 1956, this Caldecott Honor book is charming and unique. The text, full of the sights and smells of Anatole’s Paris, is balanced between dialogue and narrative. The charcoal, pen, and ink illustrations are pure 1950’s. Galdone cleverly uses the colors of the French flag – blue, and red – to highlight elements in the black and grey illustrations. Although elements in the text and illustrations, such as the Anatole’s typewriter, date this book I don’t think this takes away from the characters or the story.

Use this book for a storytime that focuses on narrative skills, which means being able to tell a story and describe things. Titus’ text makes frequent mention of time – later that night, the next morning, etc. – point that out as you read the story. Being able to put events in the proper sequence is part of narrative skills, so ask kids to retell the story back to you.

Pair this book with other stories that feature mouse protagonists, such as one of Kevin Henkes’ books (Chrysanthemum, Sheila Rae the Brave, Wemberly Worried, etc.), Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears or Jazzmatazz. Follow up with rhymes like Hickory Dickory Dock and Five Little Mice.

You can also use this for a storytime about food (WARNING: this book makes me crave cheese as much as watching Wallace and Gromit in A Grand Day Out). Try pairing it with books like The Hungry Thing, Hey, Pancakes! or Too Many Pears!

Make some mice of your own. Try a cardboard mouse or a popsicle stick mouse puppet. You can cut an oval out of blue paper to make a beret for your mouse.  

If you love Anatole, keep your eyes open for other books in this series about the happiest, most contented mouse in all of France. Some of the books are currently out of print, but my mom has been able to find a few in used bookstores recently (thanks, Mom!).


Monday, August 27, 2012

Book #240: Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell, Illustrated by Jane Manning

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Yee-haw! Grab your Stetson and slip on your spurs for this Wild West retelling of the classic Cinderella story. When her father marries his second wife, a woman “meaner than a rattlesnake,” things get tough for sweet and pretty Cindy Ellen. Cindy Ellen does all the work on the ranch, but her life changes on the day of the big rodeo when her fairy godmother swoops down and shoots her magic golden pistol into the air. This not only spruces Cindy Ellen up, but fills her heart with strength, happiness and a good dose of gumption as well. At the rodeo, Cindy Ellen wins the roping and riding events, and she returns the following night for a square dance. And, of course, she and the handsome Joe Prince fall in love. Instead of a glass slipper, Cindy Ellen leaves behind one of her diamond spurs as she flees. But a happy ending is in store for this vivacious couple and they live “happily ever after in a ranch house full of love and rodeo trophies.”

This book won The Western Writers of America Storyteller Award for best illustrated children’s book and rightfully so. The text just begs for a spirited read aloud session. Lowell’s text is full of colorful Wild West expressions, dialogue, and sound effects. The length of the text makes this book suitable for an elementary or older crowd. The illustrations use a color palate of Southwestern reds, purple-blues, yellows, and teal-y greens. The Western setting is integral to the plot and it infuses the illustrations as well with red dirt, green cacti, and stunning blue skies. Manning’s characters, like the text, are slightly exaggerated from the sour step-sisters to the slightly batty gun-toting fairy godmother. I also love the hair Manning has created for her characters, floating and curling some of the hairdos seem to have a life of their own!

Cinderella is a story that can be found in many cultures around the world, so it’s a wonderful story to compare and contrast. Check out the list of picture book and full length versions of the story on The Children’s Literature Web Guide.

You might start by reading a more traditional version of the story or have the kids help you tell the story. Then read Cindy Ellen and other Cinderella stories (see also my review of The Talking Eggs). Make a chart that includes columns and rows to record information such as what kind item (footwear or otherwise) lost at the ball, different names for Cinderella, the setting, and other elements of the story.

I love Rebecca Haden’s idea of using the Cinderella story (any version) and the song, 10 Minutes Ago, from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical version of Cinderella, for a lesson on telling time. She prints off clocks and has kids sort them into Midnight and Not Midnight piles.

Check out the Trumpet Club’s website for ideas and activities regarding the discussion of the Wild West expressions used in this book.

I’d love to turn this book into a reader’s theater script for kids or for teens to perform for kids. I wasn’t able to find a script, but if anyone finds or writes one, please leave a comment with a link. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book #239: I Will Not Read This Book by Cece Meng, Illustrated by Joy Ang

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The young boy in this book is not keen on reading the book in the title. He’s not very good at it and there will be words he doesn’t know. He also has a (very long) list of things you could do to him and he still wouldn’t read this book. You could hang him upside down by his toe and he wouldn’t read it. And even if you dangled him over a cliff while it was raining and there were sharks and dragons, he wouldn’t read this book. His list is dramatic and never-ending; will this stubborn little boy ever read this book?

Meng’s text, written from the boy’s perspective, reads like a child of 6 years old talks. Child logic is strong stuff and this boy has it in spades. As the book progresses the boy adds items to his list and the cumulative pattern is fun to read aloud. The digital illustrations feature a dynamic boy with a rectangular head and mustard yellow pajamas. The scenarios in the boy’s imagination come to life on the page in vivid detail. Ang’s use of white space balances the busy images from the boy’s imagination. The illustrations are tightly drawn and utilize light, shadow, and composition deftly.

Use this book with No Bears, I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More or There Are No Cats in This Book for a humorous “No” storytime.

Play a “No” version of Simon Says. In other words, if Simon says not to do something then you have to do it and vice versa. This helps kids work on their listening skills.

Have kids make a book and then write/illustrate all the reasons they wouldn’t read the book (oh, the irony). Alternatively, they could make a poster for this book and write and illustrate all the reasons why you should or shouldn’t read it.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book #238: Big Sister, Little Sister by Leuyen Pham

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This book shows the complex, antagonizing, annoying, and loving aspects of the relationship between two sisters. The differences between the sisters are presented in a spirited narrative by the Little Sister,

“The Big Sister thinks she’s always right.
I’m the Little Sister.
I know I’m right.”

Although they irritate and exasperate one another, at the end of the day they know that they will always be there for one another because they are the Big Sister and the Little Sister.

Pham wrote this book for her older sister and it is evident that she has a wonderful understanding of sibling relationships. The text is simple and follows a set pattern. Big Sister is described first on the left side of the page, followed by the description of the Little Sisters (usually opposite) behavior or outcome. For instance, the Big Sister gets all the new clothes, while the Little Sister has to wear hand-me-downs. The illustrations provide insight into Little Sisters statements. Although the book tells us how dissimilar the sisters are, the pictures tell a slightly different story. They show sisters who may not always get along, but who love to spend time together. According to the copyright page, the illustrations were created with Japanese brush pen and ink and then color was added digitally. The characters are full of spirit and spunk and the sparing use of color is reminiscent of hand colored black and white photos.

Use this book for a storytime about sisters or siblings and pair it with books like, Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, Shelia Rae theBrave, and I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato.

It would also be a quirky addition to an opposite themed storytime for kindergarteners. You could pair it with other books that address more complex concepts of opposites, like A Porcupine Named Fluffy or Shadow.

Follow up by having kids make a list of things they do well and things their siblings do well. You can turn the lists into Venn diagrams for a more visual representation. The idea is to focus on the positives, not the negatives. So don’t let kids write down things like, “My brother can’t tie his shoes.” Have kids draw pictures of their siblings to go along with their list.

Pham’s website includes a section about this book. Check it out for pictures of Pham and her big sister, as well as printable paper dolls of Big Sister and Little Sister.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Book #237: Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

This is the story of how young Patricia Polacco's wise Russian grandmother helped her get over a fear of thunderstorms. On summer days Patricia hates to hear the rumbling thunder of a storm in the distance. She fears “the sound of thunder more than anything.” But her grandmother, Babushka, knows exactly what to do – it’s time to make Thunder Cake. Thunder Cake is special; it must be made while the storm is brewing and finished just as the storm arrives. Although Patricia is scared, she helps Babushka collect the ingredients for the cake on the farm. As they gather and bake, Babushka teaches Patricia how to count the seconds between the thunder and the lightning to figure out how far away the storm is. Patricia says she’s still scared of the storm, but Babushka brushes her fear aside pointing out all the things Patricia did to collect ingredients for the cake, things only a brave person could do. “Brave people can’t be afraid of a sound, child.”

As always, Polacco’s illustrations are intricate and evocative. Babushka is at once stern, strong and warmly comforting. Polacco has carefully rendered items that make this old farm come to life: beautiful wood furniture, metal milk cans, and old-fashioned wooden butter churns. The resemblance between the girl and her grandmother is obvious in their matching smiles and similar ways of standing. The text is balanced between dialogue and narrative and feels much like a story that would be told by the fire on a stormy night. Counting the seconds between the thunder and lightning pushes the story along and adds a touch of urgency. The last page of the book includes the recipe for Thunder Cake.

The length of this story make it perfect for elementary school aged kids. Pair it with Thunder Rose, Dust Devil or All The Water in the World for a storytime about storms.  You could also pair it with books about bravery, such as Shelia Rae the Brave or Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears.

Create your own thunder and lightning with these activities posted on the Deceptively Educational blog. Talk about the reason that thunder and lightning arrive at different times (the speed of light vs. the speed of sound). Discuss how air pressure changes before/during/after storms. Make your own barometer to measure these changes.

Watch Polacco talk about Thunder Cake, as well as her childhood and family, in this Reading Rocket Interview. The interview is only 12 minutes, but skip to 9:00 if you just want to hear her story about the origins of Thunder Cake.

Check out Polacco’s Thunder Cake web page, which includes discussion questions and activities, as well as epostcards for kids to send to friends.

Also, a great big shout out to Carrie for telling me about this book. I'm so glad you remembered this story from your grade school years!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book #236: Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum

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It’s the first day of kindergarten for the boy in this book and he can’t wait! His mother on the other hand, isn’t as excited. She worries about her son going to such a big school and if he will make friends. But the boy isn’t scared, “Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I am already five!” At the end of the day, the boy excitedly tells his mother that kindergarten is awesome and his mother is so proud and happy…until the boy asks if he can take the bus to school tomorrow!

Yum’s focus on the emotional relationship between mother and son elevate this from being just another book about starting kindergarten to an insightful and easily identifiable story. In my opinion, Yum’s watercolor illustrations are the highlight of this book. Although the setting, clothing, and props are realistic, Yum manipulates the size of the mother and son to show the emotion in relation to one another. For instance, when the boy wakes his mother at the beginning of the book he appears to be a giant towering over his worried mother. However, when the boy must leave his mother to walk into the school she now appears to be twice his height. The color of the characters changes as Yum uses bright yellow to show confidence and positivity and blue to indicate anxiety and fear. The text is a combination of narration and dialogue that accurately captures the bravado of a five year old.

Use this book with Wemberly Worried or Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School for a storytime about going to school. All three of these titles are great because they are good jumping off points to discussing the things that worry kids about going to school. 

As you read the book, ask the kids what they think the characters are thinking or feeling based on the illustrations. Encourage parents to talk about their feelings about their child starting school. Chances are both child and parent have similar worries.

The boy in the book is almost never seen without his red backpack, so follow up by making simple paper backpacks. I found two designs, one is a folded paper backpack and the other is a paper lunch bag backpack. You can make both crafts faster by precutting pieces. Have each child make a list of what they would pack in their bag for the first day of school. You can have them tape or glue this list to the backpack if you like.

For a taste of the book, check out the book trailer.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book #235: Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus! by Julie Markes, Illustrated by Maggie Smith

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What’s that you say? You don’t like to get dressed in the morning? Well, it’s a good thing you’re not an octopus because they have 8 legs which makes putting on pants much more difficult than the 2 legs you have. The round-faced boy in this book has a list of activities he doesn’t like, from riding in his car seat to taking a bath, putting on his shoes to brushing his teeth. Luckily, the unnamed narrator is able to find the bright side to each activity, “If you were a shark you could have two hundred teeth to brush!” At the end of the day, “It’s a good thing you’re YOU!”

The activities in the book begin with the boy getting out of bed in the morning and end as he puts his pajamas on for bed at night. The simple and short text quickly establishes a pattern and the comparisons are easy for kids to understand. The painterly illustrations are colorful and kids will giggle at the pages that show the animals doing human activities. There’s something comical about a shark standing at the sink brushing his teeth.

This short book is great for toddlers, who will be able to identify with the things the boy has to do in the story. Keep the kids engaged by having them do a different gesture for each activity. The last pages of the book recap all the activities, so you can do them all in order once again.

Use this book for an octopus storytime and pair it with Herman the Helper and rhymes like One Little, Two Little, Three Little Octopuses.

You could also use this for a storytime about getting dressed and pair it with What Will You Wear Jesse Bear? or Ella Sarah Gets Dressed. Use the rhyme Put Your Pants On. You can change the lyrics from “baby” to “buddy.”

For more ideas, check out the suggested activities in this PDF from Raising Readers.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book #234: Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Sara Palacios

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Marisol McDonald doesn’t match and she likes that about herself. Her skin is brown like her Peruvian-American mother and her hair is red like her Scottish-American father. At dinner her family speaks Spanish and English together and Marisol eats her favorite food, peanut butter and jelly burritos. She likes to mix things together, like polka-dots and stripes, cursive and print. At recess she doesn’t see why she has to play pirates or soccer, can’t they be soccer-playing pirates? Everyone says, “You don’t match! / ¡No combinas!” But one day, Marisol’s friend bets her that she couldn’t match even if she tried. Can Marisol do it? And, more importantly, how will it make her feel?

Multiculturalism and diversity are explored and celebrated in this Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor book with a spunky and unique protagonist. The text is presented twice on each page first in English and then in Spanish. Readers can choose to read one language or switch between the two, either way the story remains solid and compelling. Like the story, the illustrations are playful and depict people of many races and colors without becoming didactic or trite. I especially like that the mixed-media illustrations use Spanish language print as one of the collage elements.

Share this book in either language for a storytime about multiculturalism or diversity. If you feel confident in your Spanish speaking skills, try reading parts of it in Spanish. The Spanish has not been simplified in anyway, so I would not recommend it for those with just a basic grasp of the language. Depending on your audience, you may need to reread those parts again in English. 

Check out Brown’s website for her other books, many of which are bilingual, integrate Spanish words, and/or celebrate multiculturalism. Brown’s website also has a great activity kit. I especially like the art activity because it is easy to do with a large group and minimal supplies.

Have a No Matching Day where everyone dresses in clothes that don’t match, like Marisol in the book. Pair this book with Ella Sarah Gets Dressed. You could also follow up with peanut butter and jelly burritos (check for allergies first!).  

I couldn’t find a reader’s theatre script for this book, but it would be especially fun to use with a bilingual group. I would also love to see a bilingual performance of this story done by a children’s theatre.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Book #233: Boat Works by Tom Slaughter

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Can you guess all the boats in this fold-out book? As each flap unfolds a new clue is revealed. Starting with the tiny rowboat to the mighty ocean liner, readers are given visual as well as textual clues. Each page folds out into a large square showing the answer to the nautical riddle. This is a beautifully designed book for boat lovers of all ages.

Slaughter has the ability to create wonderfully imagined and designed books some with flaps, some without (see Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? and the many books he’s illustrated with Marthe Jocelyn) and this book is no exception. The digital illustrations have a retro nautical style and color palate (UPDATE: I have been informed that the illustrations are actually hand cut from paper. I was astounded because the shapes are so crisp and the layouts so precise. My apologizes for this error.). Collage elements and large, flat block print-like shapes create a bright and colorful environment.  The text is simple and follows a quickly established pattern.

The large and easily identifiable shapes used in the illustrations make this a wonderful addition to a shape themed storytime. As you read the book, ask kids to find squares, circles, and triangles in the illustrations. Follow up by creating colleges of boats with precut paper shapes. Check out this boat craft that introduces the idea of halves to kids from DKTK.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book #232: Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman, Illustrated by Brian Lies

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Set to the familiar tune of “Over the Meadow” this non-fiction picture book introduces readers to the plants and animals of the Okefenokee Swamp. Count your way from one to ten through a stunning variety of birds, reptiles, and mammals that live in this cypress swamp, located in southern Georgia and northern Florida. An alphabetical glossary of facts is included at the back of the book.

The rhyming text of this book not only introduces readers to the swamp flora and fauna, it also uses some great vocabulary expanding words, such as “bask” and “trilled.” The painterly illustrations are accurate and detailed, but never stilted or stiff. There is wonderful movement and a sense of playfulness as the animals soar, jump, swim, and fly through the lush swamp landscape.

If you’re using this book for a storytime, read the back matter before reading the book out loud. This way you’ll be ready to explain new terms and answer questions. Although the text and illustrations show mothers and babies, the glossary of facts is quick to point out that some animals do not raise their young. Before you read the book, ask kids what kind of animals live in swamps and what they think a swamp is like (hot, cold, dry, wet, etc.). Check out the Scholastic Lesson Plan for good discussion questions.

Use this book as an introduction to a unit on Florida or Georgia. Pull out a map and point out the location of the Okefenokee Swamp. If you live near a swamp, follow up with a field trip to observe the flora and fauna.

Check out the Okefenokee Swamp Park website for more information about the plants and animals that live in the swamp.

If you don’t mind the kids getting messy, make a sensory swamp tub, as outlined on No Time for Flash Cards. Make sure the plastic toys you use are big enough that they won't be swallowed.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book #231: Young MacDonald by David Milgrim

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We all know about Old MacDonald who had a farm, but what about his son, young MacDonald? Young MacDonald isn't content to live with regular farm animals, so he builds a machine in the barn that combines animals. Using the rhyme scheme of the original Old MacDonald song, Young MacDonald creates animals like the Hig (a horse crossed with a pig), the Shicken (a sheep crossed with a chicken), and finally the Bog (a boy crossed with a dog)! Luckily, this young scientist is able to un-mix all the animals just in time for dinner.

When read aloud, the text is a test of your diction and enunciation skills (Can you say "Deese" 5 times fast?), but kids will love the silliness of the idea. The illustrations are cartoon-like with exaggerated bodies and heads and stick thin limbs. Milgrim mixes one dimensional elements with sunlight and shadows, to create a a sense of depth. There's a lighthearted feeling of fun and playfulness as the animals enthusiastically join in the experimenting with the machine.

This book is fun to read or sing aloud, but make sure you practice a few times because of the tongue twisting words.

Use this book for a joke and riddle themed storytime for preschool or elementary aged kids. Try pairing it with books like, Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog, Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs, or Guess Again! Follow up with some "What Do You Get When You Cross" jokes, such as:

What do you get if you cross a zebra and a pig? 
Striped sausages.

What do you get if you cross a giraffe and a dog?
An animal that likes to chase low flying aeroplanes.

What do you get when you cross a nervous cow with a camel?
Lumpy milkshake!

What do you get when you cross a frog and a bunny?
A ribbit!

You can also combine the names of animals and decide what you'd call them. If you crossed a kangaroo and a fish, would you call it a "fangaroo" or a "kish"? Have kids illustrate their favorite combined animal. This promotes wordplay and helps kids think about the sounds and syllables in the names of animals.

Do a mixed up animal craft, such as this one posted by The SEEDS Network, which uses precut paper animal pieces that kids can mix and match. You could also cut photographs out of old magazines and have kids combine those to create animals of their own.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Book #230: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean

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Pete the Cat loves his white shoes. He loves them so much he sings about them as he walks down the street. Unfortunately, he steps in a big pile of strawberries (don’t ask why), which turn his beautiful white shoes red!

“Did Pete cry?
Goodness, no!
He kept walking along and singing his song.”

Pete’s shoes continue to change colors as he walks down the street through piles of blueberries and puddles of mud. Finally, Pete walks right into a bucket of water and sings about his wet shoes, which are now white again.

The text of the book swings along to a rocking beat with a repetitive chorus, which makes this book wonderful for reading aloud. Litwin (aka Mr. Eric) regularly performs for children and you can feel that sensibility in the text. Dean’s illustrations feature bright colors and bold, thick brush strokes. Pete the Cat is deadpan fellow, who sports the same soulful gaze no manner what. Pete isn’t your average cat; for starters, he wears sneakers. He also drinks coffee and plays the electric guitar and banjo. The book ends with the moral, “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song…because it’s all good.” Kids may not completely understand that idea, but the spirit of Pete’s coolness will give them a good basis for the concept later on.

Make up your own little ditty for Pete’s song about his shoes. Or you can listen to Mr. Eric sing/read the book on the HarperCollins website. The site also includes activities, videos, songs, and more Pete the Cat stuff. You can find information about the other Pete the Cat books as well.

After you read the story, ask the kids what color shoes they like to wear and you can sing the song again with those colors. You can also sing about polka dotted or striped shoes. Turn this into a longer activity by having the kids draw themselves or Pete wearing their favorite color shoes.

Use this book for storytime about shoes or about getting dressed. Pair it with rhymes, such as Five Pairs of Shoes. It’s also a fun addition to a cat storytime. Try pairing it with other humorous cat books, like There Are No Cats in This Book.

This would also be a fun story to do as a flannelboard. The kids could also use the felt pieces to retell the story.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book #229: Hey Little Baby! by Heather Leigh, Illustrated by Geneviéve Côté

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A new baby boy has arrived in the world and his parents are overjoyed. They welcome him to the world and wonder what he grow up to do and be. As the baby discovers his hands, feet, mouth, nose, and voice his parents imagine the activities he might do when he’s older.

“Hey little baby,
You’ve arrived in our world.
Who will you be in this world?
Who will you be in the marvelous world?
We can’t wait to find out!”

Leigh’s text is simple and broad, leaving the details and atmosphere to Côté. The mixed media illustrations are full of sunlit happiness. Digital patterns and textures are combined with watercolor washes and sketchy charcoal lines to create a warm and loving environment. The round headed, chubby limbed baby is simply adorable. The book begin with sunrise and ends at twilight, providing a through line to this plotless book. Readers will also notice that the boy grows older in each of his parents’ imaginings about his future; he starts as a toddler and grows to be 8 or 9 years old.

The short text and colorful pictures make this a wonderful book for a lapsit storytime. As the baby in the story discovers each new body part, have parents move or touch their baby’s corresponding body part. If your lapsit are themed, this one fits nicely into a storytime about the human body. You could pair it with All of Baby Nose to Toes. Try bounces and rhymes, such as Hello Toes, Mama’s Little Baby, and What’ll I Do with the Baby-O?

This book is a great baby shower gift. If you want to go all out, put it in a basket with baby shampoo, soap, and other bath toys.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book #228: Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco

Emma Kate and her best friend do everything together, even though one of them is an elephant and the other a human girl. They walk to school, go to soccer, have sleepovers, do homework, and read together. They even have their tonsils out together! Emma Kate and her best friend are so inseparable readers will find the twist at the end surprising and amusing. Spoiler alert: Emma Kate is the little girl, not the elephant!

Polacco’s pencil and watercolor illustrations render an incredibly detailed world in smudgy soft-focus. Color is used sparingly and usually it’s only Emma Kate’s bright red and green dress that colors the page. The text, written in first person present tense, is deceptively simple. The text and illustrations are so cleverly laid out that readers won’t guess the twist until the very last page.

After you read the story, ask the kids if they think Emma Kate is real or imaginary and why. Did any of them guess the twist at the end? If so, what clued them into the real identity of Emma Kate? Did they notice that the title on the cover and the endpapers are colored in the same pattern as Emma Kate's dress?

Use this book as part of an elephant storytime and pair it with My Cat, the Silliest Cat in the World, The Thingamabob or ElmerTry rhymes such as, An Elephant and the classic, One Little Elephant. Follow up with an easy elephant handprint craft.

You could also pair this book with Horton Hatches the Egg. If you look closely at the illustration of the two friends reading on the sofa, you'll see that Emma Kate is reading this Dr. Seuss book. On her website, Polacco credits this book as one of her inspirations

Check out Patricia Polacco’s webpage about this book. Kids can send an Emma Kate e-card or print off a poster or bookmark.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book #227: Bath Time by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Janet Pedersen

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This little penguin loves bath time, so when mother turns on the bath water the penguin can’t wait to jump in the tub! But first, in go the penguin’s favorite boat and also a plastic porpoise and don’t forget the wind-up rubber shark or the inflatable inner tube snake! Next, add a touch of pirate treasure and some sudsy bubble bath, of course. Finally, the soap, sponge, and wash cloth. But what will happen when this penguin realizes there’s not enough room in the tub for anything else, not even the tiniest penguin?

Spinelli’s brief rhyming text is full of a youthful joy and excitement for bath time. The font is large and stands out against the illustrations nicely, making it easy to read upside down or sideways. The charcoal pencil and watercolor illustrations feature an expressive and very excitable little penguin (could be a boy or girl). The textured charcoal lines paired with bright pastels and muted tones create a warm and cozy environment for this penguin family.

Ask kids what kind of toys they take in the bath. Do they bathe with bubbles or without? As you read the book and the penguin adds more and more toys, ask the kids what they think will happen when the penguin tries to get in the tub.

Pair this book with King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub or Five Minutes’ Peace for a bath time themed storytime. Sing Rubber Ducky with Ernie or try the rhymes, Rub-a-Dub-Dub, After a Bath or This is the Way We Take a Bath.

You could also use this book as part of a penguin themed storytime. There’s a never ending list of penguin picture book titles. Here’s a list of the ones I’ve reviewed so far: Penguin Picture Books.

Turn bath time into a game of fishing, perfect for toddlers. Cut sea creatures out of craft foam and give the kids a small aquarium net to catch the fish. If you’re at home, try this activity during bath time. If you’re elsewhere, fill up a kiddie pool so several children can fish at the same time.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Book #226: Dance by Bill T. Jones & Susan Kuklin, Photographed by Susan Kuklin

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This elegant and graceful book presents basic concepts of dance illustrated and complimented by photographs of the celebrated dancer and choreographer, Bill T. Jones. Kuklin’s photographs capture the many facets of dance that Jones so aptly expresses through his movements.

The brief and simple text conveys the spectrum of emotions, shapes, and ideas that can be expressed through dance; from lines to curves, from thinking to feeling, from everywhere to hardly there. Many books on dance focus on ballet, but this book, like Jones, is firmly rooted in modern dance. Wearing a simple pair of belted slacks, Jones is thoughtful and playful by turns. The layout of the book is elegant in a minimalist manner. Each two page spread features several photographs of Jones, usually full-body shots, dancing against a crisp white background.

The easiest thing to do is to have the kids recreate the movements from the book. Jones has movements that convey thinking and feeling. Ask kids to create movements that depict a certain feeling, such as happy, sad, or angry. You can also have them create movements based on thinking about a particular idea, such as "What's for dinner?"

You could also use this book as part of a shape themed storytime.  Make lines and curves like Jones does in the book and then ask the kids to show you other ways to make lines and curves. Can you make circles, squares, triangles, etc.? 

Talk about how dance is built off of movements we all do, such as walking, jumping, squatting, running, etc. Watch the trailer for the classical music program which features two pieces choreographed by Jones. Can you see these movements in the dances? Both pieces are stunning, but I think kids will especially enjoy the playful nature of “D-Man in the Water” (skip to 1:35).

Watch this clip of Jones performing a phrase (0:36 to 1:04) from “The Breathing Show.” Notice how he is able to control each part of his body precisely to articulate each movement. Talk about how one movement instigates another movement. You might bring in a model of Newton’s Cradle (the 5 metal balls suspended from string that strike one another) to illustrate this idea. This could be tied in with a lesson about energy and momentum.

Check out Kuklin’s website for a brief description of her photo shoot with Jones. Read Jones official biography on the New York Live Artswebsite.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book #225: Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn, Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

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As you may know from her other books (Lola Loves Stories and Lola at the Library), Lola loves to read. Her day always ends with a story read by her parents. In the newest Lola installment, Lola’s family is getting ready for a new baby. Lola helps by sorting through her books to find good stories for the new shelves in the baby's room. When baby Leo is born, Lola cheers him up by telling him stories when he cries, she reads her potty book to him when he is getting his diaper changed, and she even reads her best duck book while he takes a bath. Everyone is busy with the new baby and even Lola helps out. But it is never “too busy to end the day with a story for the best big sister of all.”

McQuinn has once again created a loving story of kind-hearted, book-loving Lola. The text is written in third person and printed in large bold letters, making it easy to follow along. The words are simple and straightforward; free of sugarcoated sentiments and clichés. Beardshaw’s illustrations are colorful and painterly. I especially love Lola’s brightly patterned outfits and curly mop of hair. The story shows a caring and affectionate family that just happens to be African-American.

This book is a great recommendation for new or soon-to-be-new big sisters and brothers. It focuses on positive reinforcements with Lola modeling supportive older sibling behavior. The book also gives parents ideas on how to involve an older sibling in the preparation and care of a new baby.

Use this book for a storytime about brothers and sisters and pair it with Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, Shhh!, Julius the Baby of theWorld, or Another Brother. For a non-fiction tie in, try Steve Jenkins and Robin Page’s Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World. Try the rhymes, I Have a Baby Sister and I Can Make the Baby Smile.

On an interesting side note, when the books in this series were published in other countries Lola’s name was changed. For instance, in the UK Lola is Lulu, in the Netherlands she is Bibi, and in Denmark she is Luna. Even Leo does not escape the name changing. In the UK he is Zeki and in some countries his name is replaced by the term for baby or little brother. Check out McQuinn’s website to see the titles by country. 


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book #224: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, Illustrated by Lane Smith

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Everyone has heard the story of the 3 little pigs from the pig’s point of view, but what about the wolf's perspective? What if the wolf, in this case Alexander T. Wolf, was just trying to borrow a cup of sugar from his neighbor, a pig who happened to live in a straw house? And what if Al also had a cold and had accidentally huffed and snuffed and blown the house down? Take a look at the situation from a different perspective in this humorous and clever spin on the classic fairy tale.

Smith’s illustrations are framed by the white border of each page, but like the story, the characters just can’t be contained by lines and they will occasionally slip over the boundary. The illustrations use a palate of muddy browns and grays and a few collage elements here and there to create a textured environment. The hairs on the pigs’ chinny chin chins have never been so vivid and prickly. The text is conversational and filled with ironic humor that kids and adults alike will appreciate.

Before you read the story, make sure everyone knows the classic Three Little Pigs story. You can tell it with or without a book or even have the kids tell it to you.

After you read the book, ask the kids if they think Al was framed or if he’s really guilty. Why or why not? You could divide the group into two and have a mock debate or even a mock trial with witnesses, lawyers, a judge, and a jury. 

Have a Three Little Pigs themed storytime or unit and compare this book with other versions of the Three Little Pigs. There are quite a few to select from, but my current favorites are: The Three Swingin’ Pigs, The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale, and The Three Little Wolves andthe Big Bad Pig.

Perform this story using this reader’s theater script or by having the kids develop a script of their own (Clicking the link will automatically download a PDF to your computer).

Check out the Fractured Fairy Tales & Fables section of Scholastic for more activities and discussion ideas.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Book #223: I Spy Under the Sea by Edward Gibbs

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Based on the children’s game, each phrase begins with the rhyme, “I spy with my little eye…” Peer through the circular cutout to see part of a sea creature – the tail of a seahorse, the claw of a crab, the tentacle of an octopus. Not only will the guessing game keep readers enthralled, readers will also count down from seven clown fish to one shark.

The text follows the simple repetitive pattern of the game, with additional hints in speech bubbles. Although books that use the I Spy game have been popular for years, I especially like this one because of the lively and playful illustrations. The digital illustrations use bright colors and collage like backgrounds. The illustrations have depth and perspective and are very pleasing to the eye. The circular cutout is the icing on the book design cake. It’s fun to look through the holes to guess the animal and equally fascinating to turn the page and see the cutout all but disappear as it lines up perfectly with the drawing on the previous page.

Many other I Spy books have small images, but this one has a good sized I Spy cutout, so you can share it with a small group instead of just two to three kids. When you read the book, make sure to pan the book so everyone gets a chance to see the clue and guess the animal.

Follow up by making your own I Spy book. You can use photographs from magazines or have kids illustrate their own. You can continue the under the sea theme or pick a new one, such as on the farm, around the house/school/library, plants/nature, birds, animals from a geographic location, etc. You can precut the circles (or any other shape) in the paper or you can help each child decide where to position their cutout.

Use this book with Herman the Helper, Fabulous Fishes, or poems from In the Sea for an under the sea themed storytime. Try rhymes like Animals in the Sea and Fish and Hugs.

If your kids like this book, check out I Spy with My Little Eye also by Gibbs or any of the I Spy books by Jean Marzollo and Walt Wicks.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Book #222: Little Boat by Thomas Docherty

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The small tugboat in this story is just a speck in the big ocean. The little boat may encounter dangerous obstacles, terrible thunderstorms, and enormous sea monsters, but it continues on bravely searching for its sea creature friends. Nothing banishes the unknown and scary elements like a group of good friends. They playfully race around the ocean and never want to stop. In the company of friends, no ocean is too big for this little boat.

The story isn’t particularly complex and the text reads more like a life philosophy than a narrative. Docherty’s text is extremely concise and simple, with just a few well-chosen words per page. The illustrations are really the star of the book. Gender neutral little boat is an endearing protagonist, with a small puffing smoke stack and large, expressive eyes. The boat's friends, a school of fish, some porpoises, an octopus, and a large whale, are full of playful joy. The ocean seems to be a character of its own and Docherty deftly captures the many moods of the water, from lapping, clear blue waves to churning stormy water to the dark blue of the depths of the ocean.

Use this book for a boat themed storytime and pair with it Boats:Speeding! Sailing! Cruising! or Jonathan’s Big Blue Boat. Fill the bathtub or a kiddie pool with water and make some boats. Try making simple origami boats, sponge boats or wine cork boats.

While you’ve got the tub or pool filled, use the opportunity to talk about floating and sinking. Grab an assortment of objects and see if they sink or float in the water. Make a chart on the whiteboard or give kids a chart to fill out on their own of their prediction and the outcome of each experiment. After you complete your experiments, look at all the objects that sunk, what do they have in common? How about the ones that floated?

Check out Thomas Docherty’s beautifully designed website to see some of the illustrations from the book. On a side note - Docherty is British, so many of his books have not been published in the U.S.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book #221: McGillycuddy Could! by Pamela Duncan Edwards, Illustrated by Sue Porter

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The animals on the farm have never seen a kangaroo until McGillycuddy arrives. Curious about the newcomer, the farm animals ask McGillycuddy what she can do. Can she make milk like the cow? Lay eggs like the hen? Grow wool like the sheep? She tries with all her might, but McGillycuddy couldn’t. She can hop, jump, bounce, and kick, but the other animals aren’t impressed at all. McGillycuddy feels horrible and is about to leave the farm, but who will save the duck from becoming the fox's supper? McGillycuddy could!

This simple story, reminiscent of folktales such as, The Little Red Hen and Chicken Little, emphasizes the moral that all talents are useful. The repetitive text is mostly dialogue. The illustrations are brightly colored and full of movement. Animals are easy to recognize and bouncy McGillycuddy is an expressive and energetic protagonist.

Talk about the synonyms for “hop” used in the book. Ask the kids to think of some synonyms for other verbs like “walk” or “sleep.”

Get kids up and moving by encouraging them to hop, jump, bounce, and kick every time McGillycuddy does in the book. After you read the book you could do other activities that McGillycuddy would enjoy, such as playing hopscotch or jumping rope.

Use this for a kangaroo or Australia themed storytime. Try pairing it with The Diary of a Wombat and the rhyme Here Comes Kangaroo. Make kangaroo paper bag puppets as a craft. Check out National Geographic Kids for facts and photographs of real kangaroos.