Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book #274: Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

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A series of good actions is set into motion by the single positive act of Amelia smiling in New York City. This smile is seen by Mrs. Higgins, who smiles too and then thinks of her grandson in Mexico. So she makes him cookies, which he shares with his class along with a song about cookies in English. And because he teaches the class a song, one of the other students, a kickboxer, decides to be a teacher too and she puts some kickboxing tutorials on the internet, which are seen by a dance troupe in England…and so the positive actions increase and expand around the globe until the chain reaction comes full circle and makes Amelia smile again.

This text of this pay-it-forward story is simple, which fits the tone of the story. Stein doesn’t need to exaggerate or elaborate; he just describes each action and reaction. Page turns have been strategically placed to build anticipation and to move the story along. The illustrations were created with a new method developed by Stein meant to mimic print-making. He calls it Stein-lining and it involves drawing with crayon on label paper (that waxy paper left behind when you pull all the labels off the sheet), turning the label paper over and pressing it against a piece of regular paper. He used this to create the outlines of the illustrations. The result is a highly textured, movement-filled book. It’s a bit chaotic and colorful and this can make it difficult to find a focal point, but this also creates a highly detailed, realistic world. It also means that readers will continue to find new elements each time they read the book.

For a complete explanation of the inspiration behind this book, check out this interview with Stein published in BookPage. It’s a wonderfully insightful interview and well worth the five minutes it takes to read it. 

Use this book to talk about small acts of kindness and how our actions, even the small ones, can be felt around the world. Read other books that highlight positivity, such as Lola Reads to Leo and “More, More,More,” Said the Baby. Stein mentions singing a song about cookies in the text, so follow up with the classic Sesame Street song, C is for Cookie. You can extend the song by picking a different letter and what it stands for, such as D is for Doggie or A is for Apple.

Ask kids to talk or write about something positive they’ve done today. Make a positivity jar or box and leave it in the classroom or storytime room. Provide slips of paper and encourage kids to write down any positive act, big or small, and put it in the jar. You could also turn the slips into a paper chain of positivity. The idea is to focus on bringing positive, rather than negative, energy into your daily life. As the book points out, sometimes the smallest act of positivity by one can become a catalyst for many.

Bring out a globe or map of the world and find all the locations mentioned in the book. For older kids you can calculate how many miles Amelia’s smile traveled.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book #273: The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

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There is nothing exciting about this little boy’s grandpa, Frank. And this is an issue for the boy because on Friday he has to give a show-and-tell presentation in class about someone in his family. He has to talk for a whole minute! He rules out his baby sister and his mother and father say, "no." That leaves Frank. All week other students give amazing show-and-tell talks about fascinating family members. The boy is distraught and although he gives his presentation, he thinks it’s pretty lame. Frank doesn’t like modern technology or fancy food or today’s music or anything but vanilla or doctors. The boy thinks all is lost, but then Frank begins to tell the class stories. Stories the boy has never heard before. Thrilling stories of battles and bravery! “And everybody cheered for my grandpa Frank and me.”

Like Mackintosh’s first book, Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School, this book features a main character who comes to the realization that unconventional does not mean something is uninteresting or boring. I couldn’t find anything on Mackintosh’s website or on the copyright page, but it seems to me the illustrations are a combination of digital and hand drawn elements with loose charcoal lines and many collage elements. The result is a vintage-y stylistic world, both detailed and impressionistic. The text and illustrations are from the boy’s point of view. As you read the book, watch as Frank changes from being rendered in mostly grays to vibrant full color. The text is conversational in tone and utilizes italics, bold, and changes in font size to give certain words or phrases emphasis.

As you read this book, take the time to talk about some of the items, vehicles, people, “gadgets and gizmos” in the illustrations, such as the gramophone, the old-fashioned camera, Frank’s ear horn, and the rug beater. Don’t point out everything the first time you read the book or else the story will get bogged down in explanation; pick a few items to highlight each time you read it. However, be prepared for kids to ask questions about the items you don’t point out. Bring in photographs or even better bring in a real-life version.

Read this for a Grandparents Day storytime. In the U.S. National Grandparents Day is on the first Sunday after Labor Day in September (for those of you reading this outside the U.S. check online because the date varies by country). Pair it with other stories about grandparents such as, Grandpa Green, Song and Dance Man or Thunder Cake.

Give your kids the same assignment as the boy in the book. Ask them to talk for one minute about one of their family members. Encourage them to choose a family member they don’t know very well. You could also have them tell a story that their family member has told them. This can be a story about something that really happened to that person or a fictional story, like a fairy tale.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Book #272: Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

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Marisol is an artist and everyone knows it. She loves to share her art with others and she firmly believes there is an artist inside every person. So when her teacher announces that the class will be designing and painting a mural for the library, Marisol is overjoyed. She immediately volunteers to paint the sky. But when she gets to the library, she finds there’s no blue paint. How can she paint the sky without blue paint? Marisol thinks and thinks about this problem. She thinks as she rides home in the school bus through the orange, yellow, red sunset. She thinks in the morning while waiting for the bus under the cloudy gray sky. When she gets to school, Marisol paints a beautiful sky, no blue required.

Reynold’s deftly captures the spirit of Marisol in very a few well-worded sentences a page. The text is concise and written in the third person. Although the story is simple, with just the slightest touch of conflict, readers will find themselves drawn into Marisol’s world. The characters and settings are outlined with thick black ink and colored lightly in grays. This neutral background makes the vibrant colors, used only for the sky and for the paints Marisol and her classmates use, sing on the page.

Use this book as part of a storytime about colors and pair it with books like Green, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, or I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!

You could also pair it with other books about creativity and art, such as Bear’s Picture or The Pink Refrigerator.

Use this book as an introduction into a discussion on why the sky appears to be blue. Enchanted Learning has a short, informative, and kid-friendly explanation of why the sky looks blue.

Bring in photographs of skies of all different colors to share and discuss. You could also bring in pictures of famous works of art with skies that use colors besides blue. Encourage parents to observe the different colors of the sky with their children. This is a great thing to do while taking a walk, riding on the bus or train, sitting in the car, etc.

Best of all, get out some paints and have kids create their own sky paintings. They could also create designs for a mural as Marisol and her classmates do in the book. If you have a big, open wall you can tape some butcher paper (or any paper on a roll) across the wall for the kids to paint.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book #271: Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Dan Santat

Things started off well for the young girl in this story. She wins first place at the science fair, but unfortunately the robot is a little too life-like. The giant robot starts to rampage! To further complicate matters, she not only gave it a superclaw, she also installed a laser eye and the power to control dogs’ minds. After many failed attempts to stop the robot gone wild, the girl creates a new plan: she creates a giant, fighting toad. What will happen when the toad and the robot have an epic battle?

The text is sparse and written in present tense from the little girl’s perspective. Sparse and informal descriptive text printed at the bottom of the page is punctuated by speech bubble dialogue that is incorporated in the illustrations. The text is clever, but I find the illustrations to be even more witty and hilarious. The illustrations, created with Photoshop, are cinematic and reminiscent of old superhero comics. Santat uses a variety of angles and viewpoints to create a suspenseful, action-packed story. He has also added humorous details to the illustrations, like the dogs who have dressed themselves as robots and the “cup of dirt” science project. Make sure to take time to look at the endpapers. The front papers show blueprints of the robot and the back showcases the blueprints for the toad.

This book is great to share with elementary school kids because they will be familiar with science fairs and will be able to appreciate the humor of the book. Use this for a storytime about robots and pair it with If I Had a Robot or Robot Zot.

Follow up by creating some robots of your own out of recycled materials. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing. That Artist Woman uses Halloween candy boxes to create her small recycled robots. Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas uses cardboard boxes to make a child-sized recycled robot. Or you can go super simple, like the Clermont County Public Library. They made foil and cardboard tube robots, which are decorated with construction paper shapes. You could cover any object with foil (plastic water bottle, tin cans, plastic cups, etc.) and use it as the base for your robot.

If you like this book, check out the sequel Oh No! NotAgain! (Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History) (Or at Least My HistoryGrade) also by Barnett and Santat.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book #270: Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

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Pete’s in a horrible mood. He was supposed to go outside to play ball with his friends, but then it rained. Pete’s father notices his sons sulking and decides the best way to cheer him up will be to make him into a pizza. So he puts Pete on the table and begins to knead the dough. He stretches it and tosses it in the air. He adds some oil (it’s really water) and flour (it’s really talcum powder) and then begins adding toppings to the pizza. By the time Pete’s father takes the pizza out of the oven (it’s really the sofa), it’s clear the pizza is anything but grumpy. And what’s even better, the sun has come out! So the pizza, I mean Pete, heads outside to find his friends.

Based on a game Steig used to play with his daughter, the text and illustrations radiate the warmth of a loving parent-child relationship. The simple text is printed in all capitals at the bottom of each page. The illustrations, done in Steig’s signature pen and watercolor style, are brightly patterns and filled with a fun and funny family.  

The title has some great alliteration making this a good addition to a letter P storytime. You can also use it for a lapsit or toddler time. Have parents pretend to make their children into pizzas as you read the story.

I also really love Omazing Kids Yoga’s idea to use this book as part of a yoga storytime. Scroll to page 2 for a list of pose ideas to go with the story.

Try following up with this Letter Pizza Craft. Make it faster by printing the letters and then using a circle punch to cut them out. Or you can print directly onto circular labels. If you have time and want to get a little fancier try making brown paper wrapped pizzas. Cut up construction paper to make different toppings. If you have a rainy day to fill at home this is one of those crafts that kids can work on all day. Once you have your pizzas ready have the kids open a pizzeria. They can take orders from other family members. You could even save some pizza boxes and have the kids make deliveries all over the house.

Finish up with a pizza themed song. My favorites include I am a Pizza and That's Amore (all kids should be introduced to the Rat Pack at an early age in my opinion).


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book #269: Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke

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Herky, the first grade class guinea pig, knows he is very lucky. He has all the food and water he could want and a classroom full of kids who love to teach him things. But then Herky watches the kids plant seeds and as the days pass the seeds grow into green beans! Now Herky knows what he wants: a garden! Luckily, Herky spends every summer at a farm in the country and luckily he’s saved some pumpkin seeds from the class pumpkin carving last year. With the help of his new friend Daisy, the rabbit, Herky plants, waters, and impatiently waits for his seeds to grow into pumpkins. Although he has to go back to the classroom before the pumpkins are done growing, he’s very busy with the new first graders and luckily, he knows he can grow more pumpkins next year.

Duke’s book is targeted at the lower elementary grades that have had the experience of a class pet. The text is written from Herky’s point of view and comments are added in speech bubbles throughout the story. The watercolor, pen, and ink illustrations are realistic and soft. Herky is drawn in Duke’s classic guinea pig style (see Guinea Pigs Far and Near) and it’s amazing how much personality and emotional expression Duke is able to convey with two dot eyes and a wiggly nose.  The passing of time matches up correctly with pumpkin planting and harvesting times.

Use this for a fall or pumpkin storytime and pair it with Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White or the non-fiction title, From Seed to Pumpkin by Wendy Pfeffer. You could also use this as part of a gardens and growing storytime. Try pairing it with titles such as, My Garden or The Curious Garden. For any of these themes, try rhymes like Once I Had a Pumpkin or Pumpkins on the Ground.

If possible, bring in pumpkins for the kids to cut up and examine. You can go traditional and carve the pumpkins. You can cut the pumpkin up and bake it for a tasty treat. You can roast the seeds and eat them or you can use them for a pumpkin seed pumpkin craft or a “what’s inside a pumpkin?” craft. Grab some orange construction paper for some paper strip pumpkins. Or use those paper lunch bags (you know how much I love them!) and make some paper bag pumpkins. You could even use regular size brown paper bags if you want to make large pumpkins.

Now that you’ve got a whole bunch of pumpkins use them to practice counting and patterns. Make a pattern of different size pumpkins and ask the kids to recreate the pattern. Use the pumpkins to practice addition and subtraction. You could even make a large tic-tac-toe boards and you can use two different kinds of pumpkins for X’s and O’s.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Book #268: Rain School by James Rumford

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It is the first day of school in Chad, Africa and Thomas is very excited. As he walks to school he asks the big brothers and sisters who lead the way many questions. Will he get a pencil? A notebook? Will he learn to read? When the children arrive at the schoolyard they find the teacher, but no schoolhouse. Their first lesson is to build the school. Thomas learns how to make walls and desks out of mud and he gathers grass and saplings to make the roof. Finally, the students sit in their very own schoolhouse and the teacher begins to teach them the letters of the alphabet. The end of the school year comes just in time; the big rains begin and soon the schoolhouse disintegrates into the landscape. But it doesn’t matter, because next year Thomas will be a big brother and he will lead the younger children to the schoolyard where they will build the schoolhouse again. 

This book, named a Smithsonian Notable Children’s Book in 2010, was inspired by the rained on remains of schoolhouses that Rumford and his wife saw as Peace Corps Volunteers in Chad. The text is simple and straightforward. The story takes place over the span of a year and the passing of time is frequently noted in the text. The ink and pastel illustrations use a background of yellows, browns, and golds to convey the dry heat of the environment. Many of the illustrations are impressionistic; shapes and outlines are used to represent distant trees and threatening storm clouds. The characters that create this community are lively and caring, dressed in bright primary colors that stand out against their dark brown skin. The last page includes a map of Africa that includes the names of the countries (accurate as of the printing of this book in 2010). Chad is highlighted in red and the population and capital city of N’Djamena are included.

Use this book on the first day of school for elementary school kids. Talk about the things they expect to find in their classrooms every year. What are the differences and similarities between their school and Thomas’? Use this as a jumping off point to explore classrooms all over the world. If your school has a sister school in another city, this is a good opportunity to connect and ask questions about the students’ school life.

Try pairing this book with non-fiction titles such as Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes or My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World by Margriet Ruurs.

Here are a few helpful online resources to use with kids. Download the one page sheet of suggested activities from the Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award wiki. Although Chad isn’t one of the featured countries, check out the PBS Kids My World: Africa for Kids website, which features four different schools in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, and Kenya. For ideas for a larger age range (grades 1-8) check out The Classroom Bookshelf Blog, which includes extension activities and discussion questions for this book.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book #267: Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt, Illustrated by Tricia Tusa

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Sometimes the little girl in this book stays with her mother and sometimes she stays with her father. But it doesn’t matter if she sleeps in the bunk bed at one house or the regular bed at the other, Fred stays with her. In a matter-of-fact fashion, the girl explains how her life works with her separated parents. Although she points out the differences in her two homes, she also points out the things that stay the same. She has the same friends, goes to the same school, and both her parents are fed up with Fred! When each of her parents say, “Fred can’t stay with me!” the girl puts her foot down, “Excuse me, Fred doesn’t stay with either of you. Fred stays with ME!”

The text is written from the little girl’s perspective and the tone perfectly captures a child’s manner of describing events. Although the book is clearly about divorce, this word is never mentioned. It’s refreshing to read a book about the topic that doesn’t feature a character struggling to accept the situation or trying to get their parents back together. All the characters seem to accept the separated status quo; this is just the way life is for them. The humorous mostly sepia-toned illustrations remind me of candid photographs. They seem to capture moments in the girl’s life in mid-motion.

Use this for a storytime about different kinds of families. Try pairing it with Same, Same but Different or Bye-Bye, Baby. This is an especially helpful book for children who do not have divorced or separated parents because it shows divorce not as a problem, but as part of life. Discuss the idea that just because the girls parents don’t live together that doesn’t mean they aren’t a family.

You could also easily incorporate this book into a storytime about pets or dogs. Ask the kids if they think Fred and the girl are friends. How can you tell they are friends? What kinds of things do they do together that show this friendship? Do you have a pet you consider your friend and what kinds of things do you do together?

Follow up by making your own canine friend. Try a paper lunch bag dog puppet. Use white paper bags and dark brown paper if you want your dog to look like Fred. Fold a simple origami dog head. It only requires three folds, so it's a nice introduction to origami. I also like this dog hand puppet made out of a business envelope. If you don’t want to buy envelopes save up the envelopes you receive in junk mail.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book #266: Olivia by Ian Falconer

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Open this book to get a glimpse into a day in the life of Olivia, a small piglet with a big personality. Whether it’s getting dressed in the morning, going to the beach or the art museum, creating a masterpiece, or playing with her little brother Olivia does everything with passion and energy. Most of all, Olivia is very good at wearing people out, especially herself!

Falconer’s spare text beautifully captures the spirit and outspoken style of Olivia. Written in third person present tense, most of the book describes Olivia’s very full days in short and humorous sentences. These sentences are punctuated dramatically by short bits of dialogue and phrases such as, “Time out.” Falconer has a background in scenic and costume design and in many ways the illustrations resemble design concept drawings. The charcoal and gouache drawings pop out against the clean white pages. The illustrations are almost entirely done in gray-scale with clothing and highlighted items in red.

Pair this book with other pig-tastic books, such as The Three Swingin’ Pigs (or your favorite version of the three pigs story), Will You Read to Me? or Pigsty.

Wear a red, white, and black outfit when you read this book. Follow up by making your own pig ear headbands. Try some paper cup pigs. You can make this craft faster by buying pink cups or pre-wrapping the cups. Nick Jr. has a printable Olivia paper doll that comes with pages of outfits (although I personally think that making the your own clothes is the best part of paper dolls).

If you don’t mind getting messy, pull out some red, black, and grey paint and let kids create their own Pollock-like masterpiece like Olivia does in the book. Make sure you remind kids that this is a great craft to do on paper (not on the walls!).

Olivia is such a spunky and unique individual it’s no surprise that there are several more books in the Olivia the Pig series. Check out the official Olivia the Pig website for online games, activities, interviews with the author, printables, and other fun stuff.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Book #265: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood

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There’s a beautiful red ripe strawberry near the tree trunk home of little Mouse. Mouse cannot wait to pick the strawberry, but then the narrator warns the mouse about the big hungry Bear. The Bear loves strawberries and no matter how cleverly you hide them or vigilantly guard them, the Bear will find them and eat them! Good thing the narrator knows just what to do to save the strawberry. One half for the little Mouse to eat and one for the narrator; that’s the way to save a strawberry from the big hungry Bear!

The simple text, written in first person present tense, speaks directly to little Mouse. Although Mouse never answers with words, her/his reactions and facial expressions speak volumes. The color pencil illustrations are lush and round, transporting the reader to a mouse-eye view of a soft-focus forest. The book is slightly larger than average and the font is large and easy to read. All these elements combine to create a wonderful book for reading aloud.

After you read the book ask the kids who they think the narrator is. A helpful friend? Another mouse? Or maybe the bear? Did little Mouse really save the strawberry from the bear?

Use this for a storytime about fruits and berries and pair it with books such as, Jamberry, Orange Pear Apple Bear (which also features a bear, a nice connection), or Too Many Pears.

The red ripe strawberry is so brilliantly red, this could also be a fun story for a red themed storytime. Follow up with other red-centric books, like Red is Best or Red Truck.

Introduce the basic concept of fractions by talking about halves and wholes. Bring in strawberries and other foods that can be cut in half to illustrate the idea. Try a slice of bread, a piece of pie, a cookie, an apple, an orange, an avocado, a pear, or even a melon. Have kids make their own paper strawberries to cut in half, which is also great for learning scissor skills.

If your kids haven’t seen a live mouse before, see if you can bring one into storytime or take a field trip to the pet store.

Make some plastic eggs leftover from Easter into plastic strawberries and have a game of Find the Strawberries around the storytime room or even the entire children's area. I also like this twist on a classic game, Pin the Stem on the Strawberry.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book #264: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

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Once upon a time there were three monsters that lived in a castle overlooking a monster-fearing village. Everyday the monsters, Grouch, Grump, and Gloom ’n’ Doom fought over who was the biggest, baddest monster. They could never agree, so one day they decided to work together to create the biggest, baddest monster of them all. Unfortunately for the little monsters when giant Monster comes to life they find he’s big, but he’s not so bad. In fact, the first words from Monster’s mouth are, “DANK YOU!” Will Monster learn how to be as bad as the little monsters? Or will the little monsters learn something from the gentle and kind Monster?

McDonnell is most famous for his comic strip, MUTTS, and the wide-eyed, round-nosed style of Earl and Mooch can be seen in all the monsters. The book begins in dark, dank colors that suit the angry mood of the little monsters, but as Monster shows them all to appreciate the world around them the colors gradually become lighter and brighter. As the book ends, all four characters are looking out across the ocean watching the sunrise in delicate and beautiful colors. The pace of the book is quick and page turns are placed strategically to add suspense. The text is full of sounds and dialogue, making this a fun book to read out loud.

Pair this book with other monster stories for a Halloween themed storytime. Try Even Monsters Need Haircuts, If You’re a Monster and You Know It, Go Away Big Green Monster or Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance. And of course, you can’t forget The Monster at the End of This Book.

You could also use this for a storytime about good manners since Monster is always so eager to show his thankfulness for being alive. Try pairing it with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? or The Hungry Thing. 

There’s some nice M alliteration in the title, so try using this for a storytime about the letter M and following up with some M Monsters

Not in an M mood? Don't worry, there are plenty of monster crafts (large amounts of goggly eyes are a must). Try these super simple cardboard tube monsters posted on the Crafts by Amanda Blog. Another cheap and simple craft would be to make paper lunch bag monster puppets. You can fancy them up if you have more art supplies, but kids are usually just as happy with a handful of markers and a large supply of stickers. In addition, the Hachette Book Group’s website has some nice printable activities and crafts based on this book.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book #263: Sector 7 by David Wiesner

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Follow the wordless adventures of a boy who goes on very unusual field trip. It starts out as a trip to the Empire State Building, but on the observation deck the boy makes friends with a small cloud. The cloud takes him on a journey to the headquarters for Sector 7, a floating train station for clouds. Some of the clouds can’t quite follow the cloud designs they’ve been given by the station masters, so the boy draws new designs for them – beautiful sea creatures! Large mouthed lion fish, floating jellyfish, puffer fish, and dozens of smaller fish. The station masters aren’t so happy with these design and they send the boy back to New York City. But on his way home from the field trip from the window of the school bus, the boy sees clouds that look strangely like sea creatures!

Known for his beautiful and creative wordless books, Wiesner’s style is in fine form in this imaginative Caldecott Honor book.  His watercolor illustrations are cinematic and atmospheric; you can almost hear the sounds of wind rushing past your face. The illustrations fill the pages from corner to corner in amazing detail and depth.Some illustrations are full page, while others are split into panels of various sizes. Although there isn’t any spoken dialogue, looking at the facial expressions of the humans and clouds is like watching a silent film, you can figure out what’s going on even without dialogue cards.

Use this for a storytime or unit about weather or clouds. Try pairing this book with All the Water in the World or Thunder Cake. After you read the book, look at the illustration that shows the departure and arrival times of different kinds of clouds. Discuss the different types of clouds on the list: cirrus, cumulonimbus, cumulus, etc. Find pictures of each type of cloud to compare and contrast. Unroll a long piece of butcher paper and have the kids draw a cross section of the sky that shows the altitude of each type of cloud.

Look at the globe that’s marked with the different sectors in the book. Is your location shown on the globe? Can you figure out what sector you live in? If your location is not on the globe, see if you can guesstimate the sector. Have the kids design the cloud station for their sector.

For a simple, no frills craft have kids draw their own cloud designs. Help them write the reasons for their choices on the paper. You can also give kids cotton balls, dough or clay and let them sculpt their own clouds. If your looking for a messier craft (and what kid doesn’t like a messy craft?), try these colorful cloud jars as posted by Holly. While you’ve got the shaving cream out, try some shaving cream painting. I haven’t tried this one, but I’m completely fascinated by the idea of making a soap cloud by putting a bar of Ivory soap in the microwave and watching it expand into a cloud!

If you enjoy this wonderfully inventive and imaginative book, check out Wiesner’s other books.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book #262: Round is a Pancake by Joan Sullivan Baranski, Illustrated by Yu-Mei Han

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Join the members of this exuberant royal court as they celebrate all things round. From pancakes to lollipops, cherries to coins, this book will have you looking around, “on the ground, in the air. You will find round things everywhere!”

The rhyming text of this book is printed in a large, bold font that curves its way through the circle-filled landscape. Kids will be familiar with all the circular items mentioned and they will also be able to find them easily in Han’s bright and beautiful illustrations. The illustrations are full of dynamic movement that flows from left to right, pushing the story long with each turn of the page. Although this book lacks a plot, the characters follow the rhyme from page to page. Look at Han’s painterly illustrations and see how many other circular items you can find, there are dozens beyond what is mentioned in the text.

Use this for a toddler or preschool storytime about circles or shapes. Try pairing it with other books full of shapes, such as Press Here, Boat Works, My Heart is a Zoo or StarsAfter you read the book, pass around items in the different shapes mentioned in the books, so that kids can have a tactile, as well as visual, connection. You could also pair this with Hey, Pancakes! for a storytime about that wonderful breakfast food.

A quick Google or Pinterest search for “Circle Craft Kids” will give you a long list of extension crafts. Here are a few I found that I would love to try out. Try this circular moon crater craft from the Preschool Crafts for Kids blog. If you have a circle punch, try making a circle garland (Martha Stewart attaches the circles to thread, but I suggest using yarn or a ribbon because it’s easier for kids to handle). You could also use your circle punch to make a memory game with circle tiles instead of a square or rectangle cards. Use circular containers to paint circles on a page for a circle collage.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Book #261: The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, Illustrated by John Manders

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Jack the cat has the perfect plan. He builds the perfect nest in the barn, complete with a welcome mat and twinkle lights, and waits for a perfect chicken to lay a perfect egg to make the perfect omelet for Jack. Sure enough, a chicken comes along and lays a small egg in the perfect nest. Unfortunately, a duck waddles by and decides she must lay her egg in the perfect nest. And wouldn’t you know it, a goose has the same idea! It takes Jack a while, but he is finally able to lure the squabbling poultry away from the nest. But what happens when the eggs hatch before Jack can eat them? What’s poor Jack to do?

Friend’s text, printed in a large, bold font, has clearly been developed for reading aloud. Each character has a distinct voice; most notably the Spanish speaking chicken, the French duck, and the Southern inspired goose. Friend uses the rule of threes to emphasis and reiterate each point of the story. Jack is a humorous protagonist, a schemer who has quite a few wrenches thrown into his “perfect” plan. Manders’ gouache illustrations are witty and lush. Using a palate of browns and yellows, he creates a rich barnyard setting. Jack and the birds, painted in light blues, grays, and reds, pop to the forefront. Manders’ characters are never static, movement abounds. I especially like the hilarious sequence that shows the many ways Jack tries to get the birds out of the nest. Don’t miss the endpapers; the front papers show the barn during the day and the back shows the same scene at night.

Use this story for a storytime about size. Try pairing it with Press Here or George Shrinks. Put up felt eggs (small, medium, and large) on the flannelboard as the story progresses. Then you can refer to each of the eggs throughout the story. You could do the same with plastic eggs or paper cut outs. Try the small, medium, large activity on page 3 of this storyhour guide by Candlewick (scroll to page 8 for a printable of the activity).

This book can also be used for a storytime about eggs, which is a nice alternative if you want to do egg stories/crafts, but don’t want to do an Easter themed storytime. Try pairing it with stories such as, The Talking Eggs, Guji Guji, or Chicken Big.

Discuss the fact that birds are not the only animals that lay eggs. This is a great excuse to read a non-fiction title like, Chickens Aren't the Only Ones. Print out pictures of animals and have the kids guess if they lay eggs or have their babies live. This can lead to a discussion of the differences between birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals.

There are tons of egg crafts out there, but here are links to a few of my favorites: Alissa has posted some fun (and messy) string eggs on her blog, Craft Endeavor. The Classified: Mom Blog uses food coloring and crayons to make crayon resist eggs. Finally, Jellyfish Jelly uses paper plates and colored cellophane to make stained glass eggs.

I would love to use this story as the basis of a reader’s theater script. I haven’t been able to find a script on the Internet (please post a comment with a link if you do), however the distinctive characters and use of dialogue would make this book easy and fun to adapt. It can be done with as few as five actors. You can have the three birds return to play the three babies.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book #260: Pie for All, All for Pie by David Martin, Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev

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One day Grandma Cat makes an apple pie that just seems to keep on giving. The cat family eats five pieces, leaving one piece on the table. The mice family divides that piece into six smaller pieces. They eat five and leave one on the table. Finally, a family of ants appears and they further divide that small piece into six crumbs and every single one is eaten. It’s a good thing Grandma decides to bake another pie and this time all the kids, feline, mouse, and insect, help out.

Martin’s text is brief and repetitive, which will help kids anticipate the next part of the story. Martin does well by using the rule of three. For instance, each time the pie is eaten, Martin lists out each of the characters and what they ate. Gorbachev’s signature watercolor and ink style is pitch perfect for this story. Browns and golds are used to create a warm, cozy atmosphere and old-fashioned light fixtures, kitchenware, and furniture are used to create a turn of the century look. Make sure to take a look at the endpapers, which show Brother Mouse and Sister Mouse helping to make pie in Grandma Cat’s kitchen.

Use this for a storytime about apples or pies and pair it with The Apple Pie That Papa Baked. Try rhymes like Apple Tree and the call and response rhyme, Oh My, I Want a Piece of Pie. Although the story doesn’t mention a specific holiday or season, this book is also a great addition to an autumn, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or any other holiday that involves pie) storytime.

This would be a great story to tell with a flannelboard. Start with a large circle (precut into pieces, smaller pieces, and crumbs) and take away a piece each time it is mentioned in the text. If you have upper elementary school aged kids, this is a great time to talk about fractions. The pie is first cut into six pieces (1/6ths), and then one piece is further divided (1/36ths) and divided again (1/216ths). Draw this out on a board, use the flannelboard, or a thick piece of paper so that the kids have tangible pieces to work with. Better yet, bring in a pie and divide it as you read the story.

You can also have kids make their own pieces to cut up into different fractions. Try Teach Preschool’s paper blueberry pie or a paper plate apple pie, as posted on the Off the Shelf blog. For younger kids, try cutting or drawing lines to cut the pie into easier to understand fractions, like halves and quarters.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book #259: Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies

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Night is falling and the air crackles with excitement. It’s time for the annual bat baseball game! For years this bat team has been defeated by the same rival team, but this year will be different. The grounds crew preps the ground and the national anthem is sung. Soon the game is in full swing, but the innings pass and the score remains at 0-0. Will the bat's team win or will they be beaten once again by their rivals? Grab a mothdog and some Cricket Jacks and find out!

Lies’ rhyming text and evocative imagery brings the bats baseball game to life. The sights, sounds, and smells of the sport are brought to the forefront as the suspenseful story plays out. The vocabulary of baseball terms and advanced words, such as collide, ricochets, and refuge, make this a book for elementary aged kids and up. The acrylic illustrations are detailed and glossy. Lies makes good use of light and shadow, appropriate for a book about nocturnal animals. In addition, the bats are of a variety of species, as evidenced by differing ear, nose, and wing shapes.

Use this for a baseball or sports storytime for elementary school aged children. Try pairing it with Roasted Peanuts and finish by singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. If your kids are not very familiar with baseball, draw a baseball diamond on the board to show bats on base, etc. Take the time to explain (before/during/after) the baseball terminology in the text.

You could also use this book for a Halloween storytime or a storytime about nocturnal animals (try pairing it with the humorous Diary of a Wombat).

If it’s autumn, you should be able to find mini pumpkins for a cheap price at the grocery store. Try making them into pumpkin bats. If pumpkins can’t be found, substitute papier-mâché balls. You could also make a bat mobile. When in doubt, break out those paper lunch bags and make some bat puppets.

There are some great baseball crafts, too. Try a bat and ball bookmark or this baseball mobile. You could even combine the bat and baseball mobile to create a Bats at the Ballgame Mobile. I suggest making the baseballs smaller to balance with the size of the bats. 

You could also talk about homonyms, starting the discussion with the two uses of the word "bat" in this book. What other homonyms can the kids think of? Can they write a story using as many homonym pairs as possible? 
If you like this book, check out the other bat books by Lies. Lies' website also includes activities and more information about bats.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Book #258: Bye-Bye, Baby! by Richard Morris, Illustrated by Larry Day

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Felix’s mother has a baby and now Felix is a big brother. He’s not happy about it. He tells his best friend, his stuffed donkey Poncho, “This isn’t working out, I think we should take her back.” But it doesn’t work; Felix can’t get rid of his new sister. One day his family visits the zoo and Felix thinks of all the ways the animals could help him with his problem; the elephant could sit on his sister and the hippo with the giant mouth could eat her. In fact, Felix loves the zoo so much he doesn’t want to leave. All the way home he cries and his parents can’t get him to stop, but then his sister picks up Poncho and puts it in Felix’s lap. Felix knows that Poncho will always be his best friend, but maybe this new sister isn’t so bad after all.

Some books about new babies model good behavior for older siblings (such as Lola Reads to Leo), but this book shows kids that they aren’t alone in needing time to adjust to a new sibling. Morris’ text is brief and action-oriented. Nearly all the dialogue is Felix talking with Poncho, a wonderful concept that allows kids to hear Felix’s thoughts. The illustrations, pen and ink, watercolor and gouache on watercolor paper, fill the entire book from cover to cover. Animals and people are anatomically correct and rendered in realistic colors, yet the illustrations retain a sketchy, loose feel. Day deftly captures the movements and moods of toddlers and babies in a way that is charming, but never precious or sugary.  

Pair this book with other sibling stories, such as Another Brother, Julius Baby of the World, or Big Sister, Little Sister. Follow up with crafts that allow older siblings to prepare for younger siblings. Have them make a book that introduces the baby to their world. Paste in pictures of family and friends and help them write a sentence or two about each person. It can be an activity they enjoy doing together, where they live, or something they admire about them. Also, check out the printable “I’m a Big Sister/Brother” crowns published by Nick, Jr.

I also found a thought provoking blog post by Morris about the challenge of writing picture books because of the need to keep the story under 1,000 words (less for books geared toward babies or toddlers). It’s a quick read and it will have you running to your bookshelf to count the words in your favorite picture book.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book #257: The Adventures of Polo by Régis Faller

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Follow Polo, a small dog with dotted eyes and u-shaped eyebrows, on his adventures all over the world and into outer space, too! In wordless panels, Polo travels from one landscape to the next his trusty back pack of supplies in tow. From the calm waters of the ocean to a fiery volcano covered island, from icebergs to the surface of the Moon. No matter what happens to him, Polo finds a solution to every obstacle and friends around every corner.

Originally published in France, this cinematic book needs no translation to be appreciated and enjoyed by readers of all ages. All the explanation a reader needs can be found in the panels, of various sizes, that illustrate Polo’s episodic adventures. In a way, this could be considered a graphic novel in picture book form (or maybe a picture book in graphic novel form?). Polo is not only a resourceful protagonist, he’s also playful and curious with an ever present sense of humor. The illustrations are full of blue skies and oceans, fluffy white clouds, and intriguing traveling machines. Faller’s cartoon style and clean line work is bold and whimsical. Although Polo runs into obstacles along his journey, nothing is too scary or too big to overcome.

The episodic nature of this book makes it easy to split up into sections to read over multiple days/storytimes. You can also have kids take turns narrating the story, page by page or panel by panel.

You could easily use this book as part of a transportation themed storytime because Polo travels in so many types of vehicles: boats, submarines, flying machines, hot air balloons, spherical spacecraft, etc. Try pairing it with books like To the Beach and How Will We Get to the Beach.

Have kids write and illustrate their own wordless adventures starring Polo or even themselves. You can challenge upper elementary school aged kids by telling them what supplies they have in their back pack or what kind of transportation they start out traveling on.

Print out these two pages to cut and paste a boat, just like Polo’s. The website is in French, so look for the link that says, “C’est par ici” to download the printables.

Fallon has created a wonderful interactive adventure/book/game on his website. Look for the arrows to navigate throughout Polo’s world. You can also click on certain elements to see more. Read more about Polo’s adventures in subsequent books.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book #256: Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird, Illustrated by Helen Craig

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Angelina loves to dance more than anything else in the world. In fact, her dancing is driving her mother crazy! She dances instead of tidying her room and when she dances in the kitchen she knocks over a whole plate of Cheddar cheese pies. Angelina’s mother is at her wit’s end, but luckily her father has an idea. The next morning Angelina finds a box on the breakfast table with a pink ballet dress and ballet slippers. She begins ballet lessons at Miss Lilly’s Ballet School. Now Angelina dances so much in class that she can spend time at home cleaning her room and helping to bake delicious Cheddar cheese pies. And after years of practicing, Angelina becomes the famous ballerina Mademoiselle Angelina and many people are able to enjoy her wonderful dancing.

The text is set against the white of the page, making it easy to read, and the delicate, detailed illustrations deftly showcase Angelina’s wonderful movements. There’s a timeless, yet contemporary, quality to the text and illustrations of this book. The action-driven text, great for reading aloud, centers on activities that could have happened yesterday or a hundred years ago. Likewise, although the illustrations were inspired by Craig’s childhood in rural England, children will not be lost in historical details. Even though both creators are English, I feel that Angelina’s story is universal.

This is a great book to share with the young dancers in your life. I remember pulling this book off the shelf when I was young just to look at the pictures. I agonized over whether I would wear the pink ballet dress, like Angelina, or one of the other dresses worn by the girls in her ballet class.

Pair this book with other ballet stories such as, Bea at Ballet, Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two or Brontorina. Turn on ballet music and let the kids dance. This is a great opportunity to bring out scarves if you have them. When you are done, practice your curtsies and bows, as Angelina does in the book.

Follow up by making your own tutu. Mammalicious uses elastic and (lots) of tulle to make this hand knotted tutu. Don’t have the resources to buy elastic and tulle? No worries. Save the elastic from a pair of men’s underwear. Just cut off the underwear part and then cut the elastic to the right size for your child. Instead of tulle, use leftover ribbons and other flowy fabrics (check your local thrift store for cheap scarves). These won’t stand out the way tulle does, but they will swirl when your child spins. For a less time consuming craft, try this Angelina Ballerina hand print craft.

Check out the Angelina page of Holabird’s website which includes a timeline of the creation and development of Angelina and printable activities.

If your kids fall in love with darling Angelina, check out the other books in the Angelina series. I vividly remember reading Angelina at the Fair and Angelina and Alice when I was young.