May 23, 2017

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:14 pm by suebe2

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
Beach Lane Books

“Rah, rah, radishes!
Red and white!”

“Carrots are calling.
Take a bite.”

From radishes and carrots to squash and asparagus, the produce aisle gets treated to a rollicking fast paced rhyme in this picture book by nonfiction author and poet April Pulley Sayre.

Although most of the text is devoted to the vegies in question, Sayre also covers the importance of bees and sun.  An author’s note at the back of the book also discusses the definition of a “vegetable” in dietary terms, the importance of color to nutrition and veggies that didn’t make their way into the book.

Whether the topic is poetry, diet or colors, this book is an excellent choice.  Short enough to read aloud it is sure to engage young readers in discussion whether or not they are trying to figure out what is a radish or if carrots can be a color other than orange.

Young learners would have fun listing the many vegetables in the book, grouping them by color or shape or even in alphabetical order and coming up with ways they can be eaten.  A simple vegetable soup or salad would be an excellent classroom project as would a graph of what vegies each student has eaten within the last 24 hours.

Invite young learners to create their own vegetable poems with that poem is a chant like the one written by Sayre, list poem, or an acronym.  Another possibility would be to create a vegetable still life and have the students draw, paint or create collages based on what they see.

This book presents an almost endless array of possible activities.  Share it with your young learners and let them get creative!

–SueBE

 

May 19, 2017

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:07 pm by suebe2

Shh! We Have a Plan
by Chris Haughton
Candlewick Press

A quartet of young explorers make their way through the wintry landscape in the dusky evening. What will they find?  When they see a bird, the smallest calls out.  “Hi, Birdie!”

“Shh! We have a plan,” his companions say.

Plan after plan fails as the bird flies away from their nets but the pattern is established.  Greet, shush, pounce again and again.

Finally, they come upon the smallest companion surrounded by birds because he is feeding them.  Unlike the quartet of explorers, depicted in blues with wide white eyes, the birds are a colorful crew, vibrant and lively in the dusky winter landscape. When the bigger kids try to net the birds, they get more than they bargained for and flee.

Then they see a squirrel.

Haughton uses digital illustrations that look a lot like collage to create the folky feel of that art style.  The illustrations are deceptively simple – looking blocky and basic but contributing to the sense of fun.  Paired with the simple text, it creates dreamy story that feels classic although it is new.

This would make an excellent read aloud with illustrations that are simple enough to be seen from the back row, while being expressive enough to help create the sense of fun calamity that befalls each attempt to capture the bird.  Furthermore, the repetition, “Shh! We have a plan,” forms a repeated refrain that is sure to pull  young book lovers into the story.

The same things that make it a strong story time book make it accessible to emergent readers who are still honing their skills.  The simple text is reinforced through both repetition and the illustrations.

Build on the text by providing the art supplies necessary for collage and let new stories grow.  Perhaps they will be stories of night-time adventures.  Perhaps woodland explorations.

–SueBE

 

May 17, 2017

Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snickett, illustrated by Lisa Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:25 pm by suebe2

Goldfish Ghost
by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Lisa Brown
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press

I have to admit that I had no clue what to expect from this book. I loved Lemony Snicket’s snarky sense of humor in the A Series of Unfortunate Events Books.  And, yes, I knew that he had already published another picture book.  But a book about a ghostly goldfish?  How was that going to work?

Quite well as it turns out.

“Goldfish Ghost was born
on the surface of the water
in a bowl on the dresser in
a boy’s room.”

Goldfish hangs out for a while but the bedroom is a pretty boring place for a ghost.  Goldfish drifts out the window and into town looking for a friend.  From sea gulls to a variety of people, there is a lot going on but no one notices Goldfish. Down at the beach, he finds even more people as well as a variety of ghostly sea creatures ranging from jelly fish to fish of all kinds, including a shark.  Goldfish finds it all interesting but the ocean just doesn’t feel like home so he drifts on with the breeze.

At last he drifts towards the old light house. It hasn’t been used for many years but inside he finds what he seeks, another ghost in search of company.  There’s more to the story but I’m going to make you read it yourself for the slightly sweet ending. Yes – slightly sweet from Lemony Snicket. Who’d have believed it?

Every parent of a fish owning child knows the stomach-tightening sensation of finding a floating fish.  Fortunately Brown’s sweet cartoony illustrations make this a non-issue.  India ink line drawings with water color make for a soft, dreamy story scape.

No, this picture book wouldn’t be for every child but then again no book is.  Still this book isn’t gruesome or scary and could easily serve to make an unknown space, the loss of a pet, just a bit warmer and more comfortable.

–SueBE

May 11, 2017

Trout, Trout, Trout! (A Fish Chant) by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Trip Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:03 am by suebe2

Trout, Trout, Trout! (A Fish Chant)
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Trip Park

“Threespine Stickleback,
Freshwater Drum.
Lake Chub.
Creek Chub.
Chum.
Chum.
Chum.”

Page after page of this fishy chant are filled with the names of . . . can you guess it? . . . North American fish.

The chant itself is both rhythmic and rhyming and contains the names of a great many fish found throughout the United States and Canada. Most of the fish are native speicies.  A few were introduced, intentionally or otherwise, by man. Although the main text doesn’t give any additional information on the various fish, a bit on each fish listed can be found in the back matter.  Over forty fish are listed in the order in which they appear in the main text.

Trip Park’s digital illustrations are silly and fun but also give enough detail to tell one fish from another.  That said, these illustrations are far from scientific but definitely add to the fun with schooled fishing carrying backpacks, sunning fish in beach chairs and you definitely need to see how the Starhead Topminnow turn the tables on the Northern Pike.

This book would make a great addition to the classroom or home bookcase.  Read it as you discuss poetry and then challenge young readers to create their own chants using the names of family members, hobbies are favorite foods.  It would also make a top-notch Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift for a parent or grandparent who enjoys fishing, especially if they share this hobby with a young reader.

The only things this book is lacking, in my own humble opinion, is a bit of information on writing a chant.  Still it is definitely a book that you should share with your poetry mad or fish crazy young reader.  Chum! Chum! Chum!

–SueBE

May 9, 2017

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:44 pm by suebe2

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

What does it take to create a classic book like Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web?  First things first, it takes Some Writer.  In this case, the writer is Elwyn White or, as his family and friends called him, Andy.

Andy grew up in New York state, not far from New York City. He and his family spent large amounts of time each and every summer in Maine.  Because of this, Andy knew both worlds – the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the slower pace of country life, paddling across the lake.  When he has a family of his own, the wanted them to know both worlds too.  He and his wife, Katharine, bought a farm in Maine and it was this farm that became the setting for Charlotte’s Web.

But before Andy wrote Charlotte’s Web, he wrote for adults.  He wrote essays.  He wrote short humorous pieces.  He published in magazines like The New Yorker where he met his wife who was an editor.

Stuart Little became a book because people had been encouraging (bugging) Andy to write for children.  He used to tell his son bed time stories about Stuart Little and decided that maybe people were right.  He should write for children and surely they would love Stuart as much as his son did.

I don’t want to give everything away so I’m not going to tell much more about what happened.  That said, I wasn’t surprised that his young readers loved Stuart.  I was surprised by how badly many adults disliked the book.  It was banned!   And described as frightening.  I kid you not.

Some Writer is an interesting read for anyone who is a fan of White’s work.  It shows how elements of his life appeared in his stories but also how he shaped both his life and is work.  This would definitely be something to read for discussing right after reading Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little when young readers would have the stories fresh in their minds and be ready to discuss how readers would have reacted differently to some of the story possibilities that never came into being in these two books.

–SueBE

May 5, 2017

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 10:39 pm by suebe2

The Last Kids on Earth
and the Zombie Parade
by Max Brallier
illustrated by Douglas Holgate
Viking

Jack Sullivan may be only 13 but he’s a world-class monster slayer.

Okay, it probably helps that he and his friends seem to be the only people left in the town of Wakefield but a lot of people evacuated when the zombies showed up.  Jack is the clever strategist and chief monster slayer.  Quint is his geeky-but-brilliant best friend.  Dirk may look like a brute but he’s the group gardener and still great in a fight.  June may be the only girl but she can definitely hold her own.  They’re pretty sure there are other people out there but they’ve got to hold out until they can seek out other survivors.

Human survivors.  Monsters aren’t at all hard to come by although the zombies are fewer and farther between.  And then they hear a horrible screaming and realize it is luring the zombies in.  What is it and why does it want the zombies?

When a monster quest goes wrong, Jack realizes that his friends would have died if it wasn’t for a huge guy (monster) called Thrull.  With skull jewelry and his massive size he’d be pretty scary if he didn’t also smell like a Cinnabon. Soon he leads the kids to a pizza parlor that has turned into monster home base.  Thrull is sure the kids will be welcome but they get the sense that something is wrong.  Someone is definitely lying to them, but who?

If you have a monster crazy tween he is hungry for zombies but most of the zombie books are too gruesome for your young reader, pick up The Last Kids on Earth.  Yes, it is about zombie.  Yes, monsters are attacked and things get a bit gooey but never overly gross or gory.

Max Braillier definitely knows his audience and when the crew ventures to the mall they visit Gamestop and later mourn the loss of the comic book store. The characters are snarky and smart mouthed but they genuinely care for each other and are willing to risk it all for a friend in trouble.

Douglas Holgate’s pen and ink drawings help bring the characters to life.  It isn’t as heavily illustrated as a graphic novel but there are spot illustrations and even some that take up most of the page in every chapter.

This book may be silly and funny but it is also about friendship and loyalty and knowing who you can trust.  Definitely worth a read and a good choice for your reluctant reader.

–SueBE

May 3, 2017

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:46 pm by suebe2

Zoey and Sassafras:
Dragons and Marshmallows
by Asia Citro
illustrated by Marion Lindsay
The Innovation Press

When Zoey hustles into her mother’s office to share an amazing find, she sees photos spread out on the desk and one of them glows. Mom is shocked that Zoey can see the glow because she’s always believed she was the only one who could see magic.  When she realizes that Zoey shares this gift, Mom shares a secret.  Animals come to their backyard whenever they need help and these aren’t ordinary animals.  They are magical.

Shortly after her mother leaves on a business trip, Zoey hears the bell that signals an animal in distress.  Heading to the yard behind the barn, Zoey discovers a baby dragon. It doesn’t look like it is injured but it is slow and sluggish.  Zoey knows that sometimes an animal is the “runt of the litter,” smaller and weaker than its little mates.  Soon she is working to discover what she can feed the baby dragon to make it strong.

In this, the first of the Zoey and Sassafras books, Citro combines a fun fantasy story with a how-to tutorial on the scientific method.  Zoey makes observations and using this information draws on her knowledge of the natural world to answer a question.  Like any true scientist, Zoey must observe and make notes and doesn’t always get things right on the first try.  When she does make a mistake, she thinks some more, makes more observations and again applies what she knows to solve the problem.

Zoey is a great character for young readers who like science or fantasy.  Inquisitive and caring, she has a quick mind and a good heart.  That said, she is not “wise beyond her years” and thus gives readers a character they can understand and appreciate.

Like many chapter books, this one is illustrated and Marion Lindsay’s drawings help bring the story to life.  They are fun and a bit silly and just as good at depicting a girl and her cat as a baby dragon.

Although this book would be perfect for a newly confident reader it would also make a great read aloud for the classroom or bedtime reading. That said, be prepared for discussions on how we make discoveries, acquiring new knowledge and exploring the world.

–SueBE

April 28, 2017

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:36 pm by suebe2

Leave Me Alone!
by Vera Brosgol
Roaring Brook Press

Once, long ago, there lived an old woman who lived in a small house in a small village.  In her small house lived her oh so large family.  With winter coming, she just couldn’t get her knitting done.  And this was important knitting!  But whenever she got out her yarn, her curious grandchildren would get involved and then she’d have to chase down all those colorful balls of wool.

So she cleaned up the house, packed up her yarn, and went into the woods.  Where she found a family of curious bears.  On the mountainside, she was discovered by curious mountain goats.  On the moon?  You guessed it!   Moon creatures! Finally she crawls into a hole and closes it after herself.  Alone in the dark, she finally manages to do her knitting.  But then she noticed that she is all alone.

So she cleans up the hole, and she goes home.

It seems like a very simple story but there is so much detail and it really is a lot of fun.

Brosgol is the author and the illustrator so she works a lot of the fun into the illustrations.  There’s the granddaughter trying to feed her brother a ball of yarn (thankfully it doesn’t fit!), the bear looking confused when the old woman shakes her finger in his face, the mountain goat trying to eat the yarn and more.

Then there are the ethnic details including the tea-filled samovar.

Then there are the unexpected contrasts.  We are used to knitting for fun.  Even if we make sweaters, they are luxuries.  But the old woman was doing IMPORTANT knitting. You don’t find out what until late in the book and I’m going to make you read it yourself.  Although we start with traditional fairy or folk tale motifs, old woman/tiny house/a lot of children, bears, and goats, we then move on to moon men with high-tech hand-held scanners!

Anyone who has ever had a moment where they were trying to get something done, if only they could get a minute to themselves, will find something to love in this book.  Share it with the knitter, the new brother, or the story lover in your own life, but be ready for some discussions about how you would have solved the old woman’s problem.

–SueBE

April 25, 2017

Alphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:10 pm by suebe2

Alphabet School
by Stephen T. Johnson
Paula Wiseman/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

No two people look at a book, or the world, in quite the same way.  That said, it isn’t surprising that Stephen T. Johnson’s work was brought to my attention by an illustrator because this book, like several others he has created, is wordless.

That’s right.  It is an alphabet book without words.

Where many alphabet book rely first on text, Johnson’s Alphabet School is all about the graphic element.  In fact, it was inspired by an image.  One day his daughter brought home her lunch sack complete with partially eaten lunch.  Inside was a PBJ that now looked exactly like the letter G which inspired the whole book.

Flip through the pages and you find every letter of the alphabet from A to Z rendered as photographs of various things found in and around your typical school.  The cover shows a ladder forming the letter A.  B is the shadow on a bus.  Sometimes the letter is formed by or on something that begins with that letter, such as the flags on a flagpole that create the F, but more often than not the letter is strictly visual.  Look at the photograph and you will find it.

It makes the whole experience a lot more like a hidden picture book than your typical alphabet book.  Be ready to have your young reader (graphic art appreciator?) combing their classroom, school, library and home for representations of various letters.  You could even create a scavenger hunt out of the experience.

The images are digitized prints that have a print photographic feel because of the grainy quality of the images themselves. It helps give the book a dreamy, surreal quality as does the fact that this is a school without students, teachers are staff.

Use this book as a jumping off point for working with the alphabet, creating a graphic alphabet with your class or discussing schools and the things in them.  Encourage your young artists to be as creative in their vision as Johnson was when we started seeking out the letters needed to complete the alphabet his daughter started.

–SueBE

April 19, 2017

The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:01 pm by suebe2

The Girl who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers

Once each  year, the youngest baby in the Protectorate is taken into the woods.  The people loathe this practice and parents mourn but it is the only way to keep the witch in the woods from destroying them all.

Xan, coincidentally, is a witch and she lives in the far side of the wood.  She doesn’t understand why these sad, sad people keep leaving babies in the woods, but each year she is hiding nearby to save the child.  She feeds the baby goats milk and starlight until she can reach a distant city where the children are always taken in and loved.

One year Xan accidentally feeds the baby moonlight along with the star light.  She has imbued the child with magic and magic is a trick thing.  Knowing that only she can teach the tiny girl how to control her gift, Xan takes her home and raises her as her own granddaughter.

The Elders and the Head Sister know the truth.  The youngest elder to take the child into the woods is only a boy when the tiny girl is left behind.  He can’t get the horror of what he has done out of his mind and leaves the Elders only to grow up and become a father.  A father who one day has the youngest child in the village.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot because I don’t want to give everything away.  This is such a timely story.  It is about people who sow misery and feed on the people’s sorrow.  It is about using grief, fear and agony to distract people from what is going on.

Sounds gloomy, doesn’t it?  But the book isn’t.  It is also a story about resilience and not giving up.  There are dragons (good dragons) and humor and lots of love.

Younger readers, grade 3 or 4 and up, who love fantasy will enjoy this story with a young heroine, Luna, who has to learn who she is, a boy who grows into a man who is determined to end the sorrow, and a funny, delusional dragon.  Most of us have had the grave misfortune to have a sorry eater in our lives and it is a moment of power when, reading this book, that fact clicks and we begin both to see and to understand.

–SueBE

 

Next page

%d bloggers like this: