August 15, 2017

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:09 pm by suebe2

Hoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep
by Leslie Helakoski
Sterling Children’s Books

High winds blow and two eggs are blown out of two very different nests.  Mama Goose and Mama Owl each retrieve an egg and return to their nests.

When Hoot hatches among the goslings, it is clear something is different.  Hoot doesn’t like the bugs and seeds the others relish.  When they go to sleep at night, he’s ready for adventure.

Mama owl finds Hoot playing with the other owlets and they all return to the owl’s nest.  And that’s where Honk hatches.

Poor Honk is just as out-of-place as Hoot was.  Little mice for dinner? Yuck!  When they others go to sleep, he wonders off to see what is what. Not too worry.  He too finds his family.

The book ends with a neat little summary:

Night and day.
Wake or doze?
Some eyes open.
Some eyes close.

Neither way is right or wrong.  They are simply different.

I first came across this book in a discussion of STEM reading.  For those of you who may not know the term, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  It is a tag used to label books and curriculum that can help young learners understand science.  How can a fictional book do that?

A lot of people mistakenly think that STEM books are always nonfiction.  But fiction like Hoot and Honk can be an excellent jumping off point for discussing STEM topics.  In this cast, the book sets up a world of comparisons and contrasts.  What do the two types of birds eat?  When do they sleep?  Where are their nests?

It is also a beautiful book.  Helakoski’s art work, done in pastels, is richly colored.  The pastels create a look of slightly furred edges that make the chicks look fluffy and fuzzy  – like chicks.

This book is super short and rhymes which will make it a great read aloud for either an individual child or a group.  Use it to spark discussions of comparison and contrast, fitting in, and more.

–SueBE

August 11, 2017

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:37 am by suebe2

Beyond the Bright SeaBeyond the Bright Sea
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Children’s Books

Twelve-year-old Crow has grown up one island over from Cuttyhunk, one of  Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Islands.  She landed on this tiny island in a battered boat when she was just a baby.

Osh rescued the tiny baby and it was only when she came into his life that he opened up to other islanders.  He too is a refugee although Crow never learns what it is he escaped.  That is in his past and the past, for some people, is best left alone.  Instead, Osh focuses on the now – fishing to feed them both, tending their garden and painting beautiful landscapes.

Miss Maggie, their friend and neighbor on Cuttyshank,  came to the islands for her own reason.  Sharp of tongue and wit, she is Crow’s  teacher because the school master won’t let Crow attend classes.

It isn’t because her skin is darker than his.  It is because everyone fears she came from a nearby island — home of a leper hospital.

Then one night Crow sees a mysterious fire on that island.  A bird sanctuary has taken the place of the leper colony.  Could the keeper be in need of help?  Crow’s curiosity may lead her to answers about who she is and where she came from but she will also be risking everything and everyone she knows and loves.

Wolk is also the author of Wolf Hollow and, like that book, Beyond the Bright Sea is an exploration of belonging and family.  It explores how our expectations can shape how we interpret the world and other people’s actions.  It is a story of love, trust and sacrifice and it is told in such a way that makes it fully accessible to middle grade audiences.

As always Wolk has done an exceptional job in pulling readers into the setting with details of island life in 1925.  The details are a part of the story without overwhelming it.

An excellent choice for the classroom or home library this is a book with depth and moral complexity.  Perfectly suitable for young readers, it trusts them to know and understand.

–SueBE

August 10, 2017

Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jan Korase

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:36 pm by suebe2

Little OinkLittle Oink
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Jan Korase
Chronicle Books

I love picture books that contain surprises and this one did not disappoint.  Little Oink is, no surprise if you’ve looked at the cover, a pig.  He loves truffle hunting with his pig pals, going to school, and spending time with Mama and Papa.

What he doesn’t love is Mess Up Time.

You see Little Oink is anything but piggy.  He loves to keep his room neat and tidy – his clothes and his toys put away.  He makes his bed.  And his clothes are always spotless.

But he loves his Mama and Papa so after a bit of resistance he puts on a stained shirt and messes up his room.  Once he does this he’s free to climb up to his tree house and play.  So what does he play?  House!

Picture books about animal characters who want to be something other than their animal type are common enough.  Of course, I can’t think of any off the top of my head but I’m thinking about the tortoise who wants to be speedy fast or the hare that is slow and methodical.

That said, this is a must have because it is just so much fun.  Yes, you have the piggy who doesn’t want to be piggy.  But the irony of the Mama and Papa making the kiddo mess up his room will be appreciated by young readers and parents alike.   So will the fact that he wants to be just like his friends – his friends who clean their rooms!

Parents will also enjoy reading this one out loud.  “He dug playing with his pig pals” when they are rooting for truffles.  His room has to be a “total pigsty.”

Whether the young reader is a neat freak or neatness challenged, they will love the humor in this story.  Short and fast-paced it will make a fun read aloud as well as a jumping off point for discussions on individuality, respect, and more.

–SueBE

August 4, 2017

Simon’s New Bed by Christian Trimmer, illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:21 am by suebe2

simons-new-bed-9781481430197_hrSimon’s New Bed
by Christian Trimmer
illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Simon was having a great day.  The boy had just given him a new bed and Simon was ready for a great nap, the best nap ever.  First he just has to go for a quick walk.

Unfortunately, while he’s gone, the cat makes herself at home.  Not surprisingly, Miss Adora Belle refuses to budge.  In fact, she ignores Simon completely.

She ignores him as he barks his displeasure.

She ignores him as he drags the new bed outside and back in.

She refuses to be lured away.

She doesn’t even wiggle an ear when he begs.

Simon has just about given up when he hits on an idea.  “… How about we share?”  It isn’t that Simon really wanted to share but he understood the importance of picking his battles.

Okay, I’ll admit that when I read that line about picking battles, I cringed.  It is Simon’s bed.  This was a character not meeting his goal.

But wait a minute.  His goal was getting to nap on his new bed.  No, he didn’t get to do it as planned, but he did get to do it.

And isn’t this an issue that as a society we really need to grasp?  Not everything deserves to be a huge battle.  In fact, some things aren’t important enough to bother with at all.  And yet, people fuss.  They post on Facebook. They pick fights.  What they don’t do is look for a less confrontational solution.

I have to admit that the more I think about it, the more I like this book.  The cat is pure cat.  The dog is adorable and reminds me of Mudge.  Van der Paardt’s illustrated characters are so expressive and fun.

This is definitely a book to consider for your classroom or home.  Young readers are still learning the ins and outs of making space for themselves and others in this world and this book is sure to lead to some interesting conversations.  Readers with siblings will identify with Simon and, if they are being 100% honest with themselves, may identify with Miss Adora Belle as well.

–SueBE

August 3, 2017

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:33 pm by suebe2

The Dot
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Vashti has no doubt in her mind.  She cannot draw.  She cannot paint.  There’s no point in even picking up a marker.  That’s why at the end of class her page is once again blank.

When her teacher encourages her to just make a mark, Vashti jabs at the paper with a marker, leaving a dot.  Her teacher, such a smart lady, asks her to sign her work.

The next time Vashti comes to class, the signed dot is in a gorgeous frame hanging over the teacher’s desk.  What?  Vashti is certain that it is not the best dot she can make and sets out to do even better.  Soon she has filled page after page with a wide variety of dots.  My favorite is the dot she painted by not painting a dot.  The dot is negative (white) space and she has painted the background all around it.

At the end of the year is a school art show.  The display includes a huge number of Vashti’s dots.  A young fan comes up to her.  “I wish I could draw.”  Fortunately, Vashti has learned a thing or two about encouraging another frustrated artist.

This book is almost ten years old and I’m not really sure how I managed to miss it.  This would have been perfect for my son when he was in grade school.  He wasn’t a good artist and he knew it.  Fortunately a new art teacher arrived in 5th grade and he helped each child find their strength, much like the teacher in this book.

At less than 400 words, this would be an excellent book for story time and reading aloud.  It would also be an excellent launch for a discussion on belief and encouragement.  Just be sure to have plenty of art supplies and encouraging words ready to go, because everyone at some point in their lives needs a teacher like this.

–SueBE

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