February 23, 2017
Pirates? Polite or not?
I have to admit that my first inclination was to answer NO and I’m betting that authors Demas and Roehrig are counting on that. I say this because although the pirates in this book do all kinds of pirate things, from fighting to feasting, they always use their manners saying please and thank you and waiting their turn. This surprising twist is sure to pull readers into the story.
Demas, Roehrig and Catrow have populated their book with honest to goodness pirates. They are scruffy and they sure do look smelly, but they definitely have manners. They chew with their mouths closed. They don’t interrupt. They share.
My favorite? They don’t make fun of someone who is a little bit different. In this case, the captain takes a bath which flies in the face of stinky pirate tradition. Although they notice how clean he is, no one says a word. The point isn’t belabored but it will make a great jumping off point on other ways someone might be different in behavior or appearance.
As I read this book through the first time, I kept thinking how familiar the illustrations looked. I definitely recognized the artist’s work. Then I realized why. He has 8 pages of hard cover picture books on Amazon including Little Pierre, I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More and the Molly Lou Melon books. You’ll likely recognize his work as well. It’s cartoony and quirky and perfect for a silly pirate book.
This book will make a great read-aloud. Kids love texts that rhyme and this one is short and swift, moving along at a good clip. It will definitely hold the attention of restless and rambunctious listeners who may be itching to act out some pirate play. Be prepared to discuss how polite pirates would do a wide variety of pirate-y things. This is going to be something about which there are many opinions so you may have to encourage your pirate fans to use their indoor voices.
Just be sure to say please and thank you! It would be a pity if you were less polite than a pirate.
February 16, 2017
“Does a fiddler crab fiddle?”
This is the first line of the book. Of course, we already know that the answer is NO, but then why is it called a fiddler crab? Young readers have to turn the page to find out.
Spread follows spread in the same form. One asks a silly question, complete with a silly painting, and the next provides the oh-so factual nonfiction answer, teaching young readers about fiddler crab claws and fiddler crab food. Read on to find out where they live, what they eat and how they survive when the tide comes in. The text is brief, the pace is fast and you take in a lot more information than you initially realize.
But for those of you who want your facts dense and no-nonsense, turn to the fact-filled author’s note. There you’ll learn about how many species of fiddler crabs there are, the differences between males and females and much, much more.
When I picked up this book, I came into it knowing that it was nonfiction with a silly side. I had interviewed the authors for an article so I knew something about their research and eye for detail. And the cover had prepared me for the silly. At least, it has prepared me to a point. Then I opened the book to see a top-hatted fiddler crab fiddling away across the sand.
Artist John Sandford pulled off a difficult task. His paintings and bright and lively, invigorating the nonfiction while still being realistic. But they are also fun and fanciful enough to make the fictional spreads believable.
This is an excellent book for reading aloud in the classroom, at story time, or simply with your own young reader. The text is super brief and moves fast, but there’s just enough silly to hold the attention of the squirmy set as they anticipate what will happen next. Read this to your young readers to spark their interest in fiddler crabs and sea life and be ready for a few silly, side-stepping dances.