October 20, 2014

Telephone by Mac Barnett

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:18 am by suebe2

by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jen Corace
Chronicle Books

The message starts with a mother pigeon, complete with apron and hot dish, asking a young cardinal to tell Peter that he needs to fly home for dinner.  The cardinal repeats the message to a goose who repeats it to an ostrich and so on until it gets to a wise old owl.  The problem is that with each repetition, a whole new message is created ranging from “Tell Peter: put your wet socks in the dryer” to “Tell Peter: Something smells like fire.”

The adult reading this story won’t be surprised when the message is garbled.  Obviously, this is a game of telephone.  With our vast experience, we know that it will only get worse and worse.  What we don’t see coming is the surprise ending when the message gets to Owl.

Jen Corace’s illustrations are watercolor, ink, gouache, and pencil on paper.  Her birds are easily recognizable — the owl is clearly an owl and no one would mistake the turkey for anything but a turkey.  But she also anthropomorphizes them, creating a great sense of fun.  Mom Pigeon, in her apron and with dinner in wing, is clearly Mom.  In all black and white, the ostrich is a French maid.  The mallard is a bit of a good ol’ boy.  Each bird transforms the message into something that reflects his or her own interests.

As always Barnett’s text is a little wacky and a lot fun.  All of the birds relaying this message are perched on top of the telephone lines.

This story would make a great read aloud for story time or a group.  Expect young listeners to call out the original message, or at least their version of the original message, as the birds venture farther and farther from the truth.  You could also use this in the classroom for a not-so-subtle lesson on repeating what you hear, or think you heard, but it won’t help that in the end Owl gets the message right – yet another topic for discussion.  How could owl get it right when every-bird else got it wrong?


October 13, 2014

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:59 am by suebe2

Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney Hyperion Books

Mac is the author of a book about Chloe.  All week long Chloe collects coins so that she can pay for a ride on the merry-go-round.  On her way there, she encounters a lion.  Well, the text says the encounters a lion but the illustration shows a dragon.  Why?  Because dragons are more interesting.

Who gets to decide what happens in the story?  If you are a writer or an illustrator, you know that it takes both top notch writing and amazing drawings to create a winning picture book.  The first thing to go when Mac and Adam argue is the dignity as Adam redraws Mac as half ape and much, much more.  Mac gets even by drawing his very own lion.  After all, how hard can drawing be?

Mac brings in a new illustrator who pulls of an okay lion.  The lion isn’t great but he’s pretty good.  Then the lion swallows the first illustrator whole.  Gulp!

But Mac isn’t off the hook.  Mac thinks things will be better with the new illustrator only to discover how good he had it Adam.  Adam agrees to help Mac out but first Mac has to get him out of the lion.

This isn’t a book where the reader is simply an observer.  Mac makes comments to the reader and Chloe makes eye contact.

Off beat and humorous, this book is a great teaching tool for any group who wants to learn about how picture books are created.  My favorite illustration was the one where the lion coughs Adam back up.  The look on Adam’s face is pricelss.

Add it to your classroom bookshelf and teach your students about collaboration and creativity.


October 9, 2014

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:11 am by suebe2

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer + Bray

Annabelle is playing outside in the cold and the snow in her ho-hum black-and-white town.  She finds a box of yarn.

First Annabelle knits herself a sweater, bringing a little color into her world.  She has plenty of yarn left and knits a sweater for her dog, Nate and his crabby dog, her teacher and her classmates.  With each addition, the world is a little brighter.

As Annabelle attracts the attention of those around her, some disapprove claiming that she is distracting.  Some are envious and want what she has.  When she refuses to sell her seemingly endless box of yarn, the box is stolen.  Upon closer inspection, the box is empty until Annabelle gets it back and resumes her knitting to warm and brighten the world.

Klassen’s illustrations are as simple and straightforward as Barnett’s text.  Note:  Neither one is truly simple or straightforward although this is how they appear after a quick read.

Is this a story about knitting?  Or is it a tale of generosity, creativity or hope?  It is all of these and so much more.

Klassen’s illustrations combine ink and gouache in a world that starts out in flat back and white before adding color to the stark reality that Annabelle decides she can and will change.  Share this magical, elegant story with young readers (1st grade through 3rd grade) and spur discussions about the power of one creative individual to change their world, to brighten it and make it better.

This is significantly more fanciful than Ben Franlin’s Big Splash but the idea that you can do many things with a can-do attitude is much the same.



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