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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books inside — and outside — of the classroom.
The seemingly endless elections are over and a new family — a young president with young children — is heading to the White House.
Like with most new beginnings, there's palpable optimism. Hope is a word that I'm hearing — and feel myself — in conjunction with the future of the United States and its citizens.
Hope. It's a short word with a big meaning. I know I personally like to spend time around people who see the glass as half full rather than half empty; they're the people who tend to be positive, optimistic, hopeful.
So what does this have to do with a blog about books? Well, I am convinced that books offer readers of any age — especially children and young adults — hope in less obvious ways.
Books whether shared or read independently offer readers coping tools even before there's the need to draw on them. Stories offer a glimpse into other ways of looking at things big and little. They provide vicarious experiences, information, other ways of seeing issues. They provide hope.
Long ago, Katherine Paterson suggested that the difference between books for young readers and adults was the presence of hope in books for young readers. (Sorry, Katherine, I don't know where or when you said this, but it's stayed with me!)
Hope is presented in books that make things work out or offered in a way that generates discussion.
A depth of meaning and feeling is presented through handsome photographs and rich text in Lauren Thompson's Hope is an Open Heart (Scholastic) — much as Barbara Kerley does in her books that combine ideas presented in words and image, A Little Peace and You and Me Together (both National Geographic).
Hope. Let's share it. Let's live it. And let it be a real force in the lives of our kids.
I've been thinking about poetry lately, probably because I spent time last week with a poet and read her work in a concentrated way.
It was a pleasure to spend time with Carole Boston Weatherford. You probably know her work. Her book Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Hyperion) was awarded a Coretta Scott King award and a Caldecott Honor. Other books that she's written have not only won prestigious awards, but have been included on many notable lists.
In any case, spending time with Carole made me wonder: what is poetry for children? How does it differ from poetry for adults? Does poetry do something that prose doesn't?
I'm not at all sure that there's a satisfactory definition of poetry, but I kind of like what Robert Frost had to say about poetry, that it "begins in delight and ends in wisdom." It seems to ring true, particularly about poetry shared with children.
We start sharing Mother Goose rhymes with the youngest child and continue on. Personally, I like the Iona Opie collection illustrated by Rosemary Wells, My Very First Mother Goose (Candlewick) for very young children.
And then Carole Weatherford's Jazz Baby (Lee & Low) is a great one to share. Jazz Baby celebrates the music in words and rhythm that can be shared with children of almost any age (I was with her when she shared it successfully with a group of 6th graders!)
Think about it. The delight, the pleasure, the joy of sharing rhymes winds up encouraging children to play with language, hear the rhythm, or pay closer attention to words because of the way they're presented.
I think the same is true for older children — and for adults &mdah; regardless of the type of poetry. The way words are put together in poetry or poetic forms slows me down as a reader.
And the space between the words — both literally and figuratively — just may give readers greater understanding of something they didn't even know they knew.
You know it is autumn when Christmas decorations start appearing in stores.
But before we get to the December holidays, many children enjoy slightly spooky stories as the dark nights of Fall approach.
One of my favorites is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams (HarperCollins) — a cumulative tale with lots of repetition and onomatopoeia. In it, a valiant old woman remains undaunted by the ghostly doings on her walk home.
The Teeny Tiny Woman retold by Paul Galdone (Sandpiper) is another brave soul who defies the increasingly loud voice from her cupboard demanding the return of "my bone."
Of course, there’s Molly Bang's version of Wiley and the Hairy Man (Aladdin) in which Wiley and his very smart mother outwit the nasty Hairy Man, forever banning him from their home in the woods.
And for the board book set, there is Kevin Henke's Julius' Candy Corn (HarperFestival) and the illustrated fingerplay rhyme, Five Little Pumpkins illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Harper Growing Tree). Both of these can double as counting books or a game for younger children.
There are lots of books and stories that are especially fun to share at this time of year, especially those that are slightly spooky but not terrifying for younger children — and safer within the covers of a book!
I've just read a new book by Caldecott Honor winning artist, Laura Vaccaro Seeger called One Boy (Roaring Brook). Like several of her other books, this one uses die cuts along with rhythmic language for a simple but sophisticated book. It's downright intriguing.
I have a problem though. If I nominated it for a Cybil Award (web awards for children's and young adult books) under which category would it best fit?
The cut out square on the red cover reveals the innocent face of one boy. Turn the page, and he's "all alone." I initially wondered why "two seals" follow, but then I quickly got into the rhythm and wordplay.
It's playful, stimulating, and worth reading many times to figure out how the die cuts work, to hear the language (I read it out loud), and to take pleasure in the story coming full circle — back to one boy.
But I wonder, is it "fiction picture book" or as a concept book, is it a "nonfiction picture book?" Is it too sophisticated for young picture book audiences or perhaps too effortless-looking for older children?
Or is it just a remarkable book that can be appreciated by many ages as art, as a concept book, as visual storytelling, or as another book by a very creative author/illustrator?
Let me know what you think. I'm going to try it on a group of kindergarten children today and I'll let you know what they think.
What do a First Lady and her daughter have in common with a football player, a newly appointed and quite outspoken Ambassador, a Grammy Award winning vocalist — and dozens of others?
They've all written books for young readers — and celebrated books together in Washington, DC.
Take a look at some of some of the photographs of the National Book Festival — and have fun with books by picking up your favorite children's book and reading it with your favorite child!
The first ever National Ambassador for Young People's Literary, Jon Scieszka, is quite outspoken and very funny. His new book, Knucklehead (Viking), for older readers (9 to 12 years old), is a collection of outrageous (and mostly true) stories about Jon growing up in a family of boys. His Trucktown series (Simon & Schuster) is especially for younger readers, preschool through primary grades, and has special appeal for boys.
Better known as an NFL player and now a sportscaster, Tiki Barber and his brother Ronde, have written several books for young readers, again with particular appeal to boys. And the velvet-voiced Dionne Warwick tells her personal story in a book for children.
Who's your favorite author? Does he or she have a book out in 2008? Let's put our favs together and we'll send them to be counted in the voting for the Cybil Award!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
The 2008 National Book Festival is now but a memory — a happy one, a lasting one — maybe even one that will change a life or two. (Books do that, of course, though we often don't know how or who.)
Anyway, the Library of Congress also gives ideas as to how others can host a book celebration and have lots of ideas to expand it. There's a neat online toolkit with lots of ideas that can be used in homes and classrooms.
This year's Book Festival was a great time for all; even a bit of rain and soggy walkways couldn't dampen spirits or keep people away from it.
There was lots to see and do.
I got to hear three (of the 100 plus!) contributors to a new book entitled, Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out (Candlewick).
Mary Brigid Barrett, Steven Kellogg, and two-time Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson shared stories about their work on the book — and the organization that it supports— the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance.
This is a fine book that makes some of the 'story' in 'history' come to life in pictures and words. There's straight nonfiction, historical fiction, fantasy, memoir, and more — with lots of illustration that is sure to captivate readers of all ages. And it's an ideal book to share especially these days with so much about the White House (and presidential candidates) in the news.
Let's hope that the Book Festival that First Lady Laura Bush initiated will become a Washington institution — even after there is a new family residing in the people's mansion, the White House.
Some have exotic names like Rome Beauty or Fuji. Others suggest fun — think 'Gala.' Still others suggest a tasty treat: red or golden delicious.
But they're apples all. And I for one associate these crunchy delights with fall. Maybe it's because we've gone apple picking each autumn since our son was in preschool.
Recently, I was looking for another local orchard, I came across a mention of Johnny Appleseed, an endlessly interesting character who's credited with sowing apple seeds across the country.
A recent book by Jane Yolen called Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth (HarperCollins) puts fact and fiction side-by-side in a handsomely illustrated book that calls out to be shared with children from 5 up. (The book is out just in time to help celebrate Johnny Appleseed's birthday next week.)
I'm also reminded of books that children can be encouraged to explore how, where, and why apples grow. Easy science books like Gail Gibbons' Apples (Holiday House) and How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro (HarperCollins) intrigue children and just may spark interests that go off into other areas (seasons and weather changes, for starters).
From fact to fiction, the change of seasons can signal new activities and good reading.
Next week is the National Book Festival . Stay tuned for more information about some of the luminaries that will appear on the National Mall in DC!
Yesterday the country commemorated a tough anniversary: the seventh year since the terrorist attacks in the United States.
I was reminded that children were not only victims, but many young children lost a parent. One 8- or 9-year-old boy was interviewed on the radio. While I don't remember the station or the time or even the child's name, his words made me tear up.
He said he didn't really remember what happened that day, he doesn't even remember his dad very well, but he does remember the love his dad had for him.
How awful that a young child looses a parent. How wonderful that the child remembers — certainly because he's reminded — the love of that parent.
What do adults do in these sad, unsettled times? How can they help children understand particularly when adults are as flummoxed as the children?
Maybe books can help. A few that I think are good for starting those difficult discussions can be found here: books to help children heal. Do you have a favorite book to help young children understand disquieting times?
Have you ever been interested in one thing and have it lead to something else? I was reminded of that by a fascinating book I've just read (it's coming out in December). It's called I'll Pass for your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War (Clarion) by Anita Silvey.
In an author's note, Silvey explains how she was intrigued by an old photograph that she found when she was tracking down her own family history. Though her book is for older readers (I'd say grades 5 to 8), it made me wonder where an interest, a picture, or a book can take a young child.
Will the child who reads about dinosaurs become a paleontologist — even of the armchair variety? Gail Gibbons' recent book, Dinosaurs! (Holiday House), provides an accessible introduction to the topic with full color illustrations — and pronunciation for these dramatically illustrated creatures with polysyllabic names.
Can a class of kids be inspired to read Beatrice's Goat (Atheneum), or be propelled to "pass on the gift" after reading another book called Give a Goat (Tilbury House)? Both are about improving the lives of others far away through very doable activities near home.
Where do interests lead? Who knows, but it may well start with a book.
I missed them. Even though they haven't felt much like them, the dog days of summer have come and gone. And I missed them.
I always thought that they were called "dog days" because they were just lazy days or maybe too hot to do much other than laze around…but not so, I learned.
The dog days of summer are when the two well known stars, the Sun and Sirius (the Dog Star), are both at their brightest. Ancient people thought that it must add to the heat (and even create other things like plagues).
The dog days are called the dog days because of a star!
Even though they're harder to see from in and around cities, stargazing is a fine thing to do as the days get shorter. And H.A. Rey's The Stars: A New Way to See Them (Houghton) is a good place for new (and even experienced) stargazers to begin.
Not only was Rey the creator of the Curious George books but he studied natural science. Rey's imagination combines with science for a memorable way to see the stars — even the Dog Star.
Young stargazers and George fans may want to visit the Rey home called the Curious George Cottage. Like The Stars, it combines whimsy and knowledge as an educational and recreational center in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
So, look up — and say goodbye to the dog days!