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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.
Tents have been growing on the National Mall for a few weeks now. Authors have been visiting local schools and bookstores this week, too. There's excitement building around D.C. and it has absolutely nothing to do with elections. In fact, this is something that everyone can enjoy!
It's time again for the National Book Festival!
There's nothing quite like meeting an author or illustrator to motivate children to read. The new-to-first grade daughter of a friend of mine went to a program with her class where she met the creators of Chloe and the Lion (Hyperion). She was thrilled to learn about how the team worked, enjoyed hearing them read their book (filled with kid-humor) and now feels that she, too, can make books.
There are lots of well-known, highly acclaimed, award winning authors and illustrators for children and young adults to meet this weekend perhaps fueling their creative juices.
Some very young writers will be on hand, too. Their essays about books they read during the summer will be honored at a special program.
Fred Bowen, author and Kids Post columnist, will be on hand to present the awards. Fred's books and columns are sports-oriented but appeal to both boys and girls. In fact, an adult student of children's literature, an admitted not-interested-in-sports kind of reader, found herself totally enmeshed in Quarterback Season (Peachtree).
Just goes to show that readers are writers and writers are readers — and motivation comes from both.
Have you ever blown off steam? Or maybe you've run out of steam.
I got a new appreciation for the power of STEAM at a recent panel discussion convened by Reading Is Fundamental (aka RIF).
Their newest effort combines quality children's books with art and literacy activities to help adults (educators, families, and the community) to enhance STEM education — science, technology, engineering, math — for young children. The activities are presented in a brief, accessible way for both busy teachers and parents who may not read comfortably.
It makes perfect sense. Literacy and art are a natural part of STEM education. The ability to read, speak, and communicate is critical. Art is a way of communicating, seeing and recording the world, sometimes literally, other times figuratively.
I often quote a friend who once said that reading is the on-ramp to the information superhighway. And the foundations for reading — and just about everything else — begin at a very young age.
RIF's new Multicultural Book Collection of 40 books is diverse, sometimes surprising, and just downright appealing. It just may get creative juices going among children and adults. Younger children may start to think of themselves as scientists, and maybe avoid the math and science phobias that so many of us seem to develop.
Take a look. And if you like what you see as much as I do, then full STEAM ahead!
As schools get into full swing, teachers should remind students and parents (and maybe other educators) of the importance of libraries. Every classroom activity can be enriched and enlivened by these rich resources. All that is needed is a library card.
To remind everyone, September is National Library Card Sign-up Month. Though it's an American celebration, other countries recognize their importance as well.
You may remember reports last year about how Egyptian youth protected the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library). This extraordinary event has been translated into a handsome, engaging, and informative picture book for children as young as six or seven but rich enough to be used with even 4th or 5th graders.
Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books (Dial) by Susan Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya conveys a sense of story and a child's sense of history as it opens: "Once upon a time, not a long time ago, people in Egypt were sad and sometimes angry because…" The voice of a young narrator successfully conveys fact and feelings as well as a healthy admiration for the library's treasures. She says, "We were free inside the library even when we were not free outside."
And so a human chain protects the library and its gems from unpredictable protesters. Lush collage illustrations incorporate handwritten Arabic placards and gorgeous traditional patterns to capture the events while creating a strong sense of place. Actual photographs of the library and the people — including the narrator and the library director — both of whom figure prominently in the telling — add to the real-life drama.
Notes about Alexandria's library ancient and modern, a brief note about the 2011 revolution and more conclude this compelling book. Don't let the picture book format fool you. Hands Around the Library provides multiple entry points for look at a timely topic, a rich cultural heritage, and much more.
It's also a fascinating way to celebrate libraries and their treasures long beyond September.
Some school districts opened this week, more are scheduled for next week. Children may be apprehensive or excited or somewhere in between. Books and a chuckle are a good way to provide a common experience and a fine way to break the ice at the start of the school year.
Blake is exceptional in every way. Not only did this long green snake spell out his name when presented as a gift to his boy, Blake finds lost keys, helps with homework, and remains a very loyal friend. The horizontal shape of the book and expressive line drawings with limited color perfectly highlight the humor and broad reactions in My Snake Blake (Roaring Brook).
Disaster after disaster happens when obedient and rule-abiding Dog is left in charge of his family's five cats. The cats make mess after mess, and even hide from Dog. Defeated Dog makes an even larger mess trying to entice the felines home before he falls into an exhausted sleep. Will Dog loose his status as good, smart, and very best Dog? Readers will howl with laughter at the stylized, expressive illustrations and deadpan text as they read Dog in Charge (Putnam).
Just the cover of Happy by Mies Van Hout (Lemniscaat) makes me smile. The colorful fish on the black cover exudes a child-like joy and well, happiness. More fish follow, each on black with a one word descriptor on the opposing page. Rich words like "astonished" and "furious" are placed on bright colored pages that reflect the feeling of the word and the fish. This seemingly simple title has potential to be shared in any number of ways — to launch an art project, a discussion of emotions, as a story starter, an ice breaker, and more.
There's nothing better to break the ice and start a new school year than a good book.
There are special sounds associated with summer. The sounds of cicadas are a melody but I don't enjoy the percussive sounds of a thunderstorm.
Neither does a little boy named Brannon while his bigger brother, Chad, looks forward to the coming storm in a recent book by Marion Dane Bauer, Dinosaur Thunder (Scholastic). Adults in the family try to calm poor Brannon. Brannon rejects the idea that "thunder is only a big cat purring" or is "angels bowling in heaven." He's met cats and has been to a bowling alley. He knows that's not it.
But Chad reminds Brannon that he also knows about dinosaurs like "spinosaurus and stegosaurus and triceratops" and lots of others. With the focus and joy of a young child Brannon with his toy dinosaurs come "roaring to boom and bellow …."
A particularly loud clap of thunder sends both boys right into the comforting lap of their mom where Brannon smiles, and tells his big brother that "It's only dinosaur thunder." Margaret Chodos-Irvine's appealing, imaginative illustrations capture the children's fears and the warmth between them and in their family.
There are lots of rhythmic, onomatopoeic sounds to summer. Try sitting outside to identify different sounds. Talk about them. Describe them. There's music in the air.
Listen and enjoy the summer's symphony. It'll end all too soon.
C.S. Lewis once said, "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." I couldn't agree more.
Long ago, I lived in Cambridge (Massachusetts), a city in which both activities "combine admirably." Not only is it a place where lots of writers and artists live, it has loads of bookstores and was once the home of Julia Child, renowned cook, cookbook author, and the first host of a television cooking show.
And just right for family or classroom sharing — the book reads aloud beautifully — is a new picture book biography, Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat (Abrams) by Susanna Reich.
The language is as rich as Julia's cooking. It evokes the delight Julia and her husband, Paul, shared while living in Paris where "[t]hey munched on baguettes in bistros where birds warbled in cages." And it was in Paris that Minette, a tricolored tortoiseshell cat, would become the first of the Childs' pets.
Handsome, evocative illustrations by Amy Bates add generously to the book's flavor, bringing the sights and sounds of Julia Child's life in Paris and the start of her career to life.
Reich concludes this appealing volume with a bit more information about Julia Child's life — including a photograph of Julia with Minette along with additional sources and a thoughtful author's note (Ms. Reich once met Julia Child!).
This celebration of a centennial birthday is sure to delight and inform foodies — and non-foodies — of all ages.
What does summer reading bring to mind? For me, it means light reading, fun reading, just-for-the-heck-of-it reading. I always pack books: paperbacks for the beach, e-books for long trips, and some just because they're too good to leave behind.
Children should be able to read lighter fare during the summer, too. And there are lots of books that are ideal for summer reading.
Young readers can join Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. Traction Man's latest adventure by Mimi Grey is fast and funny. You can almost feel the sand's grit along with the action figure and his toy friends, sure to please beachgoers and stay-cationers alike.
America's favorite pastime comes to life in short, colorfully illustrated poems by Douglas Florian in Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings (Harcourt). Kids who play the game — even those who just watch it — will appreciate the buoyant offerings.
Maybe children will visit a farm. Let's hope it's a "rootin', tootin' Texas" farm. That's where they'll find the Cock-a-Doodle Dance! (Feiwel & Friends) and animals that jitterbug, bop, belly dance and dance the dipsy-do.
Even the backyard can be endlessly fascinating — especially if there are beetles there. Even if there aren't, this offering by Steve Jenkins, The Beetle Book, just may inspire children to go on a beetle safari.
Who knows where summer reading can take us?
The number 13 gets a bad rap all the time. Poor 13 is considered unlucky, especially when it falls on a Friday.
But it is the last time we'll see a Friday the 13th in 2012 so no more worries for this year at least.
Is there such a thing as luck? Lots of children I know think so. And luck, superstition, and talismans find their way into children's books.
The loquacious canine, Martha, becomes convinced that the accidents started when she walked under a ladder in Good Luck Martha, part of the Martha Speaks series (HMH) by Susan Meddaugh.
For all of his bad luck in Fortunately (Aladdin), a modern classic by Remy Charlip, Ned experiences something quite fortunate — including successfully arriving at his own birthday celebration after a series of unfortunate events.
Janet Wong poetically takes on myriad superstitions in Knock on Wood (McElderry). The topics and poems vary in tone from slyly humorous to slightly spooky — but all sure to start discussion about beliefs.
Even Judy Moody has her good-luck penny — or not — in Megan McDonald's forthcoming book about the much-loved 3rd grader, Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm (Candlewick). Could Judy's lucky charm have changed into something quite different?
I do wish I could have come up with 13 books for the occasion but alas, I came up short. Too bad. It might have been interesting. No matter though. All days — including Friday the 13th — can be lucky when they include good reading!
- Authors & illustrators
When I gave some advanced reading copies of books to a particularly astute school librarian friend, she used them in a way that just might help these children avoid the dreaded "summer slide" which happens when children don't read during non-school months.
She asked 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to examine the books and decide as a group which was their top choice. l had visited earlier in the school year, talking with the students about the awards process — specifically about the Caldecott.
My friend used the books and the awards process to put children in a position of authority. They became reviewers of books that hadn't been formally released. She reports that: "This was a very good experience for the students. I had them making their selection by choosing the book they thought was best [using the Caldecott criteria]. A lot of interesting discussion was generated and the students were very engaged. They enjoyed [it] and it gave them the opportunity to feel that they had something at stake in the evaluations they made of the books, so they took it more to heart."
Which books won?
A book about math concepts and friendship, Zero the Hero by Joan Holub, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Holt) was a clear favorite. Zero proves his value to the other digits in this funny, sophisticated tale. It was the humor and visual elements of comic books that appealed.
It was probably humor that most attracted those who selected Piggy Bunny (Feiwel & Friends) by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard, a book about a pig who aspires to be the Easter Bunny.
The Obstinate Pen (Holt) by Frank W. Dormer is humorous, too. It's about a pen that tells the truth and does so quite stubbornly. Its offbeat illustrations engage because they were according to one young reviewer "funny." Her group also "thought the author really put [his] feelings into [them]" and that the pictures "express how each person in the story feels about the pen" (and the truth!).
The last book the students selected was Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why (Flash Point) by Lita Judge. They didn't specifically say why, but my guess is that the handsome presentation of information about birds — how they behave, what they do, and what it means — appeals both visually and in the informal text.
My friend has certainly gotten these young readers off to a good start for summer! I echo her hope that children find lots of fun as they continue to read this summer — and beyond.
I was reminded that Father's Day is this weekend by an advertisement suggesting baseball tickets instead of a tie or socks for old dad. A very good idea, I thought.
It's all about spending time together, isn't it? And there's nothing quite like spending time with children over a book. Here are a few that I like.
Three year old Mitchell will not go to bed; that is until his dad gives him a driver's license and Dad becomes the car. Children and adults are sure to see themselves and find lots of chuckles in understated text and comical, highly expressive illustrations of Mitchell's License (Candlewick).
Bedtime is delayed in another home when a dad and his child pretend to be other animals. It serves as a reminder that even animals have — and love — Daddies (North South). The story is presented through bouncy rhyming text and energetic illustrations.
Mothers and fathers don't always agree nor do the same things in the same way according to the child who narrates Daddies Do It Different (Hyperion). Her father behaves like an active boy while her mother is much calmer and organized. (While some may complain that the parents' behavior is almost clichéd, families are still likely to recognize the truth in it — especially in the illustrations!)
Almost all children enjoy time with their father. With a gently rhyming text and boldly lined illustrations, children will be reminded of the many things that make them say, I Love My Daddy (Hyperion).
Of course, it's always fun to revisit old favorites. There's Sam McBratney's modern classic which addresses the perennial question, Guess How Much I Love You (Candlewick). And for slightly older children, Ramona and Her Father (HarperCollins) by Beverly Cleary continues to delight.
So read with a child this weekend — and all week long. A Happy Father's Day to all parents!