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Despite what John Lennon urged, as adults, it's hard for us to imagine peace. As a global community, we've never had it; we've never seen it. It's more the stuff of imagination than possibility. Heck, even the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) for Wendy Anderson Halperin's new book, Peace, is 172.42, translation - "political ethics." Pragmatic, yes - but lacking in idealism to be sure.
But to talk to children (even teenagers) and many can envision peace - and they have ideas on how to achieve it. That's one of the many things that make children so wonderful. They haven't lost the ability to hope and dream and imagine the to-date unachievable.
Wendy Anderson Halperin's new book, Peace (Atheneum, 2013), seizes on that idealism, reflects it, and feeds it with new possibility.
Groupings of Halperin's delicate and peaceful, pencil and watercolor illustrations decorate each page in this circular story of peace which begins,
For there to be peace in the world ... there must be peace in nations.
Accompanying each line is a collection of quotes from the likes of Walt Whitman, Dalai Lama, Kofi A. Annon, and other lesser-known individuals. The quotes serve as borders between the many illustrations on each page, each one, a story in itself.
The circular narrative leads inward, with the continuing theme of
For there to be ... there must be ...
until the "heart" of the book is reached,
For there to be peace in homes, there must be peace in our hearts.
Here the double-spread layout features the art of schoolchildren from Michigan, Ohio, and New York, and moving then outward, the refrain changes to
When there is ... there will be ... .
Culminating in the elusive,
There will be peace in our nations. And we will have peace in our world.
Peace is a beautiful and inspiring piece of work, or perhaps more aptly, a work of peace.
Much thought went into the design and concept for the book, as evidenced by its companion website, "Drawing Children Into PEACE." The page with suggested Peace Projects has some great ideas. As a matter of fact, I have an old chair that would make a fine "peace chair." It may not turn out as well as the one below, but I'm inspired to give it a try.
Yes, it's January and the temperatures have been in the teens, but soon catchers and pitchers will report to spring training, and on February 21, Spring Training games will begin.
Here are two new books for the littlest of fans:
Kawa, Katie. 2013. My First Trip to a Baseball Game. New York: Gareth Stevens. (part of the My First Adventures series)
In three very simple chapters, this little book introduces children to a baseball game, offering information on the park, the food and the game. From the chapter, "At the Baseball Park,"
My dad holds our tickets. They tell us where to sit. We get food to eat. My mom and dad get hot dogs.
The illustrations are simple cartoon-style depictions of a family's trip to the game with a heavy focus on the family's activities. If just a little bit of baseball is what you're seeking, this will do fine. A Table of Contents, Index, and Words to Know make this one perfect for school use, however, it's also suitable for adding a little nonfiction to storytime.
Reading Level: Grade K Fountas & Pinell: C Dewey: 796.357 Specifications: 7 5/8" x 7 1/8", 24 pages Lexile Level: 130
Less perfunctory and more enjoyable is Goodnight Baseball.
Dahl, Michael. 2013. Goodnight Baseball. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone. (Illustrated by Christina Forshay)
The great big stadium is outside of town. Fans and friends come from miles around.
and ending with a nod to Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon,
Goodnight, popcorn boxes under the stands
Goodnight, mascot and goodnight, fans! Goodnight, friends. Goodnight, cars. Goodnight, stadium, under the stars ...
Goodnight Baseball takes the reader on a baseball outing with a small boy and his father. Snacks, caps, and even a foul ball are part of a winning day. Brightly colored full-bleed illustrations offer a broad view of the game, the fans, and the park with a focus not on the boy and his dad, but rather, on their place in the larger context of the day. Expressive faces show the myriad expressions seen during a day at the park - excitement, determination, surprise (no sadness here - the home town wins). Creative endpapers evoke the Green Monster, the boy's favorite team, and tickets stuffed in the pocket of denim jeans. Goodnight Baseball is a hit. (Due on shelves March 1, 2013)
Villa, Alvaro F. 2013. Flood. North Mankato, MN: Capstone. (Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley) If you read my blog regularly or read my monthly posts on the ALSC Blog, you'll know that my family was one of the tens of thousands affected by Hurricane Sandy. It is for that reason, that I requested a copy of Flood for review. I now have first-hand knowledge of the devastation caused by a hurricane, but more importantly in my area of the Jersey Shore, by flooding; I feel that I have a certain sad connection with the topic. While I say that, I am also mindful of the fact that though thousands may be affected by the same natural disaster, no two personal disasters are the same. There is a commonality, but yet, each town, each neighborhood, each family, each individual, must deal with a different set of difficulties. Because of this, I approached Flood with trepidation and apprehension. It was obviously not written in response to Superstorm Sandy, but nevertheless, it arrives at a time when people are particularly vulnerable. To date, more than half a million disaster assistance claims have been filed with FEMA, with much of the damage caused by flooding. Forgive me if I reveal the entire story, but this one I must follow through to the end. Alvaro F. Villa's Flood appears to be the story of a flood more typical to the Midwest than along the nation's coastlines. In this wordless picture book, a family's modest home stands alone in the middle of a beautiful, grassy, rolling countryside, a river flowing behind. Two children and a dog play alongside a weathered picket fence. Only the lone dark bird flying overhead hints at danger to come. In the evening, the family spends a relaxing evening indoors. Dawn brings the first hint of trouble as bad weather moves in. The next days are spent in anxious discussion, preparation, and finally, evacuation. A violent and raging storm arrives, the river rises, wreaking destruction on the idyllic landscape. In an eerie depiction of the storm's aftermath, the lone bird now sits upon the stump of a broken tree - looming large and black against the reddish hues of the dawning sky and the browns of the sandbags and silt left in the yard. The family's muddied SUV returns. From a distance the house can be seen, damaged but still standing. The hopelessness of the family, the agonized tears of the young daughter are palpable as they survey the wreckage. But of course, that is not the end. It can never be. No matter one's sense of hopelessness, helplessness - a start must be made. There is no other choice. And so the rebuilding begins. As the family paints and replants, the palette brightens and smiles return. The house, in its new coat of paint looks better than ever. It's not the same. It will never be. But the family is together and they have survived. I passed this book along to my husband and children. Of course, they are not librarians or book reviewers or educators. I asked them only because the experience is fresh in their minds. My daughter had a keen observation. There is a scene in which the family is spending the night in another location, having evacuated their home; the children are shown sleeping on the floor (as so many children, including mine, have recently done for days, weeks and months on end) while the parents and dog huddle in bed watching the television, presumably for news about the flood. In a powerful use of symbolism, Villa shows their calm refuge surrounded by dark and raging flood waters - a powerful reminder of what is occurring elsewhere; but as my daughter pointed out, also easily misinterpreted by young readers who may be frightened by the water that appears to be menacingly approaching their makeshift beds. Although beautiful and moving, and ultimately uplifting, this is not a picture book for preschoolers. Appropriately, the publisher suggests Flood for Grades 1-3. Is Flood hopeful? Cautionary? Bibliotherapeutic? Empathetic? Preparatory? I suspect Alviro F. Villa intended to offer hope. I also suspect that much depends upon who reads it and when. Due on shelves February 1, 2013.
If you're looking for a way to inspire very young people to wonder about math and science, look no further than Infinity and Me!
Hosford, Kate. 2012. Infinity and Me. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda. (Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska)
Infinity and Me will open up (dare I say it?) infinite possibilities and questions!
A small girl, Uma, ponders infinity while gazing at stars,
How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity. I started to feel very, very small. How could I even think about something as big as infinity?
Uma proceeds to ask others how they conceive of infinity, and hears it defined in quantities of numbers, time, music, ancestors - even spaghetti! Finally, she settles on her own measure of infinity, quantified in something that is both personal and boundless. Full-bleed painted illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska capture the magical sense of the endless immensity of infinity that at first perplexes Uma, and finally envelops her in understanding.
In the end, it doesn't matter how one envisions infinity; what does matter is kindling an interest in something broader, wider, more infinite than oneself.
This is an intriguing introduction to a mathematical concept.
It's been a while since I've seen a new book about my profession. When I learned that Scholastic was putting out a new book, I asked to see a copy, and they obliged. Shepherd. Jodie. 2013. A Day with Librarians. New York: Scholastic.
Part of the Rookie Read-About Community series, this small (roughly 7"x7") "easy reader" contains basic facts about librarians, their varied duties, and their workplaces. Information is conveyed in simple black font on a white background with a photograph on the facing page.
The "front desk librarian," the one described as using a scanner to check out books and noting when they need to be returned, isn't too common in the public library system in which I work, but I imagine she may be more common in school media centers or smaller libraries.
Statistically, the photos depict a greater diversity in our profession than actually exists, but reflect the change that librarians (and other forward-thinking professions) are striving to create - a more diverse membership. Hopefully, young readers will see themselves in these pages and think about librarianship as a career (no, we're not becoming obsolete).
In addition to five small "chapters," A Day with Librarians includes tips on being a community helper, an index, additional facts, and an "about the author" section.
From the "Meet a Librarian" chapter,
Librarians have important jobs. They can help you find a good book to read or some information about almost anything.
That about sums it up. I'm good with that.
Other professions featured in the series are doctors, firefighters, mail carriers, paramedics and police officers.
Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.
Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:
(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)
Langstaff, John. 1955.Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song. (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin', Burl Ives' rendition was a classic) This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.
Mosel, Arlene.1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.
Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.
Yorinks, Arthur. 1986.Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.
Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.
Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.
I have been fortunate enough to hear owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls. In Owl Moon, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.
Young, Ed. 1989.Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. New York: Philomel.
A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.
Frattini, Stéphane. 2012. Who's Looking at You? New York: Sterling.
Eighteen 8"x8" pages feature eighteen different eyes peering out at the reader. Each eye is on a flap nearly as big as the page with a narrow, brightly colored frame surrounding it. Open the flap to see "who's looking at you," and learn a few facts, focused, not surprisingly, on the eye.
Snail How did this hungry snail find the leaf? Snails can't see very well - they mostly depend on touch and smell to find their way. But most snails do have eyes, right at the ends of two bendable tentacles called eyestalks.
The snail is actually one of the easier eyeballs to recognize. Very young children won't find many easy guesses as it's surprisingly difficult to determine some animals from a single eye, but slightly older kids will have fun with Who's Looking at You? Even the adults at the library were enjoying this one! Some of the featured eyeballs are those of the gorilla, wolf, cuttlefish, chameleon, and blue-spotted grouper. The butterfly is a bit of stretch - the photo features the "fake" eye that some butterflies sport on their wings to fool predators. The inside back cover contains eight additional eyes for guessing, with small flaps hiding nothing more than the animal's name.
The photography is beautiful and the guessing is fun!
While it can be read quickly for fun, it's worth savoring to find and enjoy each delightfully quirky pea (can you find the one singing in the shower?) and note the great details. How do peas travel when in a rush? In a Spea-dy Bus, of course.
More peas, please!
The sweet one
Kraegel, Kenneth. 2012. King Arthur's Very Great Grandson. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
I want swordplay! A struggle! A battle to the uttermost, and if you will not have ado with me, tell me who will!
So says brave and diminutive Henry, who sets off for adventure astride his trusty donkey, Knuckles. He encounters a Dragon, a Cyclops, a Griffin, and a Leviathan. They are no match for him at swordplay, but at chess? Perhaps. Simple pen and watercolor illustrations are a bright and cheery mix of naive and cartoon styles of painting; pairing perfectly with this story of five utterly guileless characters destined to become friends. Enchanting!
I just noticed that each of these was illustrated by the author, or authored by the illustrator. Whichever way you slice it, great talent.
With a rhyming, smooth-flowing pattern in which the 2nd and 6th lines repeat, Fineman catches the very essence of summer boardwalk activity along the Eastern seaboard.
At the boardwalk day or night Treats for every appetite Popcorn - taffy - fudge, delight At the boardwalk day or night
Food, rides, arcades, and fireworks; in rain and fog and sun - she captures it all - right down to the oompah music of the carousel and the stands selling hermit crabs. Each 6-line verse appears on a two-page spread in which Spanish illustrator, Mónica Armiño, uses pencils and mixed media on textured paper to create a light-hearted, multicultural tableau of the best the boardwalk has to offer. The final image is that of a lone worker sweeping the sand from an empty boardwalk that stretches away into the distance toward a darkened Ferris wheel. To the East, the ocean is calm. The sky is darkening and a full moon is high in the sky.
Oh, would that summer would never end!
I love this one!
In checking, I find that, of course, Kelly Ramsdell Fineman is from New Jersey. I'd be willing to bet that she's been to my stretch of paradise. (I'd love to know how an artist from Madrid got it so right.)
We'd like to keep it a secret, but this is the real Jersey Shore.
McReynolds, Linda. 2012. Eight Days Gone. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
In simple, four-line rhymes, Linda McReynolds has captured for a new generation the eight breathtaking, breath-holding days of the Apollo 11 mission. Eight Days Gone recounts the July 1969, launch, orbit, landing and return of the spaceship Columbia and the lunar module Eagle.
It begins on a cheerful, sunny, colorful day in Florida,
Hundreds gather. Hot July. Spaceship ready - set to fly.
McReynolds skillfully distills this immense project, this watershed accomplishment into its most basic elements, yet she disregards no aspect of the mission, giving recognition to Aldrin and Armstrong, the nation, the command center, Collins (who stayed aboard the Columbia), even the Navy - remember the days of "splashdowns?"
The words are not always simple, but O'Rourke's stunning oil paintings fill in the necessary details. The font is either black or white and appears in a corner, never obscuring the double-spread, full-bleed illustrations. Because of the subject matter, much of the artwork is in the creamy colors of the lunar surface, the spacecraft, and the astronauts' clothing. Against the black of the universe, the colors of the American flag, the striped parachutes, the faces of the astronauts, and the dazzling blue and green of the earth, demand the reader's attention.
Most striking is the painting of the "earthrise" on the black lunar horizon, a small astronaut placed in the lower left corner,
Our tiny place within the cosmos is illustrated, but is boldly followed by the illustration on the following page where the astronaut fills a third of the page, confidently setting forth across the lunar landscape,
So many great picture books have passed my desk lately. Here are a few:
Joose, Barbara. 2012. Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats. Ill. by Jan Jutte. New York: Philomel.
Each night, Old Robert counts "his regular things in their regular place"
Clean socks a clock my ship in the slip at the dock. One dish one spoon a slice of the silver moon.
Things are always the same until the night a cat asks to come in. There was no room for a cat on Old Robert's boat,
And yet ... and yet ... Old Robert said yes ... ... and the cat came in.
This is a delightfully, quirky story about Old Robert, his boat, and how one small decision can change a life (or two, or three, or ...). Illustrations by the Netherlands' Jan Jutte, give Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats a salty and silly air reminiscent of old comics (think Popeye or original Tin Tin) touched with whimsy. Comforting, repetitive refrains make this a great read aloud.
There is just something irresistible about Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats.
Elya, Susan Middleton. 2012. Fire!¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos. Ill. by Dan Santat.New York: Bloomsbury.
My husband has had a long and wonderful career in the fire department, so I'll admit some partiality to firefighter books, even ones that feature firefighters rescuing cats from trees. For the record, professional firefighters don't rescue cats from trees. They will, however, rescue animals from fires, and in Fire!¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos, a house fire traps a poor kitty on an upper floor,
Climbing up la escalera, KITTY, KITTY, COME AFUERA. Coaxed by food in small pedazos, kitten jumps to outstretched brazos.
See how easy that was? You're speaking Spanish. Even without the brightly colored double spread illustration of a firefighter on a ladder, hand extended with cat treats, you knew what it meant, and kids will too! The story rhymes, the meter's fine, and if you need help with pronunciation, it's all in the Glossary. All bias aside, I like it!
Many school-related picture books have arrived on my desk in the last week or two, but these are the only two I've really liked.
Milgrim, David. 2011. Eddie Gets Ready for School. New York: Cartwheel (Scholastic).
David Milgrim has a real flair for simplicity. I've never reviewed them, but his Ready-to-Read books featuring Pip and Otto are my favorites for very early readers. Eddie Gets Ready for School is not an easy reader, but it's masterful in its simplicity. It's nothing more than a checked-off list, one or two items per page, of all the things Eddie "needs" to do before school,
Put cat in backpack Hug Mom Take cat out of backpack Find something else for show & tell
Some items (Eddie choosing in turn, the dog, goldfish, bird, and flat screen TV for show & tell), don't make the written list and are expressed only in the crisply drawn cartoon images on white space. Mom and the dog are featured throughout the story. Mom is happy and supportive, although root beer and cartoons for breakfast does try her patience a bit. So what does Eddie finally choose for a snack and show & tell? You'll never guess! This is a very funny back-to-school gem!
Murray, Laura. 2011. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. Ill. by Mike Lowery. New York: Putnam.
This gingerbread man is not running away as fast he can; he's running to catch up! The children have cooked him up at school but, oh no! He's left behind when it's time for recess, but he's a smart cookie. He'll find them,
I'll run and I'll run, as fast as I can. I can catch them! I'm their Gingerbread Man!
Along the way, he loses a toe,
I'll limp and I'll limp, as fast as I can. ...
and almost ends up as someone's snack,
I plopped on a sandwich and chips with a crunch OH NO! I cried out. I'm in somebody's lunch!
The story is told entirely in rhyme and presented comic style with panels and word bubbles. Cute and simple. Kids will eat this one up.
Librarians will want to remove the poster before circulating this one. Teachers will want to hang it in the classroom.
Houston, Gloria. 2011. Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile. Ill. by Susan Condie Lamb. New York: Harper.
North Carolina resident, Gloria Houston, tells the true story of Dorothy Thomas, a young woman from Massachusetts who wanted to become a librarian,
in a fine brick library just like the one in the center of the square in her hometown.
But instead, she fell in love, married and moved with her husband to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where there was no fine brick library. In fact, there was no library at all - until the people of the community raised funds for a new green bookmobile, and eventually, "a little white house to be used as a library." And so, Miss Dorothy delivered and provided books to her community and the surrounding areas, and in doing so, she became a hero to her community - and to Gloria Houston, who wrote this book.
Susan Condie Lamb's illustrations capture both the simplicity and earnestness of the past, and the beauty of one of my favorite places, the Blue Ridge Mountains. A simply lovely book!
Pair this one with other stories of unusual book-toting librarians, Jeanette Winter's, Biblioburro(2010, Beach Lane) or Daniel Pinkwater's, Aunt Lulu (1988, Macmillan).
Deacon, Alexis. 2011. A Place to Call Home. Ill. by Vivian Schwarz. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
I am on somewhat of a vacation, taking my eldest daughter off to college for the first time. What does this have to do with children’s lit, you ask? Well, there are many children’s books that are often given as gifts on these occasions – many are the children who have received copies of Dr. Suess’, Oh, the Places You’ll Go(1990 Random House), upon graduating high school. Perhaps Neil Gaiman’s, Instructions, (2010 Harper Collins), is on your list of timely and apropos graduation gift books as well, or Peter H. Reynolds’, The North Star (2009 Candlewick).
Here’s a new one, however, that may have escaped your notice -
A Place to Call Home
While it is not a story of individual possibility or achievement (it features seven hamster siblings), it is a humorous and touching story of exploration which begins like this,
What is this?
It is a small, dark hole. It is also a home. A nice, warm, safe home. The trouble is, if you grow up in a small, dark, hole, even if you start out tiny, there comes a time when you’ve grown too big, and then you to go …
out into the world.
(cue the humor)
From this point, the comical watercolor illustrations feature the hand-lettered, word bubble conversations of the hamsters. Armed with a paper towel tube, two plastic gloves, a faucet, an old boot and a lampshade, the hapless hamsters start out into the wild world - crossing the sea (the dog’s spilled water bowl), the desert (a ripped basement sandbag), and other perils, including the aforementioned dog. The illustrations are so funny, but it is the final double-spread photograph that pulls the book together and gives it a sense of poignancy.
This is a book that one might enjoy for its hilarious artwork or its message of cooperation and bravery; but for me and for my daughter, leaving her small hole and heading out on her own, it’s a perfect fable for a new journey into that great big world.
The perfect combination of simple text and engaging illustrations for toddlers is more elusive than it would seem. I am in the midst of a weekly toddler storytime series, and thought it would be fun to highlight toddler-friendly books today - one new and one old, both by prolific writers.
First up - Cynthia Rylant's newest series, Brownie & Pearl. Although today I used Brownie & Pearl Step Out, I'll feature her latest, Brownie & Pearl Grab a Bite.
Rylant, Cynthia. 2011. Brownie & Pearl Grab a Bite. Ill. by Brian Biggs. New York: Beach Lane.
Listed by the publisher as appropriate for ages 3-5, this title is nonetheless suited for toddlers as well. Simple words and bright illustrations make this a perfect series for little listeners. Grab a Bite is an especially good choice because everyone likes to eat!
Personally, I love that Brownie eats string cheese (enjoying the peeling as much as the eating) and that she bites her Saltines into shapes.
Since I was loosely basing my storytime on the number two, I used an older title that we had in our storytime collection. I'd never used this board book before (we have multiple copies so that each child and caregiver can follow along in their own copy), but I certainly will again! Toddler Two is by the very kind and friendly, Anastasia Suen - author, teacher, consultant, and organizer of our weekly Nonfiction Monday roundups.
At least once in a lifetime, we should be totally awed by the natural world – not by its destructive power, which so many have seen this year in the form of floods, hurricanes and fires; but by its beauty.
For me, it was a frigid late autumn evening about eight years ago. It was the time of the annual Leonid meteor showers, and excellent visibility was in the forecast. Excellent yes, but also in the wee hours of the morning on a bitterly cold night. My husband agreed to be the advance scout. We would prepare everything in advance – thermoses of hot coffee and cocoa, blankets, sleeping bags, and warm outerwear. My husband would head up to the beach at 2am. If the meteor showers were visible, he would come back to wake the kids and me.
He came back and hurried us all to the beach where we parked our pickup truck facing west and sat in the bed of the truck gazing eastward. The meteor showers were not just visible. They were spectacular! At least one meteor every second – zooming across the sky, long tails following behind. As earth hurtled through the meteor storm for hours, we sat transfixed – unable to keep our eyes from the sky. It was raining stars, and it was unspeakably beautiful! The cold and darkness added to the atmosphere of quiet awe. Only a few hardy souls and families willing to spend the night on a Northeastern beach in November shared it. When the sun began to rise in the east, we turned and faced the darker, western horizon to get a last look at what we knew was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This type of singular experience, this awesome display of nature’s beauty is the topic of Butterfly Tree by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Leslie Wu. (2011 Peachtree, Atlanta, GA) In Butterfly Tree, Markle recreates, as she explains in the Author’s Note, the day she
happened to be on the beach when a migrating flock of monarchs crossed the lake and settled for the night. Their arrival first seemed spooky – then magical. Being surrounded by these golden-orange butterflies and seeing a tree totally covered with fluttering, shimmering monarchs was unforgettable.
Together, Markle and Wu perfectly capture that magical, dusky twilight on Lake Erie. Wu’s dreamy pastel illustrations in brisk autumnal hues fill out the wide, double-spread pages. The story is told through the voice of a young girl, heading home with her dog and her mother. The text rests lightly on the page, arranged in verses that add depth and measure to the vibrant images,
An explosion of golden orange bits fills the sunlight streaming between branches.
Wow! I exclaim. They’re not leaves. They’re butterflies.
Monarch butterflies, Mom says.
There must be hundreds – thousands. The tree looks like it is in motion. All the butterflies are slowing fanning their wings.
We are in an orange cloud.
Though it contains an "Author’s Note," "Traveling Monarchs," "Books," "Websites," and a migration map, this is not a nonfiction book; however, it deserves to be included in scientific discussion with children because it captures what so many books do not – the sense of wonder about the natural world, the sense of wonder that has driven man to push past the limits of our collective knowledge.
The Empathy Effect is a science fiction fantasy novel.
Cooper Jones, a Swansea traffic warden, is an alcoholic who has a special ability, he is an empath. He is almost able to read people's minds...almost!
Via the emotions of others, Cooper is able to "sense" what they are thinking and being able to easily read people, he never has a problem with bedtime companions.
On the day he gives Merc Man a traffic ticket, things begin to wrong. As he is writing the ticket up, he senses fear coming from a little girl in a white van that drives past him. When he learns of the little girl's kidnapping from a school field trip, Cooper believes Merc Man many know something about it and decides to "stake" his house out in order to gain concrete evidence of his guilt.
When Cooper gets arrested and finds out what is behind the true nature of Merc Man's mystery, he realizes he still has to find the little girl but what Cooper doesn't realize is that the people who kidnapped the child, are also out to set Cooper up. The people behind the kidnapping are dangerous, psychotic and one of them has sworn revenge on Cooper for an event that occurred when he was a child.
When Cooper's best friend, Janet, is also kidnapped and Cooper has been framed for her disappearance, he begins to realize that there may be more happening here than he first suspected. Time is running out and Cooper wonders if his empathic abilities will save him from the fate that is before him.
I thought this was an intelligent and well-written piece of literature. I enjoyed the prose of the author and enjoyed reading about Cooper and his tale. I thought Cooper was likeable, even with all his hang-ups and oftentimes, comical in the situations he finds himself involved with.
I liked how the story jumped from the present to the past, from one set of characters to the other. Most times this doesn't work in a book but Bob Lock has done amazing with this and the flow is not disjointed as so often happens.
I loved the sarcastic wit that was part of Coopers character and how he interacted with others. The tie-ins to all the stories was remarkably ascribed and absorbing to read. I loved the back story of the antagonists, and the quirks that they have.
I would give this book a four out of five stars, while I completely enjoyed the read, I found the reasons for the revenge to less than I had expected. The idea fell flat with me and well, it just didn't work. However, everything leading to that point and after, is very well thought out and executed.
SYNOPSIS: Cooper Jones is an alcoholic with a super-power, he is an empath, almost able to read minds ... almost! He's also a Swansea traffic warden and doesn't have to read minds to know what people think of him. However, he had no idea how hated he was until he was bound to Mumbles Pier and left to drown.
** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! **
My calendar's packed. I just returned from a trip. I'm in the midst of a class. I'm presenting at a forum this week. But wait, four great new picture books are sitting on my table waiting to be reviewed!
What to do? Do it Twitter-style! Here they are in 140 characters or less:
Willy. De Kockere. 2011. Erdman. Celebrating the peculiarities that make Willy the elephant special. Monty Python-esque art, a perfect foil to a quirky tale. Love it!
Train Trip. Caswell. 2011.Hyperion. Cheerful and rhyming, a boy and a train bond during a trip. “Special treat. “Come on in!” “Sound the whistle?” Eager grin."
Little Owl’s Night. Srinivasan. 2011. Viking. An owl observes the night’s activities. Dark colors, cheery wide-eyed creatures. Simple and serene.
Shaggy Dogs, Waggy Dogs. Patricia Hubbell. 2011. Marshall Cavendish. Happy, rhyming, romping dogs. Dogs, dogs and more dogs! A storytime gem.
And one more of Willy, in case you didn't get enough!
Jenkins, Steve. 2011. Just a Second: A different way to look at time. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
What can happen in a second?
Earth advances 18 1/2 miles (30 kilometers) in its orbit around the sun.
What can happen in a day?
People use the equivalent of 200 billion sheets of letter-size paper.
In a year?
A termite queen will lay almost 3,000,000 eggs.
With his trademark illustrative style, customary accuracy, and imaginative perspective, Steve Jenkins shows us the concept of time through a variety of aspects. From the briefest second in which a cheetah can sprint 100 feet, to the unfathomable span of 2,000,000,000 years that it would take a spacecraft to traverse our galaxy, Jenkins offers illustrated facts, charts and graphs that are sure to interest kids of all ages. Facts are presented in white text on colorful pages, accompanied by cut paper illustrations.For teachers, it is a cross-curricular treasure trove. Highly recommended.
Included are books for additional reading and a note about the use of credible estimations for certain facts (e.g., the number of babies born each day).
Moses, Will. 2011. Mary and Her Little Lamb: The True Story of the Famous Nursery Rhyme. New York: Philomel.
Most children in America will grow up learning the rhyme or the song about Mary and her little lamb, but few will give it any serious thought. We may similarly prattle about Old King Cole, Wee Willie Winkie, or Jack Sprat, but we don't expect to know anything more about them than their propensities for pipe smoking and music, late night excursions in inappropriate clothing and a distaste for high-fat diets.
Luckily for children, however, we can know a little more about Mary and her little lamb. Will Moses' detailed folkart paintings (many double-spreads), are a perfect accompaniment to the true story of Mary Sawyer of Sterling, Massachusetts, circa 1810. The pastoral images of 19th century Sterling and the simple features of the one-room schoolhouse are beautifully rendered in colorful oils. The story is somewhat lengthy, but Moses employs artistic license to add story enriching details that create a fast-paced, enjoyable read-aloud story. Delightful in words and pictures!
Note: Earlier this year on the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month blog, I highlighted Laurie Halse Anderson's book, Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) was a fascinating woman. Not only did she almost single-handedly create the national Thanksgiving Holiday, she was also a writer, editor and a poet. I noted that she penned the ditty, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which I learned from the back matter in Thank You, Sarah. However, there is apparently more to the story. According to the afterword in Mary and Her Little Lamb, John Roulstone wrote the first stanza of the now-famous poem in the 1810s. Sarah Hale published the poem in 1930, apparently adding three more stanzas. Later, musician Lowell Mason, set the rhyme to music, adding the repetitive lines that we all sing today. Regardless of its evolutionary process, it's amazing that a 4-line ditty about a girl and her lamb could so enchant the schoolhouse visitor John Roulstone, the accomplished writer Sarah Hale, and the famous musician, Lowell Mason. How much more simple life must have been in the early 1800s! There is no end to the things one can learn from picture books.
It's Nonfiction Monday again. Please be sure to visit host, Wendie's Wanderings to read today's posts. I've got no reviews to offer today, however, I did read this book yesterday and loved it for its beautiful photos, sweet story, and simple sentence structure (perfect for sharing with little ones at storytime):
(Be assured that the quality of the book's photos exceeds the quality of the book trailer video.) A curiosity about this decidedly nonfiction book - the copyright page lists the classifying subject headings as the following:
I sent a note to the publisher to inquire if this is an error or a choice, but haven't had a response yet. This is not the first time that I've seen erroneous cataloging information in print. Can someone who is familiar with publishing enlighten me as to the source of the classifications? I'm a curious sort.
After many, many tries, I was finally successful in logging in to my White House account and signing the petition to
If you haven't signed the petition, please do. (You must create a White House account before signing.) The log in process seems to be temperamental. Please keep trying! As I'm writing, 4411 signatures are still needed by February 4, to ensure a response from the President. Do yourself, your children, your students, your school, and your community a favor and support strong school library programs.
As the co-organizer of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month blog, I've been very busy formatting, posting, and reading all of the great guest posts this month. (If you haven't checked it out, you're missing some great essays and reviews.) As a consequence, I've been neglecting to post often this month, but today I have a quick rundown of three titles that grabbed my attention this past week:
Fogliano, Julie. 2012. And then it's spring. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. New York: Roaring Brook.
Sutton, Sally. 2012.Demolition. Illustrated by Brian Lovelock. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Bright colors, realistic trucks, repeated refrains, rhymes with perfect rhythm - a storytime book doesn't get much better than this. If you know any small children at all, you know one who will like Demolition.
And finally, a curious addition to my bag 'o books,
Bunting, Eve. 2011. Ballywhinney Girl. Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The hauntingly beautiful cover art caught my eye, and with St. Patrick's Day approaching, I was on the lookout for anything Irish to add to a display of Irish-themed books. Ballywhinney Girl, however, was not what I was expecting. It's the story of Maeve, a young Irish girl, and her grandfather, who accidentally uncover a body while digging in the peat bogs near their home. After they report the find to the local authorities, it draws the attention of news reporters, archaeologists, and scientists, who determine that the body is that of a thousand-year-old mummified girl - a girl much like Maeve, herself. Maeve naturally find the whole process unsettling. Elegantly told in verse, this is a fictional story that, according to the Author's Note, happens more often than one might think. It clearly, and rightfully, is unsettling to author, Eve Bunting, as well. Whether your young listener will find it unsettling as well,
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I'm on vacation this week, but wanted to point out Loreen Leedy's latest.
Leedy, Loreen. 2012. Seeing Symmetry. New York: Holiday House.
A teacher's dream, Seeing Symmetry is so much more than a book about symmetry. It is the intersection of math, art and nature in a clearly illustrated book that is entertaining, participatory, and educational. It's also correlated to 4th grade core curriculum standards for geometry (see Loreen Leedy's website). Notes, activities, math concepts and vocabulary are included as well.
More kids would like math if it were always presented like this. Worth checking out!
Watch the video below, narrated by author/illustrator, Loreen Leedy, and read a detailed review @ Kirkus Reviews.