Showing posts with label BookNosher Activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BookNosher Activities. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smells Like Dog


Smells Like Dog
Written by: Suzanne Selfors
Recommended Ages: 8-12

Smells Like Dog is a delightful book that will appeal to boys and girls alike. There's a timeless feel to the book that reminds me of some of my favorite reads as a child. Roald Dahl, in particular, comes to mind.

Homer Pudding is a fairly ordinary, slightly pudgy farm boy who dreams of being a treasure hunter like his dashing Uncle Drake Pudding. Unfortunately, one day he and his family get the horrible news that Uncle Drake has been killed by a killer tortoise. The news also comes to them, via the law office of Snooty and Snooty, that he has left all of his worldly possessions to Homer. These worldly possessions consist of a pair of boots (all that was left of poor Uncle Drake), a Bassett hound who can't smell, and a mysterious coin attached to the dog's collar with the letters L.O.S.T. on it. While Homer is honored that his uncle left everything to him, he also begins to think that things look slightly suspicious. After he accidentally burns down the town's library while researching the origins of the coin, he decides to do some investigating.

Homer takes off for The City (a place where, his father warns, bad things happen) to find out what type of coin he has, what L.O.S.T. stands for and to locate a treasure map of his uncle's. Along the way, Homer meets some fantastic, eccentric characters, all of whom add to the delicious twists and turns he encounters. There's the giantess Zelda, the wacky inventor Ajitabh, and the little orphan girl Lorelei. But the most delectable character of all is Madame La Directeur. She is over-the-top evil and a great nemesis for Homer to face.

Smells Like Dog is quite a romp, with parts that are laugh out loud funny and parts where you will be holding your breath wondering how exactly Homer is going to get out of a pickle. Homer and Dog quickly warm their way into your heart, so that the whole time you are rooting for their success.

I think Smells Like Dog would be a wonderful book for a third or fourth grade class to read aloud. Girls and Boys will be enthralled by Homer's adventures and it will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers. Oh did I mention that it's the first book of a trilogy? So the adventures of Homer Pudding and Dog continue on. I can't wait to see what and who they come up against!

BookNosher Activity: On Suzanne Selfor's website she has a page for teachers which contains curriculum ideas, art activities and worksheets. It's definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two New Picture Books to Consider



I just came across two new picture books that are worth taking a look at.

Otis

Written and Illustrated by: Loren Long
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Otis is a visual delight. The illustrations have a delightful old-fashioned feel to them that immediately draw you in. The story is about Otis, a little tractor who works hard on the farm by day, and plays equally hard after work. One evening the farmer brings a new baby calf into the barn. The calf is homesick for her mother, but the gentle putt puff sounds coming from Otis lull the calf to sleep. Otis and the calf soon become fast friends, as they play and just sit together under the apple tree (this particular illustration reminded me of Ferdinand).

Soon a big, shiny, new tractor is introduced and Otis is forgotten. I won't go into the whole story of how Otis re-emerges from his exile, but it's a sweet story of determination, friendship and love. Plus there's just the right amount of action on each page to keep even a young child interested.

If you have a child who is fascinated by heavy equipment (my oldest son went through this stage), then you will love Otis. But I think all kids will love Otis's story about an unlikely friendship. The artwork gives it a timeless feel, and the expressions on Otis's face are priceless. This is a story that should emerge as a classic.

City Dog, Country Frog

Written by: Mo Willems
Illustrated by: John Muth
Recommended Ages: 4-8

City Dog, Country Frog
is another book about friendship. City Dog arrives in the country for the first time in the spring. While out running the countryside (without a leash!), City Dog meets Country Frog. The two start playing together, as Country Frog teaches City Dog all sorts of Country Frog games like jumping, splashing and croaking. And that's the way they spend the spring.

The book moves through the seasons, and their friendship deepens. They each teach the other special tricks, and sometimes they just sit together on their rock. The watercolor illustrations do a wonderful job depicting the passage of time. Winter comes and City Dog goes looking for Country Frog, only to find him not on his rock. There's a beautiful two-page spread of City Dog sitting forlornly on the rock overlooking the snow-covered field. I will warn you, it is sad and you should probably be prepared for some questions from your child. But when spring rolls around again, and City Dog is sitting on the rock "waiting for a friend," he meets Country Chipmunk. The story ends on a hopeful note and offers a nice reflection of remembering old friends while making new ones.

So there you have it. Two new picture books about friendship that are definitely worth checking out. Both books would make wonderful gifts for a pre-schooler.

BookNosher Activities: Loren Long has a page of activities tied into Otis.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Last Best Friend


My Last Best Friend (Friends for Keeps)

Written by: Julie Bowe
Recommended Ages: 7-10

This is a funny, heartfelt story that will appeal to elementary school-aged kids who know what it's like to experience the highs and lows that first friendships often bring with them. My Last Best Friend is written in an easy-to-read, breezy style that also works well as a read aloud to a class.

Ida May is entering the fourth grade and she is not at all excited about it. Her one and only best friend Elizabeth has moved away, and there are all sorts of things amiss. For instance, in fourth grade you have to write in cursive, not printing; you have to do multiplication and division, not addition and subtraction; and you're supposed to walk to the bus stop alone, not without your mother. Ida Lee is not excited for the year.

We're introduced to quite a cast of characters in My Last Best Friend, many of whom I recognized from my own childhood. There's Jenna, the mean girl whom everyone is afraid of (and believe me, she's pretty awful). There's Randi, the tomboy who's great at all things with a ball. And there's Stacey, the new, somewhat mysterious, girl in the class. The friendship between Ida May and Stacey develops in a sweet way through a secret letter writing campaign that moves the story along at a nice clip.

Julie Bowe has done a wonderful job portraying a girl who is on the verge of adolescence, and wishes she was back in third grade when life was easier. Kids will identify with her insecurities and root for her to succeed. If you have a child who loved Clementine, this is a perfect "next step" for the slightly older reader. While My Last Best Friend can be read and enjoyed for the story alone, there are lots of "teachable moments" about what it means to be a friend, and how to treat your friends. The characters grow in very real ways, and even the villain Jenna shows a spark of compassion at the end of the book. There are two more books that continue on with Ida May's fourth grade year: My New Best Friend and My Best Frenemy. I highly recommend the series.

BookNosher Activity: If you visit Julie Bowe's website, she has instructions on how to make a BFF bracelet.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Silly Billy (a picture book and a fun activity)


Silly Billy

Written and Illustrated by: Anthony Browne
Recommended Ages: 4-7

When I was at the library, I came upon this picture book about a little boy who worries about everything. Being from a long line of worriers myself, I was intrigued and won over by this simple story.

Billy is a little boy who worries about all sorts of things when he is in bed. He worries about things like hats and rain and giant birds. His parents try to reassure him that they are there and nothing will happen to him. But Billy still worries.

One night, when he is spending the night at his grandmother's house (and worrying about staying at other people's houses), he goes to his grandmother's room and tells her his concerns. Grandma understands completely, as she used to be a worrier like him. But she has a solution. She goes into her room and brings out some worry dolls. She explains that you put them under your pillow and they do the worrying for you while you sleep. Billy takes the dolls and puts them under his pillow, and finds out they work well.

There's a small twist at the end of the story, which I won't spoil here. But it's clever and fits neatly into Billy's personality. There's also a note at the end that describes the origins of Guatemalan worry dolls.

BookNosher Activity: Children may want to make their own worry dolls after reading Silly Billy. Luckily there are a couple of websites that offer easy step-by-step instructions for making worry dolls. This is a fun summertime activity for kids to engage in.

Toothpick dolls

Clothespin dolls (This is a little more elaborate, definitely needs parental assistance)

Garbage bag tie dolls (I like how this is made with mostly scraps from around the house.)



BookNosher Tidbit: If you and your child become intrigued with the legend of the Guatemalan worry dolls, here are a couple of books to check out. Let Your Worries Go
by Jessica Hurley and Trouble Dolls: A Guatemalan Legend by Suzanne Simons both explore in depth the origins and story behind the worry dolls.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hana's Suitcase: A True Story


Hana's Suitcase

Written by: Karen Levine
Recommended Ages: 9 and up

Hana's Suitcase is a moving account about one little girl killed during the Holocaust and the parallel tale of the journey of her suitcase to Japan some 50 years later. It's a touching story that introduces the horrors of the Holocaust in a way that school-age children (9 to 12 year olds) can handle.

The book's chapters alternate between the past and present. It begins with the story of Hana, and her early childhood in Czechoslovakia where she and her beloved brother George were the only Jewish children in their town. Their early childhood seemed fairly idyllic and carefree until 1939, when Nazism forced its way into their world.

The next chapter switches to Tokyo in 2000 where a suitcase has arrived at the Tokyo Holocaust Center. Painted on the outside of the suitcase are the words Hana Brady--May 16, 1931 and the word Waisenkind (which means orphan in German). The children at the Center are intrigued and want to know more, and the curator--Fumiko Ishioka--is determined to find out Hana's story.

From there the book details the awful circumstances that Hana went through, as her family is forced to wear the yellow Stars of David, then she and her brother are not allowed to go to school or to any public places, and finally the forced deportation of her mother, and then her father. She and her brother go to live with a non-Jewish uncle who, unfortunately, can't keep the children and they are sent to Theresienstadt, where Hana and George are separated.

Running alongside these chapters is the story of how Fumiko Ishioka was determined to find out more about the owner of the suitcase. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the story unfolds piece by piece, as she writes letters, searches archives and eventually travels to Terezin. There she discovers that Hana did not survive, but that her brother George did. The last few chapters are incredibly touching as we learn how Ishioka wrote George to tell him about the suitcase, and we discover more about George's life after the war. It's quite moving when George travels to Japan to meet Fumiko and the children at the Holocaust Center and see his sister's suitcase.

George realized that, in the end, one of Hana's wishes had come true. Hana had become a teacher: Because of her-her suitcase and her story-thousands of Japanese children were learning about what George believed to be the most important values in the world: tolerance, respect, and compassion. What a gift Fumiko and the children have given me, he thought. And what honor they have given Hana. (page 105)

There are some lovely photographs of Hana and her family in Czechoslovakia skiing, skating and doing all sorts of "normal" things before the war, as well as copies of actual documents such as the list showing Hana and George's names at Terazin. The photos and easy-to-read narrative will draw children in. Be prepared for lots of discussion. Hana's Suitcase is a moving account of one girl who unfortunately didn't survive the Holocaust, but her story lives on 65 years later.

BookNosher Tidbit: Winner of the 2002 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers.

BookNosher Activity: There is a website devoted to Hana's Suitcase. One of the more interesting sections is the FAQ, which features an audio Question and Answer session between schoolchildren and George. They ask him everything from How were you allowed to see your dog, Silva? to Do you hate the German people? I think kids will learn a lot from his compassionate and forgiving answers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter


Art From Her Heart

Written by: Kathy Whitehead
Illustrated by: Shane W. Evans
Recommended ages: 6-10

I seem to be on a biography kick lately. I keep migrating to that area in the children's section of the library and picking up books and discovering people I have never heard of. This was certainly the case when I picked up Art from Her Heart. I'm so grateful to have been introduced to Clementine Hunter and her amazing story, and I think you'll feel the same way too.

Clementine Hunter was born sometime in late 1886, early 1887 and was a descendant of slaves. She worked as a manual laborer on a plantation in Louisiana. At the age of 50 she decided she wanted to paint. So she used leftover paint that artists gave her and began to paint on any surfaces she could find--old boards, window shades and glass bottles. Her pictures were drawn from memory, and gave a snapshot of life on the plantation. She painted scenes of working life on the plantation, as well as happy celebrations. Soon she decided to charge admission so that people could see her work, and put a sign on her gate that read: "Art Exhibit. Admission 25 cents."

Years later, her art made it to a big museum in New Orleans. Although in those days she was not allowed in during working hours, but instead had to wait until after hours to see her own work on display.

This is a wonderful little story on so many levels. It introduces children to a remarkable woman who at the ripe old age of 50 (!) decides to follow her dream. It also introduces them to that period in history where segregation was the norm. They will feel incensed when Clementine Hunter is not allowed into the museum that is displaying her work during working hours. It's a perfect segue into talking about that dark period of American history. The illustrations are colorful and bold, and the ideal backdrop to the story. There's an author's note at the end, which tells more about Ms. Hunter, and includes some snapshots of some of her folk art.

BookNosher Activities: I immediately wanted to see more of Ms. Hunter's art. So I googled her name and found images of her art. One piece was a decorated jar. It might be fun for kids to find non-traditional surfaces and use them as their canvas, much the way Ms. Hunter had to in the beginning of her career. I bet they are able to come up with some really interesting pieces of folk art themselves.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marching for Freedom


Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary

Written by: Elizabeth Partridge
Recommended Ages: 10 and up

I picked up Marching for Freedom thinking I would just browse through the photos and read their attributions. But once I read the first paragraph, I was hooked. The story was so gripping, I could not put it down.

What makes Marching for Freedom different from many other Civil Rights books is that it shows the roles that children played in the Civil Rights Movement. It specifically focuses on Selma during the long months before the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Partridge does a masterful job describing the horrific conditions and day-to-day indignities inflicted upon Blacks in the South in 1965. We soon learn the roles that children played in this struggle. The Freedom Fighters actively recruited teenagers (and children) to participate in the protest marches and challenge the unjust laws that were in place. For, unlike adults, who would lose wages (or their jobs) if they were thrown in jail, children would come out in groups and protest. As Martin Luther King said:

"A hundred times I have been asked why we have allowed children to march in demonstrations, to freeze and suffer in jails, to be exposed to bullets and dynamite. The answer is simple. Our children and our families are maimed a little every day of our lives. If we can end an incessant torture by a single climactic confrontation, the risks are acceptable." (p.19)

Marching for Freedom focuses on the three months leading up to the landmark march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. We are introduced to some of the children involved, and hear their stories. It was a brutal time, and Partridge uses archival photos to show us what happened. Alongside, King, John Lewis and Ralph Abernathy you see young children singing and marching and, yes, running away from tear gas. There are also many of the protest songs that were such an important part of the movement interspersed throughout the book.

It's hard to believe that all of this took place only 45 years ago. This is an important book for middle school readers to read. I think with its focus on children, other children will relate to it in a way that they may not with other books. In my opinion, fifth and sixth grade classrooms should make sure to have Marching for Freedom on their shelves.

BookNosher Activity: It would be interesting for a class to focus on the protest songs presented in the book. Some of them will be very familiar to kids, although they may not know how they came to be. There are a lot of websites devoted to Civil Rights songs. Here's one to start with.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Cricket in Times Square: A Classic


The Cricket in Times Square (Chester Cricket and His Friends)

Written by: George Selden
Illustrated by: Garth Williams
Recommended Ages: 6-11

The Cricket in Times Square is one of those books you want to make sure your children get the pleasure of reading. I remember loving it as a child, and rediscovering it when my oldest was about seven years old. I read it aloud to him and his five year old brother, and they asked for it eagerly each night. Originally published in 1960, it has held up well over the years.

The story begins when Chester, a country cricket, ends up stranded in New York City after falling asleep in a picnic basket in Connecticut. He is befriended by Mario, a young boy who helps his parents run a newsstand, and Tucker the quintessential city mouse. Together, with Harry Cat, they teach Chester the ins and outs of city life.

Soon Chester's talents as a musician are discovered. He is able to recreate any music he hears, and people from all across the city come to hear him. But performing takes its toll and he eventually becomes homesick for the country. Tucker and Harry Cat help him find his way home.

The strength in this story lies in the unlikely, but tender friendships between a cricket, a mouse, a boy and a cat. Each of these characters are drawn in ways that kids appreciate. The backdrop of New York City is a perfect setting for this "country mouse/city mouse" story. Whether you read this to your kids, or they read it themselves The Cricket in Times Square is sure to please another generation of readers.

A heads-up: Keeping in mind that The Cricket in Times Square was written in 1960, there is a scene that takes place in Chinatown where Mario goes to buy a cricket cage for Chester. When Mr. Fong speaks it is in a Chinese dialect that substitutes l's for r's, ie. "velly good." Definitely not "P.C." for 2010, but you can choose to have a discussion about this with your kids, if you want.

BookNosher Tidbit: The Cricket in Times Square won a Newbery Honor medal in 1961.

BookNosher Activity: There are lots of classroom activities for The Cricket in Times Square on the internet. Since the setting plays such an important part in this book, I think it would be fun to learn more about the city of New York. Look at maps of the city and point out Times Square and China Town. Check out books about subways and New York. Here are a few noteworthy kid's books about New York: A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino; My New York: New Anniversary Edition by Kathy Jakobsen and Up & Down New York (New York Bound Books) by Tony Sarg (originally published in 1926!). Any of these would enrich your child's reading experience of The Cricket in Times Square.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two Picture Books about Diego Rivera




Here are two picture book biographies about the famous Mexican artist/muralist Diego Rivera. Both books are written in both Spanish and English, and focus on different areas of his life. For kids who like biographies and/or have an interest in art, these books should pique their interest.

My Papa Diego and Me/Mi papa Diego y yo: Memories of My Father and His Art/Recuerdos de mi padre y su arte

Written by: Guadalupe Rivera Marin
Illustrated by: Diego Rivera
Recommended Ages: 7-10

My Papa Diego and Me is written by Diego Rivera's daughter-Guadalupe Rivera Marin-lending a nice personal touch to the biography. Marin has gathered 13 of her father's paintings and written her own recollections of them. The artwork, as you might imagine, is lush and colorful and does a wonderful job introducing Diego Rivera's work to young readers. Marin's narrative gives us a glimpse into rural Mexican life at the turn of the century. Here's an example where she describes a drawing of a cover of a book called Fermin.

My father created this drawing for the cover of a book called Fermin. This book was used in rural schools of Mexico. It told the story of Fermin, the boy you see in the center of the drawing.

Fermin was a peasant boy who worked hard in the hot sun of the countryside. He went to school, read books about history, and eventually became a revolutionary leader. The story of Fermin was very important to my father. He wanted to show that all children, even those who grow up with very little, can become leaders. (p. 14)

The endplates on My Papa Diego and Me feature one of his most famous murals-Sueno de una tarde dominical en la Alameda. In it you see Diego as a young boy with an adult Frida Kahlo standing directly behind him. There are also some very sweet photographs of Diego and his daughter.

Diego

Written by: Jeanette Winter
Illustrated by: Jonah Winter
Recommended Ages: 5-10

Diego is a much more straightforward biography that focuses on Diego Rivera's early life. The sentences are clear and concise, so that early readers will be able to follow along. We learn that he showed artistic promise at an early age, and that his parents supported him in his endeavors. Little things that happened to him as a child are described and give us an idea of his early childhood influences.

Diego didn't like everything he saw. That's why he helped the poor people fight their war for equality. They were fighting for fair wages and a better life. Diego loved his people more than anything, almost...
The thing he loved most was painting.

The illustrations are done in bold, vivid colors, and are very reminiscent of Rivera's style. If you want to expose young readers to art, both of these books will do that and more. Their world will open up with the story and art of Diego Rivera.

BookNosher Activity: After reading about Diego Rivera, kids might want to attempt to paint or draw their own murals. I recently came across a website called Art Projects for Kids that has some really terrific templates of murals for sale for $5. This particular one focuses on Haiti, although there are many other templates available that are described off to the right.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mama Miti

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya

Written By: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated By: Kadir Nelson
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Here is another stunning picture book about Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize (see previous post Planting the Trees of Kenya). In Mama Miti, Napoli tells the story of Maathai and her devotion to the replanting of trees in Kenya.

In this brilliantly illustrated picture book, Wangari Maathai is shown as a wise woman in Kenya with a strong devotion to the environment, and to trees in particular. She grew up listening to stories about her people and the land around her, and became devoted to restoring it to the way it had once been. As her reputation grew throughout the land, other women came to her with their problems, such as too little food, no shelter, difficulties collecting firewood etc. Her wise recommendations always involved the planting of a tree. As she and the other women of Kenya planted trees, the countryside grew strong and verdant again. By 2004, when Mathai received the Nobel Peace Prize, her Greenbelt Movement had planted 30 million trees in Africa.

The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are stunning. They are rendered with oil paints and printed fabrics on gessoed board. Nelson states at the end of the book that he hopes he's "been able to capture the spirit and culture of Kenya, Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement."

I loved Nelson's illustrations so much, that I promptly checked out as many of his books from the library that I could find. Next Non-fiction Monday I'll be posting about two of his sports books. In my opinion, he's one of the best illustrators out there, and I eagerly await his next book.

BookNosher Activities: At the risk of being repetitive, here are two of the activities I wrote about in Planting the Trees of Kenya. With spring on its way, both sites have great activities for young children to participate in.
Plant-It 2010 is a non-profit organization dedicated to planting, maintaining and protecting as many indigenous trees as possible. For every $1, you can have a tree planted in different locations around the world.
The Arbor Day Foundation has lots of different resources and activities for preschool children on up.

More BookNosher Activities:
Based on Nelson's wonderful illustrations, I think it would be fun to do something with fabric art. Here's a step by step process that one preschool class did in creating African inspired fabric art.
Or for a slightly easier project, you can always create a fabric collage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Fortunately
Written and Illustrated by: Remy Charlip
Recommended Ages: 4-8

If you are looking for a book to give a five to seven year old child, then look no further. Fortunately is a great choice, and chances are the child that you are looking for won't have it, as it's a bit obscure. It was originally published in the late 1950's, went out of print briefly, was reissued in 1969 as What Good Luck! What Bad Luck!, and finally came back as Fortunately in 1993. Luckily for us, it seems here to stay.

Fortunately is the story of Ned who, through a series of fortunate and unfortunate incidents, makes his way to a party throughout the 48 page book. It begins like this:
"Fortunately one day, Ned got a letter that said "Please come to a surprise party."
But unfortunately the party was in Florida and he was in New York.
Fortunately, a friend loaned him an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded."

You get the idea.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Redwoods


Redwoods

Written and illustrated by: Jason Chin
Recommended Ages: 6-10

This picture book is a clever blend of facts and fantasy. The facts are in the very readable text, where we learn a lot about those most magical of trees--the redwoods. The fantasy comes in the form of imaginative illustrations that guide us throughout the 32 page book.

While waiting for a train, a young boy picks up a copy of a book called Redwoods. As the boy starts to read about the trees, the background changes to fit the story. For instance, as he learns that the ancestors of the redwoods lived during the Jurassic period, dinosaurs appear outside the train window. Or when he reads that a tree can live more more than 2,000 years, he finds himself seated between two men from the Roman Empire. It's an imaginative and fun way to learn about the endangered redwood tree.

The watercolor illustrations do an amazing job of highlighting the facts. Perspective is shown when the boy reads that researchers discovered a tree in 2006 that was 379.1 feet tall. Turn the page and you read that that's "six stories taller than the Statue of Liberty." And the picture shows the Statue of Liberty against the backdrop of a redwood tree.

There's a lot contained in these pages. For example, here are some interesting facts about redwoods:

"When a redwood is injured, the tree will often sprout new trunks that look like miniature versions of the tree itself."

"...redwoods have an ingenious way of collecting water: They make their own rain! When the fog rolls in, it condenses on the redwood's needles, and whatever moisture isn't absorbed then falls to the ground to be soaked up by the tree's roots."

"Some animals, like red tree voles, live their whole lives in the treetops and never see the ground."

Elementary-aged kids will enjoy reading Redwoods. Nature and non-fiction buffs will automatically be drawn to this book. But I also think that reluctant readers will find themselves pulled in because it's just so interesting. The book succeeds by being both beautifully drawn and chock full of facts. If I were a first through fourth grade teacher, I'd want to make sure my classroom contained a copy of Redwoods.

BookNosher Activities: You might want to check out some of these websites on redwoods:

Save The Redwoods League: Lots of information about the endangered redwood. Includes a kids' pledge to help save them.

On the Redwood National Parks website, there's a section on how to become a Junior Ranger. Perfect for the budding naturalist.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Emily Gravett: Picture Book Author/Illustrator Worth Checking Out




In the four years since Emily Gravett's first book Wolves came out, she has written and illustrated eight noteworthy children's picture books. Each one of them is unique, clever and ends up sneaking up on you. I found myself finishing up one, and then turning back to page one and re-reading it right away. She is an author we will hear much from in the coming years.

Wolves
Written and Illustrated by: Emily Gravett
Recommended Ages: 4-8

This clever story stars a rabbit that goes to the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library and checks out a book about wolves. As the story unfolds, we see the rabbit-with nose in book-devouring factual information about wolves (ie. an adult wolf has 42 teeth), while at the same time being stalked by a wolf. As the book goes on, the rabbit becomes smaller and smaller, while the wolf becomes larger and more threatening. Eventually the rabbit realizes the trouble he is in, and the result is a partially eaten book and no rabbit. But never fear, on the next page the author points out that the book is a work of fiction and "no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book." She then goes on to provide an ending for "sensitive readers," that's very tongue in cheek and quite funny. If your child is quite sensitive, you might skip this book. But if your child has a good sense of humor, likes learning facts about wolves and appreciates looking at the subtle details in pictures, then this book is a good choice.

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears (Kate Greenaway Medal (Awards))

Written and Illustrated by: Emily Gravett
Recommended Ages: 4-8

This is a beautiful picture book using mixed-media images that will delight children and adults alike. At the heart of the story is a little mouse that uses a journal to illustrate his fears. Pencil in hand, the little mouse draws his reactions to phobias like Clinophobia (the fear of going to bed) and Teratophobia (fear of monsters) by drawing a bed with seven pairs of scary eyes under it. There are lots of fold outs, torn pages and flap lifts for kids to spend time on and parents to marvel at. As you go through the pages, and learn about real fears such as chronomentrophobia (fear of clocks) and the slightly made-up fear of whereamiophobia (fear of getting lost), you begin to wonder how she will end the book. Well, most perfectly, if I do say so myself. The last three pages contain the lines: "I'm afraid of nearly everything I see. But even though I'm very small...she's afraid of me." And there on the page is the little mouse looking up at a pair of giant feet standing on a chair. It's a reassuring book about facing ones' fears.


Orange Pear Apple Bear

Written and Illustrated by: Emily Gravett
Recommended Ages: 1-3

For the youngest readers, Emily Gravett introduces us to Orange Pear Apple Bear. It has just five words in it, and yet she playfully arranges them to tell a tale of a bear playing and interacting with fruit. It's visually appealing to look at, and parents can point out colors and shapes to their eager toddlers. Will not disappoint.

BookNosher Tidbits: Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears won the Kate Greenaway medal. Wolves was the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for Illustration. Orange Pear Apple Bear was a Quills Award finalist and on the shortlist for the Kate Greenaway Medal, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year.

BookNosher Activities: Definitely check out Emily Gravett's website. She has activities and games that go along with her books. It's a very well-designed, interactive site.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Every Soul a Star

Every Soul A Star

Written by: Wendy Mass
Recommended Ages: 8-12

I'm back, after a brief hiatus that included a trip with my family down to Nicaragua where we scaled a volcano, enjoyed the windswept beaches of Lake Nicaragua and immersed ourselves into the Nicaraguan's slower-paced, heart-filled culture. It was divine. So now I'm switching gears, as I look to introduce books (old and new) to readers of The Book Nosher in 2010.

I recently read Every Soul A Star; a new middle-grade book that will appeal to many readers between the ages of eight and twelve. It's about the intersection of the lives of three young teens over the fairly rare, natural occurrence of a total solar eclipse. Every Soul a Star is told in turns by its three main characters-Ally, Bree and Jack. Mass does a masterful job getting each of their voices down, truly capturing the essence of each kid.

The story opens with Ally explaining that the campground she and her family have lived in for the past decade (Moon Shadow Campground) is the only place in the entire country that lies "smack dab in the path of the Great Eclipse when it passes overhead." They have been gearing up for this event for years, and are ready to greet the swarms of eclipse-followers that will descend upon them. Ally is a bit of a science geek. She is home-schooled, and is intelligent about all things natural and scientific, and naive about the cultural trends that early teenage girls are usually so proficient in.

In chapter 2, we are introduced to Bree. She is a self-described beauty, and model wanna-be, and is (at least in the beginning) a bit of a stereotypical teen, where popularity is her most prized possession. After meeting Bree, we definitely feel her pain when her scientist parents announce that they are uprooting the family and moving to Moon Shadow Campground, far away from the malls she likes to frequent.

Finally, we meet Jack, an overweight, artistic-type who struggles in school and has low self-esteem. After flunking science, he is approached by his science teacher to see if instead of taking summer school, he'd like to accompany him to Moon Shadow Campground to be his right hand man, as he leads a group of people to witness the eclipse. Jack accepts, mostly for the chance to forego summer school, rather than the opportunity to see an eclipse.

What enfolds is a story that details the two weeks leading up to the big event; where the characters learn about each other, about their families, about astronomy and most importantly, about themselves. The trials and tribulations of the early teenage years are explored, and strong bonds are formed amongst the characters, culminating in the big event. Mass does a nice job of relating the stories of the teens, in their own words. At the same time she teaches us, in a very palatable way, the intricacies of the universe in general, and the eclipse specifically. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep even the most jaded reader turning the pages.

BookNosher Activities: In the author's note, Mass points out that the next total solar eclipse in the mainland United States will occur on August 21, 2017. The path will extend from Oregon to South Carolina. She mentions some websites that she found helpful in the researching of the book, which would be good to follow up on: www.skyandtelescope.com; www.space.com; www.eclipsechaser.com; http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html; www.astronomy.com and http://worldwidetelescope.org. World Wide Telescope, in particular, looks like a wonderful learning tool, in that it "enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky." Every Soul a Star might be the perfect book to pique your child's interest in astronomy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Panda Kindergarten (Nonfiction Monday)

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday at The Book Nosher! I am so pleased to be hosting (for the first time). Bloggers, please leave your information and links in the comments below. I will periodically update your links over the course of the day. My own post about Panda Kindergarten will follow below, or you can click here.

Nonfiction Monday Roundup:

1. Sarah at I Need Chocolate Reviewed Flamingos by Jean Malone. Click here .

2. Jen at Jean Little Books has a couple of how-to books. Click here.

3. At Lori Calabrese Writes!, she reviews In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage

4. 100 Scope Notes has a review of Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart: http://100scopenotes.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/nonfiction-monday-under-the-snow-by-melissa-stewart/

5. Abby (the) Librarian is posting about her favorite nonfiction titles for the young reader on your holiday gift giving list!
http://abbylibrarian.blogspot.com/2009/11/twelve-days-of-giving-my-favorite.html

6. Over at The LibrariYAn Alicia has reviewed two biographies of Charles Darwin: http://librariyan.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-double-dose-of-darwin.html

7. Shirley at SimplyScience has Waiting for Winter.
http://simplyscience.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/waiting-for-winter/

8. This week at the Wild About Nature blog, we are featuring a review of Steve Van Zandt's River Song.
http://wildaboutnaturewriters.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-river-song.html

9. Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has a review up of The Story of Snow:
http://apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com/2009/11/non-fiction-monday-time-for-snow.html

10. At Bookends, they have reviewed The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull: http://bookends.booklistonline.com/

11. At The Happy Nappy Bookseller, Doret reviewed Jim Thorpe Original All American by Joeseph Bruchac
http://thehappynappybookseller.blogspot.com/2009/11/jim-thorpe-original-all-american-joseph.html

12. At Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia reviews Bob Barner's book DINOSAULinkRS ROAR, BUTTERFLIES SOAR!.
http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-dinosaurs-roar.html

13. Kelly Fineman is in with a review of Star Wars LEGOS: The Visual Dictionary.
http://kellyrfineman.livejournal.com/501694.html


14. The Cat and the Fiddle has a blend of non-fiction and fantasy: some math lessons (one based on a William Steig book):
http://michellemarkel.blogspot.com/

15. At Pink Me, Paula steps into the often-underappreciated 400's with a review
of Ursula Dubosarsky's The Word Snoop.
http://pinkme.typepad.com/pink-me/2009/11/the-word-snoop-by-ursula-dubosarsky-review.html

16. At 3T News and Reviews they have some old and new favorites to recommend for Christmas gifts. http://3tnar.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-and-christmas.html

17. Easter at Owl in the Library reviewed a guide to poetry writing for
kids: http://owlinthelibrary.typepad.com/owl-in-the-library/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-immersed-in-verse.html

18. Wendie Old at Wendie's Wanderings added her mite to the many reviews of
-- Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle.
http://wendieold.blogspot.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-nubs-true-story-of.html

19. Charlotte from Charlotte's Library reviewed Pick Me Up, from DK http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/2009/11/pick-me-up-book-of-non-fiction-goodness.html

20. Jen at Biblio File has three books about the Civil Rights Movement.
http://www.jenrothschild.com/2009/11/nonfiction-monday-civil-rights.html

21. And finally from Mama Librarian comes this review about Honk, Honk Goose Click here

Panda Kindergarten

Written by: Joanne Ryder
Photos by: Katherine Feng
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Warning! The photos in Panda Kindergarten are almost too cute to believe. There are close-ups and action shots capturing panda cubs at their most natural (and most adorable). This is a wonderful book to read to your young animal lover.

Panda Kindergarten introduces us to sixteen young panda cubs born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong Nature Preserve. The book explains that pandas often have twins, but a mother is only able to care for one cub at a time. So there is a nursery to care and protect the other twin. What's particularly interesting about this project is that the people at the center swap the cubs back and forth, so that the twin gets care from the nursery helpers, as well as time with their mother. There are some amazing close-ups of very young pandas; they are blind and only weigh four ounces when they are born (about the size of a stick of butter).

Once the pandas are old enough to leave their mothers and the nursery, they are let out together into their own "panda playground." Here they learn to play together and climb and swing. They stay together in the panda kindergarten for about a year. After that, some will stay in the Wolong Nature Preserve and have cubs of their own, while others are chosen to leave and go live in the bamboo forests nearby. The skills they learn as cubs at Wolong enables them to survive in the wild.

The text is simple and inviting, perfect for a four to six year old. It's kind of hard to resist a sentence that reads: "An ever-so-big mother panda carries her ever-so tiny baby, holding it firmly but tenderly." But what will draw kids in the most are the spectacular photographs. Whether you see a tiny newborn nuzzling on the chest of her mother, or her twin being fed out of a bottle, you cannot help but be amazed by these delightful animals.

BookNosher Activity: Panda Kindergarten is a great introduction to younger children about endangered animals. It also begins the conversation about what we, as humans, can do to help. Here are a few good websites that provide more information about endangered animals:

World Wildlife Fund: You can learn more about the Giant Panda and other endangered animals at this comprehensive website. The panda has been their mascot since 1961. You can even symbolically adopt a panda or other endangered animal (a great idea for a holiday gift).

Earth's Endangered Creatures: More information about the panda, including a fascinating video of Giant Pandas in the wild.

National Geographic Kids: Great website with lots to do for kids.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anatole: A Mouse Magnifique!


Anatole

Written by:
Eve Titus
Illustrated by: Paul Galdone
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Long before Ratatouille or Despereaux, there was another famous Parisian mouse named Anatole. Anatole was first published in 1956 and was re-released in 2006. It's a charming story about an industrious mouse with a true sense of honor.

Anatole lives in "a small mouse village near Paris." One day, he overhears some humans talking disparagingly about mice. He is quite upset to hear that humans don't like mice, and feels that his honor has been insulted. He decides then and there that he will no longer break into human's houses to steal food. Instead, he sets out to do something about it, and becomes the chief cheese taster for the struggling Duval Cheese Manufacturer. Of course, the only way that a mouse can become a chief cheese taster is in secret. So Anatole leaves signed notes by each cheese, with suggestions on how to make it better. The cheeses manufacturer follows Anatole's suggestions, and soon his business is turned around, and he is regarded as the best cheese maker in Paris. If only they knew how to find the mysterious Anatole and thank him...

Eve Titus's prose is quite lyrical, with a fair amount of French sprinkled throughout the story. Anatole himself wears a beret and blue jacket with a red scarf, all of which give him an air of panache. He is also father and husband to a lovely little family of mice, who have names like Doucette, Georgette, Paulette and Claude. All of these are sweet touches and create an overall feeling of being in another place and another time.

The illustrations by Paul Galdone are done in black and white, along with the French flag colors of red, white and blue. There are wonderful little details on each page that are worth taking the time to point out and talk about. They are tres magnifique! I'm not the only one who thinks so. Mr. Galdone won a Caldecott Honor award in 1956.

BookNosher Tidbit: Not only did Paul Galdone win a Caldecott Honor award for Anatole in 1956, but he won again for the sequel Anatole and the Cat. Both books were recently re-issued and are available again.

BookNosher Activity: After reading Anatole, I found that I had a hankering for some cheese. I think that a fun activity would be to have a cheese tasting with your child and introduce some different cheeses to them. You could have them describe those differences to you in one or two adjectives such as salty, smooth, sharp. Wouldn't this be a great way to create a lasting memory around a timeless book?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Rotten Life: Nathan Abercrombie Accidental Zombie


My Rotten Life (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie)
Written by: David Lubar
Recommended Ages: 8-12

If you like books that make you laugh out loud AND feel empathy for what the main character is going through, then look no further than My Rotten Life: Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie. Kids will identify with Nathan's plight from the first page until the last, as they devour the book to see what happens next.

Nathan is a fifth-grader who is having a bad day. Actually, it starts out as a bad day and only gets worse. First, the girl of his dreams--Shawna Lanchester--humiliates him in front of the entire cafeteria by publicly announcing that she's not inviting him to her annual Halloween party. Later on in gym class, he is the last person to be picked for a team. To add insult to injury, he comes in dead last in the mile run. Finally, he publicly humiliates himself at a video game so that all the kids start calling him a "vidiot." All of these things sound about as bad as it can get for a ten-year-old who is more than aware of where he falls in the social hierarchy of fifth grade.

After school, a new girl in town-Abigail-tells him that her uncle (a mad scientist) is working on a cure to get rid of bad feelings. She thinks that after Nathan's rotten day he would be the perfect subject. So off they go to the lab, only to have the serum mistakenly spilled all over him. And wouldn't you know it, Nathan begins to turn into a zombie.

The book continues with some amusing stories of what happens while one is slowly turning into a half-dead zombie. And quite honestly, life is somewhat better for Nathan. He can't feel pain, so he excels at sports because his asthma doesn't kick in. He doesn't need sleep, so he stays up all night secretly playing video games (and gets good at them). Nonetheless, he knows he doesn't want to live his life as a zombie, so he and his friends, Abigail and Mookie, go in search for a cure.

Along the way, you are drawn into the life of fifth-graders, complete with the popular group, the skaters, the nerds and the jocks. Kids will identify (and laugh) as these hierarchies are exposed and poked fun of. The true meaning of friendship is also explored in a totally convincing, yet fun, fifth-grade way. Finally, Nathan's home life is portrayed realistically: Mom is loving, if not a little neurotic, and video games are not allowed: "Mom thought games were too violent. Dad thought they were a bad investment."

My Rotten Life is written in a lively, very readable style. From the first sentence to the last, readers will be drawn in. Here's the first paragraph:

"It's no fun having your heart ripped from your body, slammed to the floor, and stomped into a puddle of quivering red mush. It's even less fun when it happens three times in one afternoon."

If you have a child for whom reading is not their first choice for an activity, try My Rotten Life. The slightly gross humor and easy-to-read text are sure to reel them in. On the other hand, if you have a child who loves to read, they'll probably read My Rotten Life in an afternoon (laughing all the while). Plus, the last paragraph hints that there's more to come:

"Other than that, things are pretty much normal for the only zombie in Belgosi Upper Elementary. Or, at least, they were normal until the secret agent from BUM showed up. But that's another story."

BookNosher Activity: There's a Reader's Guide at the end of the book to enhance My Rotten Life. Check it out! There are some really interesting individual and classroom activities for teachers and parents to turn this fun read, into something educational.