Tuesday, February 16, 2010
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.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Now that school has started, I imagine many of you are looking for ways to volunteer in your child's classroom. When my kids were younger, my contributions usually were centered around books and reading. Sometimes I was in charge of the book orders for the class, other times I would work in small reading circles, and sometimes I would read aloud to the entire class. All of these were great ways for me to volunteer, as well as introduce some of my favorite children's books.
I want to tell you about one of my all time favorite classroom-reading activities. In two separate kindergarten classes, I came in once a week and read a story from a different country. We called it "Reading Around the World," and it was a hit with the kids and their teachers!
The first thing I did was bring in a huge map of the world, where it was given a special space on the wall for the entire year. Then every week, I would come in with a book from a different country or culture, and read it to the class. We'd spend time looking at where the country was on the map, and its location relative to other landmarks. I always asked the kids if they knew where the country was, and I always had volunteers (even if many times they had no idea!). Before each class, I would make a color copy of the book and shrink it down to about 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches, laminate it and then tape it up on the map with a string pointing to the country it represented. The kids proved to be wonderful helpers with this. By the end of the year it was quite a vision; we had a map filled with books from around the world.
Of course, you can add as much to each lesson as your time and creativity allow. You can bring in food, music, dolls or clothing from each country. Many of the books, especially the old folktales, have author's notes that impart interesting background information about the story, culture or country. The main thing is to show the kids different stories and traditions from around the world.
I just went to our local library and spent some time looking at picture books from other countries. There were lots of books to choose from. Here's a sampling of some books to consider:
Head, Body, Legs by Won Ldy-Pay and Margaret Lippert (Liberia)
Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles (Australia)
The Painted Pig by Elizabeth Cutter Morrow (Mexico)
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Spain)
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack (China)
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel (China)
Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola (Italy)
In Egyptian Times by Kate Davies (Egypt)
I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi (Japan)
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina Friedman (Japan)
Hosni The Dreamer by Ehud Ben-Ezer (Arabian folktale)
Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn with Tzexa Cherta Lee (Hmong)
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (Egypt)
Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella by Tomie de Paola (Mexico)
No Dinner! The Story of the Old Woman and the Pumpkin by Jessica Souhami (India)
All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale From Tibet by Barbara Helen Berger (Tibet)
The Gifts of Wali Dad Retold by Aaron Shepard (India and Pakistan)
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (Zimbabwe)
Oh, Kojo! How Could You! by Verna Aardema (an Ashanti Tale)
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth (Pakistan)
Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans (France)
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (England)
Note: You can see I came across three different Cinderella stories in my brief perusal at the library.
This is a really fun project both in its research, and its implementation. I honestly felt I learned as much as the kids did, and it widened everyone's horizons a bit. Most of these books are beautifully illustrated and lend themselves well to reading aloud. One other thing. I felt it was important to leave each book in the classroom for a week, so that the kids could look at it on their own, if they wished to.
For some other classroom-reading activities, check out two previous posts. One was on reading Bill Peet books over the course of year, the other was reading My Father's Dragon, with a corresponding art activity. Best wishes to all for a successful 2009-2010 school year!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Animals, trains and circuses are at the heart of many of Peet's books. His beautifully drawn illustrations are original and whimsical. His quirky characters have distinctive personalities and real problems that kids can relate to. Peet does a great job having his characters solve their own problems and there's often a surprise ending.
While I’m fond of all of his books (he’s written 34, and yes I've read them all!), here are a few you might want to start with:
Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent
Chester the Worldly Pig longs to do something with his life before he ends up as "sausage and ham." Disgruntled with farm life, he runs away to the circus. While things don't turn out exactly as planned, Chester has a few adventures along the way. Once his circus gig is up, Chester resigns himself to going back to the farm to fatten up. Then someone discovers something quite amazing about him (I won't spoil it here) and his life is turned around.
A great story about pursuing your dreams, even when it appears that all is lost.
The Wump World was written in 1970 and was one of the first "pro-environment" children's books. (It was written a year before Dr. Seuss's The Lorax.) The Wumps are adorable creatures who live peacefully in their idyllic world until the Pollutions come racing down in their spaceships. The Wumps retreat to a cave as their planet gets taken over by the evil, smoke-spewing Pollutians. Eventually, the Pollutians leave to try and find a cleaner place to live. You'll find yourselves rooting for the Wumps and their planet. Luckily, the last page leaves you with a sense of hope for their future.
Below is a complete list of Mr. Peet’s books.
(I believe that most of them are still in print.)
The Ant and the Elephant
Big Bad Bruce
Bill Peet: An Autobiography
Buford the Little Bighorn
The Caboose Who Got Loose
Chester the Worldly Pig
Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent
Encore for Eleanor
Farewell to Shady Glade
Fly Homer Fly
The Gnats of Knotty Pine
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head
Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure
Jennifer and Josephine
Jethro and Joel Were a Troll
Kermit the Hermit
The Kweeks of Kookatumdee
The Luckiest One of All
Merle the High Flying Squirrel
No Such Things
The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg
Randy's Dandy Lions
The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock
The Wump World
Zella, Zack and Zodiac
Bill Peet worked for Disney Studios for twenty seven years. He was the only storyman in the history of Disney to do all the storyboards for two entire animated feature films (The Sword and the Stone and 101 Dalmations). Other films he worked on included The Jungle Book, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Dumbo, as well as many others.
There's an exhibit of Bill Peet's drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago until May 24, 2009.
I want to tell you about an activity I did with each of my kids when they were in first grade. I approached their teachers at the beginning of the year (this would work with second or third graders too) and asked if I could come in weekly and read the class a Bill Peet story. Each teacher agreed, and I came in once a week for the entire school year and read to the class. By week six, the minute I stepped into the classroom, the kids would start chanting “Bill Peet, Bill Peet, Bill Peet.” He was a rock star in their minds. It was gratifying to see that a children’s author/illustrator could have that kind of appeal for elementary school kids!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
So for my first post, what should I write about so that people will want to come back and read more? Should it be a classic? A new title? A picture book? A chapter book? In perusing my shelves of children’s books, I immediately pulled out ten that I thought would be just right.
Hmm...this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.
Then I saw it. A book that is well known to some, and completely unknown to others. It’s been around since the 1940’s, so it has staying power. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 1949. So what is it?
Drum roll, please.
It’s My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet. It’s a perfect first chapter book to read to your four or five year old because there are pictures on almost every page. The chapters are short and simple, and it moves along at a nice pace. It’s action based, which is what makes it so attractive to younger readers. I think it has special appeal to kids who don’t like to sit still for a book. Both of my sons and my daughter count it as one of their favorite books from childhood.
Briefly, it’s the story of Elmer Elevator, a nine-year-old boy that sets out to rescue a captured baby dragon. Armed with chewing gum, lollipops, magnifying glasses and other unlikely rescue devices, Elmer encounters lots of obstacles along the way. He’s an independent, resourceful boy who manages to come up with clever solutions to the many problems that arise on his journey. It's the perfect mix of adventure and intrigue, without being too scary.
A heads-up: Keeping in mind that the book was written 60 years ago, there is a sentence in the first chapter that says his mom whipped Elmer. Nowadays, of course, whipping doesn't usually crop up in children's books. Just wanted to give you advance notice.
Once you’ve finished My Father’s Dragon, you’ll be happy to hear that there are two sequels: Elmer and the Dragon
and The Dragons of Blueland (My Father's Dragon). In 1999, they published all three books under the title Three Tales of My Father's Dragon.
When my middle son was in second grade, I read the story to his class and afterwards we made blue and yellow papier-mâché dragons. Those kids are now seniors in high school, and every once in a while one of them will come up to me and say they remembered reading the story about Elmer and making the papier-mâché dragons.
There's a great illustrated map on the inside cover of the book depicting the Islands of Tangerina and Wild Island. It's fun to trace Elmer's route as he makes his way to the baby dragon. One year, My kids made a salt dough map of the islands. It kept everyone very busy over a couple of rainy afternoons.
A BookNosher Tidbit: In 1997, My Father's Dragon was made into a Japanese anime film called Elmer's Adventures, My Father's Dragon.