Free Friday: The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

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by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada

I actually read this book a few months ago, but was so taken aback by the story that it really has been stationary in the back of my mind whenever we talk about children’s literature; so I thought I’d share it here!

The story follows the main character, Makio, through the aftermath of a tsunami that destroyed his village. The entire village is laden with grief, Makio included through the death of his father. Makio sees the anguish of his village and feels it within himself and finds himself angerly questioning the ocean.

Mr. Hirota, Makio’s neighbor with whom he is great friends, also sees this burden that his community is bearing and decides to build a phone booth, with a phone connected to nothing. Makio is perplexed by this, but all around him finds that villagers are flocking to visit this seemingly pointless phone booth. It is then that Makio understands what the phone booth does; it connects people to the lost loved ones.

“The climb back up the hill was tiring. Makio was hot and sweaty. The phone felt cold in his hand.”

It’s through this seemingly inoperable phone booth that Makio finds some comfort after his father’s passing. This book was based on a true story, which the author details in a note at the end of the story. The idea that this is real, and really did help so many people cope after disaster, makes the message more realistic and applicable to one’s own life. Meaning, it’s not just fairytale, but in fact talking to your loved ones as if they just couldn’t pick up the phone is a really comforting way to cope with the dread of death.

This book is centered around a very heavy topic, but brings to light some meaningful ways to alleviate some of the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one. The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is an undeniably beautiful book, based on a true story, which is undoubtedly the first book that should be on your shelf of children’s literature that models coping with grief.

-posted by Isabella Brenington

Free Friday: The Seven Silly Eaters – written by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee

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The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

The Seven Silly Eaters is a clever and funny book written in rhyming verse. It tells the story of the ever-growing Peters family, whose children are extremely picky eaters. With each new addition to the family, Mr. and Mrs. Peters have to add to a growing list of particular eating habits for each child, making mealtime a very complicated ordeal.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

By the time the Peters family is complete, there are seven children who will only eat seven specific foods each. Finally, the kids take pity on their always cooking, always exhausted mother and decide to make her breakfast in bed. When the children are faced with cooking their own food, things don’t quite go according to plan!

I remember purchasing The Seven Silly Eaters at a Scholastic book fair way back in the day! I also remember finding this story very funny as a kid because of how silly and unrealistic it is that all of the kids in the story would only eat one specific food. In hindsight, I might have related to that because I am such a picky eater myself! I also remember loving how the entire book is written in rhyming verse. I have read this book to kids before in recent years, and they always love it. It is a fun one for sure!

Award-Winning Illustrator Marla Frazee | Best Interview Ever

In terms of teaching opportunities, I would use this book as an example text in a poetry unit (for either reading or writing), but I would only start using it in second grade at the earliest because it actually is written at an unexpectedly high reading level. It also needs to be read in a very specific rhythm in order for the rhyme scheme to work, which can be difficult for younger children. I would read it out loud so that students can hear the rhymes very clearly because I think the rhyming in this book is expertly done and would be a great example of narrative poetry for children to hear.

Posted by Lilly Carver

Traditional Thursday: The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow

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By Lilly Carver

I love both Charlotte Zolotow and Margaret Bloy Graham, and I find this book absolutely gorgeous. A 1952 Caldecott Honor book, it conveys the feeling of a thunderstorm from the perspective of people living in many different places, from a rural farm to a bustling city street. Zolotow expertly captures the universality of thunderstorms by highlighting many different settings and characters experiencing them. The story eventually ends with the sun coming back out to make a beautiful rainbow. This book is not only an accurate portrayal of weather patterns but also a poignant account of the beauty of nature.

There are so many teaching opportunities in this book! The most obvious use is for a science lesson about weather. The storm in the book is an accurate account of the sequence of events in a thunderstorm, making this book a fictional textbook of sorts for students to learn information about storms.

Beyond the science content, there is so much to unpack this book from a reading and/or writing perspective. First, the pages of the book alternate between words and pictures, an unusual style that children are not likely to have seen. Students can discuss why the author and illustrator chose to tell this particular story in that way and how it affects the narrative style. There is also lots of rich language in this book, from the unusual plants and animals mentioned to the abundance of onomatopoeias used to describe the storm. This would be a great book to use for a lesson about onomatopoeias in particular. This book might have a simple story, but it is rich in imagery and literary content!

There are so many teaching opportunities in this book! The most obvious use is for a science lesson about weather. The storm in the book is an accurate account of the sequence of events in a thunderstorm, making this book a fictional textbook of sorts for students to learn information about storms.

Beyond the science content, there is so much to unpack this book from a reading and/or writing perspective. First, the pages of the book alternate between words and pictures, an unusual style that children are not likely to have seen. Students can discuss why the author and illustrator chose to tell this particular story in that way and how it affects the narrative style. There is also lots of rich language in this book, from the unusual plants and animals mentioned to the abundance of onomatopoeias used to describe the storm. This would be a great book to use for a lesson about onomatopoeias in particular. This book might have a simple story, but it is rich in imagery and literary content!

Winner’s Wednesday: Hello Lighthouse

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Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, the Caldecott Award recipient of 2019.

This gentle story of a lighthouse and its keeper inspires a nostalgia for something the reader may have never known. This is a story of a lighthouse keeper who routinely maintains the lighthouse as his wife moves in and they welcome a third member into their family, their new daughter.

The small family experiences the changing of the seasons and the calls of the wind, “hello…hello… hello…” from the safety and stability of their lighthouse that is made to last.

The story comes to a close when electricity makes its way to the lighthouse, and the family moves away. The final page sees the family greeting the lighthouse with a lantern from their new home.

This story of connection, family, and stability is one that sits with the reader long after the pages close. It’s the kind of story that makes one want to call their loved ones to tell them they love them and reminds them to cherish the people of their life. Blackall conveys changes, goodbyes, and the cyclical nature of life in such a beautiful and universal way, it is almost a disappointed she wasn’t a lighthouse keeper herself.

Posted by: Georgia Varvarezos

           

Trendy Tuesday

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B.J. Novak challenges what it means to be a picture book by taking the pictures out all together! The story-telling responsibility falls on the reader. The book serves to manipulate the heirarchy between children and adults. It does this by making the adult reader say the most rediculous things. This funny book is a great read-aloud option and creates an engaging and fun reading expereince for children.

The story starts by addressing the concerns children may have about book with no pictures.

It then moves on to really make a point as to how silly the things the reader must say are.

These silly phrases keep children on their toes as they don’t know what will come next, but are excited to see adults acting outside of their traditional role. This funny book also teaches children about reading and how the words are what tell the story. It is a great story for young readers to help scaffold the connection that reading is decoding the words on a page into spoken words. It also conveys the message that reading can be fun and funny and doesn’t need to be something more. An entertaining read for many occasions.

Posted by: Georgia Varvarezos

Mondays: Marvelous New Picture Books

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To pay homage to the semester we have had learning online, I include here a review of Good Morning Zoom, a paradoy written by Lindsay Rechler with pictures by June Park.  The author wrote this book to give families a vehicle for talking about the world the way it is now.  I can only imagine how confusing this global pandemic has been and continues to be for children.  We also hear stories about mothers and families learning to home school their children.  So, as Ms. Rechler is not a children’s author by trade and this is her first book, we see here evidence of one mother at least trying to make sense of a new reality where her children participate in school on Zoom. 

With all of this said, there are elements where I wish the book could be more relevant to diverse students.  This is the only children’s picture book I have seen to record the impact of the pandemic, so perhaps there will be sequels or others that can further help to affirm the identities of minorities.    

I give credit to Ms. Rechler for wanting to do something to recognize our essential workers, particularly in the health care field.  Truly they deserve our respect and admiration.

Posted by Pamela Seward

Free Friday

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Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday by Hena Khan

This book focuses on Ramadan and some traditions within the Muslim community over the course of this holiday! I found it to be so interesting because it was mainly from the perspective of the little girl and how she was experiencing each tradition such as her thoughts on fasting, learning about how the moon and the Muslim calendar align, and the different customs the families have! I thought it was also interesting that the book wasn’t strictly focused on learning about Ramadan Hena Khan also discussed other traditions in Muslim culture such as how Muslims worship at a mosque or the use of henna tattoos.

Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan (2008-09-01): Hena  Khan: Amazon.com: Books
Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story: Khan, Hena, Paschkis, Julie:  9780811860628: Amazon.com: Books

Free Friday

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“She Persisted” by Chelsea Clinton

This children’s book tells the story of numerous women and young girls in history of all different backgrounds who made a change within our society.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World: Clinton, Chelsea,  Boiger, Alexandra: 9781524741723: Amazon.com: Books

One of the very realistic aspects of this book was that the author discusses that at many points all of these women were told “no” by society or that they weren’t able to achieve their goals, yet they persisted and eventually were able to overcome every obstacle. It’s very empowering and shares stories that aren’t as commonly discussed within the classroom.

What is also really amazing about this story is that the women are so diverse, but they also include such a range in occupations that truly send the message that you can be anything you want. For instance, we learn about Virgina Apgar who became an anesthesiologist and created the Apgar test for newborn babies health to Maria Tallchief a Native American who became a ballerina and the first Native American to hold the title of prima ballerina.

We hear stories of civil rights activists, doctors, astronauts, dancers of all different ages!

Seeing all of these different stories from women of all ages, backgrounds, and races is what I believe makes this story so empowering and relatable for women in general. The overall message is amazing and it ends with encouraging all girls to continue persisting through any obstacles that are thrown their way.

Up To 22% Off on "She Persisted" Children's Books | Groupon Goods

Trendy Tuesdays

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Let The Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

This story is about the march Dr. Martin Luther King Jr proposed to be led entirely of children. Many African-American adults were scared of marching in these peaceful protests because of the risks that were involved such as losing their jobs or going to jail, so Dr. King suggested they allow the children to lead the way! The illustrations in this story were also very moving. A lot of the pages depict the children marching, being harassed and arrested, and then finally being set free because of the change they help make.

Something else that I found really interesting about this story is that it could be used for different subjects in the classroom. I noticed one way you could use this was to reference math or elapsed time if you were reading this with an upper grade. The very first and last pages are a timeline of significant events that occurred during the civil rights movement and it helps to give a concept of how long this movement took for students.

Let the Children March – The Literacy Store

Traditional Thursdays: Love is Powerful

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This wonderful true story written by Heather Dean Brewer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is based on a young girl’s experience at the 2017 Women’s March and is told from her perspective.

As Mari and her mother are making signs for the march, she notices the large crowds that are starting to gather in the streets. Together they make two signs. One that says: “Be Kind” and another that proudly states: “Love is Powerful!” The whole time Mari asks her mother why they are making the small signs and questions if anyone will actually read their messages.

But, when they arrive down on the street and join the crowd filled with signs of similar messages, Mari begins to understand why she and her mother made their signs. She proudly sits on her mother’s shoulders and shouts: “Love is Powerful!” for all to hear. Because of this, others in the crowd join in, and her message echos through the crowd. At the back of the book, there is a short note from Mari herself and she said that once others joined in with her, ” I really felt its power! One voice can be heard, and one voice can make a difference.” If Mari had not gone to the march with her mother that day, the powerful and positive message she brought with her would not have been put out into the world.

This inspiring book shows readers the importance of standing up for what you believe in and that one is not too small to make an impact in the world. Mari and her mother saw something that was wrong and viewed the 2017 Women’s March as a way to get their voices out there and to spread love in a time of uncertainty for women.

-Diana Cowie