Monthly Archives: March 2011

Wonderful Books from the Past: The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

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The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith

While I do not remember reading The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs when I was younger, I do remember reading this story to a child I used to mentor while I was in high school. I also remember how much my mentee enjoyed the book. Remembering how receptive that particular individual was to this book reminds me of the joy of reading – something that as a college student, I have lost sight of.

During your college years, it is difficult to squeeze in reading for leisure and pleasure but, if you love reading from youth, occasionally you can remember the pleasure that can be associated with reading. The True Story of The 3 Three Little Pigs is a marvelous read as well as a marvelous book from the past because it is 1. Quite funny (Alexander T. Wolf has an interesting sense of humor and delivery), 2. It still accomplishes the goal of teaching children (considering an alternative perspective), and 3. It incites the imagination (how can you finagle stories to tell a radically different version?).

Another thing that makes this story particularly entertaining is its ability to be applied contemporarily as well as its ability to be used practically in a fun way. This is a fun and lighthearted way of introducing the concept of justice and trying to decipher what is believable, what is improbable and what you may not have ever considered. I think Scieszka did a wonderful job of restoring fun without being overbearingly didactic with this book. I think it will be hard to find a kid who won’t enjoy the ridiculousness (or is it wisdom?) of this book and I appreciate what this book has to offer, even past the age when this is just funny.

Happy Reading!

-Alexandria

Marvelous Picture Books: Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? By: Agnès Rosenstiehl

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Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? Is an adventurous toon book that takes readers on Lilly’s many adventures throughout one full week. The book begins with the 7 days of the week and different pictures of Lilly with word bubbles that read, “every day is a new day to play”. The adventures unravel as the week begins on Monday and Lilly is a cook. Lilly takes on a new role everyday. With every role comes a new adventure. Lilly is a curious, spunky, creative, funny, and bold character. You never know what she will do next! Throughout the week Lilly is a cook, a city planner, a musician, an acrobat, a vampire, a teacher, and a candy taster.

Not only is this book very educational, but also it is also quite entertaining. Once you open the book you will find it hard to put down. The comic style makes reading through the pages of the book seem like a breeze. Lilly’s creative mind is always working. She is constantly using her imagination moving from one idea to the next, to a deeper idea, to a whole new adventure. I love how it encourages children to look beyond what is in front of them and use their creativity to create their own adventures, just as Lilly says on the front of the book “I can be anything”. This comic reveals the power of the imagination and encourages children to see that they can be anything they want to be. On the cover of the book there is a sticker that read’s “a first comic for brand-new readers”. This book is great not only for brand-new readers but for reader’s of all ages.

Happy Reading!
Paige Cahill

Marvelous Picture Books: "I Remember Miss Perry"

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“I Remember Miss Perry” tells the story of a boy named Stevie who has just moved to a new town. He is anxious about making new friends in the school he will attend and especially about who he will sit with at lunch. When he asks to go to the nurse because he has a “stomachache,” his teacher Miss Perry tells him, “It is my fondest wish that you join me for lunch today.” She tells Stevie how she can relate to his feelings of anxiousness because she too got stomachaches when it was her first day as a teacher. Stevie feels a lot better when he finds out that teachers get stomachaches too. As the book progresses, the readers learn that Miss Perry has a new “fondest wish” each day. For example, when it was the principal Mrs. O’Brien’s birthday, it was Miss Perry’s fondest wish that they all buzz “Happy Birthday” to her in her office.


One day, Miss Perry’s class returns back from lunch to find each of their parents at their desks and Mrs. O’Brien in the room. Mrs. O’Brien tells the class that Miss Perry died in a car accident that morning. The students cannot go on being sad forever, so they each must find ways to be happy in the midst of the terrible accident. They learn to talk about all of the good times they had with Miss Perry and all of her fondest wishes.

It is very common for children to move frequently growing up due to varying circumstances and this situation is very difficult for many reasons, but children become especially anxious about the social aspects of entering a new school. Therefore, I think many children would be able to relate to Stevie’s feelings in the beginning of the story. At first when I read that Miss Perry died in a car accident, I was shocked that an author would write a children’s book about a teacher dying. However, Brisson was extremely successful in dealing with the concept and incorporating the varying ways that young children perceive death. I think this would be a great book for any child to read that is going through any period of mourning or suffering because the book illustrates how important it is to remember the good times and not focus on the bad. This is a valuable lesson to live your life by, and I think many children who are going through a similar situation would find comfort in reading this book. Moreover, the illustrations are quite colorful so if you were to just flip through the book, you would have no idea that it was about death. The brightness of the colors reinforces the fact that the good memories are what one needs to focus on.

Happy reading!
Michelle

First Garden

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“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, pages 8-9

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew by Robbin Gourley artfully combines history, illustrations, and recipes into one delightful picture book.

Gourley begins the book detailing the origins of the White House garden by introducing readers to John Adams. He stands next to the White House carrying carrots and beets with one of his quotes framing the page. Gourley’s lush, almost watercolor, style draws the reader in and helps depoliticize the figures she is portraying. Gourley includes figures from across time and political persuasion. We see Reagan, learn about Jacqueline Kennedy, and children of presidents ranging from Tad Lincoln to Amy Carter.

After framing the history and developments of the White House garden, the book focuses on Mrs. Obama’s excitement at expanding the White House garden and growing fresh produce. The illustrations portray her with a spade planting chard next to elementary students she invited to help plant the garden. Then we see President Obama restraining Bo from digging in the garden and learn about his distaste for beets. Such images remind readers of the humanity and accessibility of the first family.

The book details the meals prepared from the produce grown from the White House garden. There is even a huge table with diverse diplomats enjoying the fresh. At the end, Gourley demonstrates that every family can grow a garden and outlines the advantages of gardens, like producing healthy foods and the conserving of energy.

Gourley’s book is a great read from an aesthetic point of view, but it also contains a lot more. From this story, one learns about history, sustainability, and, of course, a lot of yummy recipes!

-Eliza Horn

Coming Soon! Lost & Found by Shaun Tan – to be released in April 2011!

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Shaun Tan, author of The Arrival and Tales From Outer Suburbia, brings us another visual, inventive, and meaningful book. Lost & Found: Three includes three short stories titled “The Red Tree,” “The Lost Thing,” and “The Rabbits,” each with a different theme; the stories had been published in Australia but will now be in available in the U.S. If this book were out right now, I would go and purchases it so that I can have a copy in my personal library.


“The Red Tree” is probably my favorite of the three because of the universality of the profound, emotional illustrations and message. It follows a young girl through her journey during a bad day and ends with her realizing that there is joy, even at the end of a rough day. The story is told in such a way that young children will be able to relate; additionally, I think it would be a helpful story to read aloud with a child when he/she is having a bad day. When I own this book I foresee reading this story when I need a little pick-me-up and reminder that I am not alone and things get better.

The second story is “The Lost Thing,” a story about a young man who finds a “lost thing” that he can’t really name or find a home for. After searching and seeking help (to no avail) he finds a home for the lost thing. This is a dynamic story about discovery, reaching out to others, and finding one’s place. Shaun Tan, along with co-director Andrew Ruhemann, created a short animated film for “The Lost Thing” that won a 2011 Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film! You can see the trailer and find more information about the film at: http://www.thelostthing.com/.

The final story is “The Rabbits;” it follows the progression of rabbits moving in and inhabiting another’s land. I think there are a lot of great social messages in this story as well as beautiful and intricate illustrations.

Overall, the messages and illustrations in all the stories are universally adaptable to all ages and interests. I would highly recommend this book and recommend sharing it with others (I’ve already read “The Red Tree” to multiple people, including my dad, just because I enjoy it so much).

Congrats to Shaun Tan on his Oscar and Happy Reading!

Annalise

Fantastic Books from the Past – Madeline

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For Wednesday’s theme, books from our past, I chose to read Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Madeline was one of my very favorites growing up! This enchanting book tells the story of Madeline, the smallest girl in a house in Paris of twelve little girls under the ever-watchful eye of Miss Clavel. Madeline loves nothing more than to frighten poor Miss Clavel, who’s illustrated character always makes me laugh because of how she runs across the page:

Madeline is fearless, and is both missed terribly and greatly envied by the eleven other girls when she gets her appendix out. Madeline is beloved by all who read her stories, and her character is a huge reason these books are so wildly popular (so much so that they have been adapted into film and television series!).
I thought it extremely appropriate to choose this book in light of our class’ recent discussion of poetry. Madeline is written in a very distinct way – there are few words on each page, and it follows a certain rhythm. It also rhymes: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines/ lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” Those are two elements that make it so incredibly appealing to children. The images on the pages tell the story better than words, and the words are enticing and easy to memorize. When this book was read out loud in another class I have, almost everyone could recite it along with the reader.
Good news! Madeline has a website: http://www.madeline.com. Books about her and her many adventures are still being written, by the original author’s grandson.

Freight Train- By Donald Crews

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Donald Crews’, Freight Train, completely embodies the ideal young children’s picture book. The book combines simplicity with wonder, boldness with soft edges, and tranquility with excitement. It was due to all of these characteristics and many others that this children’s book received the Caldecott Medal in 1979.

The book contains clear, bright illustrations and is centered solely on the travels of one single freight train. The text is short and sweet, containing only a few words on each page. The clear font and big sizing make the words easy to read, and the changing colors make them stand out against the background of the page. The story takes the reader along on the train’s journey, from country to city, day to night. It names different parts of the freight train, such as the “red caboose at the back,” “orange tank car next,” “yellow hopper car,” etc. Seeing as many children, especially young boys, love to play with toy trains, I know that this book would only fuel their interests and keep them engaged. The combination of limited text with fantastic pictures make this book a perfect first story for infants and preschoolers.

Donald Crews artwork is both simple and intricate all at the same time, just like his text. The colors are infectious and the range of textures used is very appealing. Some of the illustrations are clean and straight lined, while others show action and movement through blurred and smudged edges. I really think that this makes the reader feel as if they are moving along with the train and seeing what the train is seeing. I like that the different cars represent different colors, which allows the children to connect colors to the matching words.

As mentioned previously, I would highly recommend this book to any preschool teacher, new parent, or anyone else dealing with young children. I think that the book’s features are most appropriate for very young readers and will definitely spark an interest in books. The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and more recently, board book format. It would be a great addition to any young child’s book collection!

Enjoy!!

Abby Lester

"Around The World In 80 Legs"

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The first thing that we noticed was that the title of th book is a cute play on words of Around the World in 80 Days. The cover tells us that the legs are referring to different types of animals. The back has an alphabetized table of contents of all of the animals discussed in the book along with a picture of the animal. The book describes these animals more in-depth, child-friendly way, but the table of contents is a fabulous and quick overview if a child were ever curious to take a peak.

When you first open the book, the publishing information and everything is on a map with some previews of the animals to come. The map is an interesting way to help teach children about geography, without it being boring. The book begins with animals from “the Andes to the Amazon,” then continues to the poles with “Far, Far North and Far, Far South: The Arctic and Antarctic.” The next stop is “From the Sahara to the Savanna: Africa,” before the adventures leads to Asia with “From Malaysia to the Himalayas: Asia.” It ends in “Down Under and Out Back: Where Other Than Australia?” As children read this book, their imaginations will go on a wild ride while learning valuable information about geography and animals.

The descriptions are poetic, charming, and clever. For example, our personal favorite was the description of the Warthog. In order to exemplify the busy lifestyle and sometimes shocking looks, Gibson writes: “Bless her heart, she tries her best, but never gets her beauty rest.”

The placement of the text often reflects the nature of the animal. For example, the line “Oh, the elegant elephant trunk” literally wraps and curves with the winding trunk in the illustration of the elephant. The text varies from page to page, which would help keep children engaged…it kept us engaged.

The illustrations are, well, magnificent. It appears that they are watercolor, and the delicate detail of each picture accurately depicts the texture of the animal in addition to the atmosphere the animal’s surroundings.

We would definitely teach this book in a class room. We had a lot of fun with it and couldn’t put it down. you want to keep flipping through the pages and reading about the animals. Another nice aspect to this book is it does not have a story line to follow, so you could read about the animals without having to go through the whole book. Again, we would definitely suggest this as a teaching book in a classroom or even just for fun!

Hope yall get a chance to read and enjoy it like we did!

Happy Reading!

Haley K and Sarah B

Marvelous Picture Books! I’m Gonna Like Me

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I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis (author) and Laura Cornell (illustrator) was first published in 2002 by HarperCollins. It is one of ten books written by Curtis and Cornell. The duo’s books have themes like self-esteem, love, growing up, help, values, goals, moods, imagine, and family. 

I first fell in love with I’m Gonna Like Me this past summer when working as a special needs counselor to a child of short stature. This book was such a great resource and its quirky characters were intriguing to my camper. Laura Cornell illustrates loveable, unique characters and fills the book’s pages with bright, eye-catching colors that captivate the reader. The story’s silly characters pair perfectly with its silly text, and could be enjoyed by readers of any age

The book follows a boy and girl as they each explain when they are going to like themselves and why. Despite many of the sentences being split between the two characters, the lines still flow very well. This story just keeps lifting you up the more you read. Regardless of whether you have or are working with a child who is “different,” this book is great for young readers with its rhyming characteristic and use of complex, but familiar words throughout the book. I would highly recommend this book for the classroom, camp settings, or in the home! To learn more about Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, visit Jamie’s website: http://www.jamieleecurtisbooks.com/

Enjoy! Jennifer P.

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen

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“A Place Where Hurricanes Happen” tells the tale of Hurricane Katrina in a perfectly formatted picture book for the early elementary age readers. While the beautifully drawn illustrations show the true devastation of New Orleans’ aftermath, the story is presented through the eyes of children, allowing this to be read to a class with little discomfort and provides the ability for readers to build a connection to this event.

The story revolves around Adrienne, Keesha, Michael, and Tommy who are friends that live in the same community. Each page changes the perspective of the story to each of these friends and the reader is brought through three different parts. The first part covers the culture of New Orleans subtly by involving the kids with different parts, from walking down a typical street to the jambalaya cooking for dinner. The second two parts cover the time during the hurricane and the different routes people took for their safety and then continues into discussing life after the hurricane. The choice of writing style is free verse which seems to work in the benefit of voicing each child’s perspective in the book.
Renee Watson’s story is a great voice for the children who went through Hurricane Katrina. She allows her writing to encompass the voices of different children which makes this a perfect book to read to an audience. Shadra Strickland’s illustrations do a good job of bringing alive the overflowing culture that exists in New Orleans. Each illustration has a good relationship with the story and makes a great addition to the overall book.
“We’re from New Orleans, a place where hurricanes happen. But that’s only the bad side.” New Orleans is a wonderful place that was hit by a devastating hurricane. This story shows the vibrant life that was and still is present in New Orleans. I highly recommend this book.
For another good children’s literature choice on Hurricane Katrina, check out “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Happy Reading!
Trevor Burbank