Monthly Archives: October 2013

Traditional Thursdays with a Halloween Twist


In honor of Halloween and Traditional Thursdays, I have chosen the book Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. Not only is this book a beloved crowd pleaser, but it also highlights one of Halloween’s most famous figures: the bat.

Between the embedded lessons and the sweet illustrations it is hard to go wrong with this book. In the story there are two morals. One, that bats are what they are; birds are what they are. This moral can apply to people as well: we are who we are. Two, people, in this case bats are birds, can accept and benefit from each other’s differences. It emphasizes that differences should be celebrated and highlighted while stressing importance of being yourself. Bats, who are notorious for having a bad/scary reputation are perfect for illustrating these lessons. Children who feel like the outcast can relate to both Stellaluna and also, more figuratively, bats themselves.

The illustrations capture both children and adult readers. Cannon used color pencils and acrylics to achieve a furry, wide-eyed fruit bat with realistic qualities. The “Bat Notes” section at the end of the book are informative and helpful when explaining confusing vocabulary about bats. This information could also potentially spark an interest in bats or other animals. Most importantly, the books main focus is around concepts of love and friendship. The more students understand the importance of both the better.

In a classroom setting, I would use this book to discuss the importance of friendship. The book could also be used as a jumping off point to a unit on nature or bats. In addition, it would be useful when talking about fitting in and conformity, which all students feel at one point or another. An exercise would contain putting the students in Stellaluna’s shoes. What would they do and how would they feel? Would they have done anything differently?

In sum, Stellaluna can be used for its warm-hearted storyline and important life lessons both at home and in the classroom. StellalunaBookCover


Winners Wednesday: A Sick Day for Amos McGee


Here on this lovely Winner’s Wednesday, I thought I would share one of the sweetest stories that I have ever read that just so happened to win the Caldecott Award in 2011, A Sick Day for Amos McGee.  This book tells the story of Amos McGee, an elderly man that works as a zookeeper.  He is no ordinary zookeeper though; he plays checkers with the elephant, keep the shy penguin company, and many more.  One day, Amos wakes up with a terrible cold and is unable to make it in to the zoo.  The animals wait and wait for him, until they decide that they should repay the favors that he has done for all of them and they go keep him company while he is recovering. Unknown

Because it is the winner of the Caldecott Award, I think it is appropriate to say that the illustrations in this picture book are truly one-of-a-kind and are able to show the subtle characteristics and feelings of the characters in the book in ways that words simply cannot.  The illustrator, Erin C. Stead, used a wood carving technique to create the pictures for this book and used muted colors that are not overwhelming, but contribute to the overall tone of the story.  Each animal has certain characteristics that are displayed through these illustrations and even a child who could not read would be able to understand that the penguin is very nervous around other people by his facial expression and the way he is standing (he was my favorite character!).

The underlying theme in this book is classic, but with a new spin–the meaning of true friendship.  The animals in the zoo realize that because Amos is always there for each of them, they must return the favor.  I especially loved the humorous spreads that showed all the animals waiting for the city bus and riding the city bus to get to Amos’ house.  Then they simply all spend time together, keeping Amos company while he was sick.


I would absolutely recommend this book to any parent or teacher with great enthusiasm.  The characters and the overall story are just so sweet and this could start a discussion with younger children (around ages 3-5) about the true meaning of friendship and what nice things they could do for their friends.

Reviewed by Emily Rice


Trendy Tuesday : Bedtime Without Arthur by Jessica Meserve


Bedtime Without Arthur is the perfect book for helping children overcome their fears of going to sleep at night. Bella is able to sleep only because all during the night her stuffed bear, Arthur, fends off all the monsters that come alive when she goes to sleep. However, when Bella learns Arthur is missing she is absolutely distraught, she simply cannot fall asleep without him. Eventually Bella discovers her younger brother Freddy has had Arthur all along. At first Bella is furious and immediately takes Arthur back, then she realizes Freddy might need Arthur more than she does and so she reconsiders her decision.

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 11.25.16 AMThis is a book many children can relate to, as many kids absolutely must have their stuffed animals to fall asleep. The depiction of Bella’s reaction when she could not find her stuffed animal was completely realistic. This book is a useful tool that not only helps children learn to be brave without their stuffed animals, but it also teaches them kindness towards others. When Bella decides her brother needs Arthur more than she does, she shows much empathy and compassion. I believe children struggle with learning to share to make others happy, this is an important lesson that the book illustrates very well. Bedtime Without Arthur can teach children that they can be brave at night without anyone protecting them. The dreamlike illustrations in this book enhanced the message of the story. During a bad dream the illustrator makes use of dark colors that create an air of mystery. During a good dream however the illustrations are full of bright colors making the dreams seem magical. Bedtime Without Arthur  is truly a trendy book that is enjoyable and meaningful for children and adults alike!

By Isabelle Despins


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A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka (May 10, 2011)

The first time I encountered this book was in Professor Neely’s Children’s Literature class when we were assessing various Caldecott Medal recipients. This book immediately caught my attention with its unique style of illustration, yet simple cover. When flipping through the pages I was a little confused as to why there were no words.

What is the point of this? I thought to myself.  I then began finding myself looking at the book from the beginning and watch what was happening before my eyes through the pictures. I found it both calming yet intriguing when being able to observe and follow the adventures of Daisy. While it doesn’t take a great deal of skill to “read” this story, it still allows for the reader’s participation in the imaginative sense. We get to create our own dialogue for the story while still acknowledging the emotion that is evoked through the illustrations.

Speaking of illustrations, A Ball For Daisy contains a great uniqueness in which it contains variations of water color techniques and experiments with elements of thickness and thinness. If you love Raschka’s illustrations just as much as I do, definitely check out his acceptance speech for the Caldecott award here:

I definitely recommend this marvelous picture book to readers of all ages!

-Angela Bacaling

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The Boy Who Loved Words, by Roni Schotter


This is a juvenile fiction picture book about self-actualization, illustrated by Giselle Potter, from 2006, but seems timeless because of it’s unique style.  The boy in the story loves to find and write new words on pieces of paper, and eventually gets named by someone in the story as ” Wordsworth”.  He collects words and likes to be alone rather than getting involved with other kids.  They thinks he’s an oddball, but then earns his good reputation by becoming a wordsmith.  He hangs words on the tree where he hung his words, falls asleep, and a poet comes by in the moonlight searching for words for his poem.   Selig had  the right words and was finally valued and cherished!

He earns the respect of his friends, and he meets a girl who sings named Melody, and his parents are happy for him.  Selig is a treasure to his family and community, and even helps bring peace and shows people how to solve their differences. The illustrations are sort of European-looking and show cross-cultural references with bakery terms, and mentions France,  as well as words spoken with an accent.  I think it refers strongly to poetry, and to Wordsworth!

I am sure I will use this book in my coursework.


Free Friday: Revolting Rhymes


Take six of the most popular nursery rhymes, including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Three Little Pigs, sprinkle in a bit of good- natured humor, and finish with a truckload of gruesome imagery and you will finish with Roald Dahl’s seminal classic, Revolting Rhymes. This hilarious collection is a great way to introduce children to the world of silliness that one can find in poetry. It seems common place these days to hear children complain about how boring and uninteresting poetry is, this book offers a rare look into the hilarious world of parodies. Cinderella’s ugly step sisters get their heads chopped off, Goldilocks gets eaten by little bear, and Little Red shoots the wolf down in Grannies house, what more could you want?

6Other than great pictures, you may ask, but the collection is perfectly illustrated by Quentin Blake in a style that melds rough edged sketches with vibrant coloring that furthers the child-like, silly style of the writing. In total, this collection of rhymes is sure to delight the young, as well as the young-at-heart with its familiar stories and foolish voice, Roald Dahl has truly outdone himself with this one.


Post by Charlotte Showalter

Traditional Thursday: The True Story of The Three Little Pigs


We’ve all heard the story of the three little pigs, a classic childhood fairytale. However, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, is spoof on the original story of the pigs.  This time, it is told from the wolf’s point of view.  In this spin-off, Alexander (“Al”) T. Wolf isn’t portrayed as the “big, bad wolf”, as he was in the original story.  Here, he is seen as an innocent wolf who was unfairly framed.  In his defense, all he simply wanted to do was borrow a cup of sugar to make a cake for granny.  Unfortunately, a bad cold and some unfriendly neighbors get Al in trouble.  Now in jail, we see the story from an entirely different point of view: the wolf’s…

If you haven’t already read this book, I highly recommend it.  I think it would be a perfect story to read after the original– this would be perfect in the classroom.  By reading the original story where the wolf is seen as the bad guy, and then reading this (allowing everyone to see the wolf’s point of view), it would teach student’s about perspective.  This is extremely important as young kids are not able to fully grasp other’s thoughts/ views (according to Piaget’s preoperational stage where children up to age 7 are seen as “egocentric).  Regardless, it is great for students to see different angles of books, and I think this exposure would be extremely beneficial and interesting for them.

-Brooks Weber

Winners’ Wednesday: Up! Tall! And High! by Ethan Long


What better than a book that makes you laugh while fostering reading skills?  In Up! Tall! And High!, Ethan Long provides wonderful content for beginning readers.  Three short stories tell of the plights of birds as they show each other their traits and talents of being tall, small, flying, and building nests.  The ingenuity of the birds and hilarious situations make the book all theimgres more enjoyable for preschoolers through second graders learning to read.

Long provides entertaining stories that help new readers develop their abilities.  The rhyme scheme, illustrative and cohesive pictures, and short sentences with familiar words make this book very applicable to beginning readers.  The story differentiates between the meanings of up, tall, and high and by repeating these words, fosters the growth of vocabulary.  Additionally, the interactive foldouts make this book all the more fun and appealing for youngsters.  His adorable and brightly colored illustrations allow the reader to connect the text to the action in the story in a comprehensible manner.

For a classroom activity, young writers and readers can draw their own silly stories and then dictate the story to a teacher to write the accompanying words or write the words themselves.  This activity would foster phonological awareness and elicit narratives.  Ethan Long certainly deserved the Geisel Award for Beginning Readers for Up! Tall! And High!, a story that proves both fun and educational!

By Rebecca Feronti

Trendy Tuesday: Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Have you ever read a book that touched your heart so deeply that you will never forget the impact of each character? A book that you simply could not stop finding favorite quotes from to keep in your reading journal? A book that you have no desire to put down even after the last word is read?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio had that effect on me,

In short, the book is about a boy named August, who has had a severe facial deformity since birth. He has never fit in with other kids, and he goes to public school for the first time. The story follows him as he takes in his surroundings, emphasizing the difficulty of adjusting to a new and not-so-friendly culture.  It also switches perspective from section to section, including his sister, best friends, and his sister’s boyfriend. Each shift gives the reader an alternate perspective on how August is adjusting, and the way the school is changing because of him. I will try not to spoil anything on here, but the ending is so heart-warming, as the reader gets to see the full effect August has on those around him.

I would recommend this read to just about anyone, but especially kids transitioning into a new environment, or who have ever felt out of place before (haven’t we all!). It’s a great read for adults as well.

WonderPost by: Celeste Jones

Marvelous Picture Books: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse


Just about everyone knows the story of Lilly, the adorable little mouse, and her purple plastic purse. This infamous book written by the also infamous Kevin Henkes still stands as a favorite, even over a decade after it was published. Lilly is a favorite character by many. Although she is a mouse, her actions are so characteristic of early elementary school students. What kindergartner doesn’t adore their teacher and want to grow up to be a teacher… or “a dancer or a surgeon or an ambulance driver or a diva or a pilot or a hairdresser or a scuba diver?”
Lilly loves her new purple plastic purse, her shiny quarters and her glittery movie star sunglasses. And just like any young student, she cannot contain her excitement and wants to share with the whole class. After being told over and over again by her cool teacher to put them away, she gets them taken up by her now not so cool teacher.
Lilly leaves a mean drawing, but Mr. Slinger remains cool about it, leaving Lilly feeling pretty bad about her decision. Lilly’s story teaches kids about patience and understanding, which are especially difficult areas for younger children.
What makes this book especially marvelous though, are the illustrations. While the majority of the illustrations are small, they add an additional layer to the story. The illustrations show what the text describes, but also show a little more. Each illustration really exemplifies how Lilly thinks and act. And as her manipulative looking faces and sly grins are seen, she is very reminiscent of a kindergartner or first grader. In this way, the book is also great for parents and early elementary teachers to read to gain better insight into the funny mind of a kindergartner.

-Spencer Ann Besaw