Monthly Archives: February 2015

Free Fridays: The Juggling Pug

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The Juggling Pug, written by Sean Bryan and illustrated by Tom Murphy, is a perfect picture book to read aloud with beginning readers. The sentences flow smoothly due to Bryan’s use of repetition and rhyme, and there is minimal text on each page (usually only one sentence per page), which makes it very approachable for early readers. This entertaining writing style is perfect for a short, humorous book.

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The content of the book is silly and entertaining, centering around a pug who juggles just about everywhere he goes, leaving a mess behind him.  The people obviously do not care about his messes- I mean, seriously, he’s a juggling pug! There is one young girl, though, who gets pretty fed up with the juggling pug: he drinks all of her soda, digs holes in her yard, and let’s not forget his tendency to poop on the rugs of various homes. The pug and the girl work through their differences and come to an agreement; but, just when you think the pug’s shenanigans will come to an end, he visits a friend’s house and, yet again, poops on the rug.

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While it may seem immature, I was thoroughly entertained by the content of this book; it truly brought out the inner child that still exists somewhere inside of me.

By Alyssa Janco

Traditional Thursdays: Madeline

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71Q5QKZC2VL._SS500_One of my favorite books growing up was a compilation of all of the Madeline books by Ludwig Belmelmans. I read and re-read it until I earned the title “Mad about Madeline.” I watched the 1998 movie “Madeline” over and over, and was enchanted by the French school girls and their adventures.

 

I recently came across this book again. In reading it now, many years later, I was surprised how Belmelmans was able to convey so much with so few words. Most of the pages have one or two lines of text, and sometimes only one word. The story is told in rhyming poetry, often leaving much to the imagination of the reader.

 

 I was also surprised at the coloring of the illustrations. A large majority of the pages have$_35 only two colors: yellow and black. But then you’ll hit a two page spread with brilliant color, almost always an outdoor scene, and often with a famous landmark in the background. In both Belmelmans uses simple black lines and scribbled shading, often only enclosing part of an object in line.

 

I wondered at the capability of such sparse wording and simplistic illustrations to capture my attention as a young reader, and came across these quotes from the website www.madeline.com.

 

“What is it about this character that has endeared her to readers for more than 60 years? The answer is—attitude.”

 

“Madeline is a gutsy little girl, and that’s what makes her such a unique role model in a time when storybook princesses defined femininity for girls. Madeline gave young girls a reason to explore who they were as individuals, even if that meant being a tad disobedient. She gave girls the courage to speak their mind and showed them that there was nothing unfeminine about being smart and strong.”

 

I love that. And I love that Madeline has lasted from its original publication in 1939. And I love that it is continuing to last with new Madeline books from Belmelmans’ grandson! Check them out!

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– Jocelyn Wildhack

Winners Wednesday

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It might be Wednesday but today’s winner is Tuesday! Tuesday by David Wiesner, that is.

tuesdayWinner of the 1992 Caldecott Award, Tuesday tells the story of flying frogs and their adventures, through pictures. The text in Tuesday is minimal. Yet, what is lacking in words is made up for in thrilling illustrations. Every thing in every picture on every page adds to the magical mayhem that’s occurring on this Tuesday night. From the facial expressions of those flying frogs, to the hint of flying pigs and magic every night of the week, Wiesner’s work is extraordinary in every sense of the word.

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Since reading this book for the first time in this class, I have fallen in love. Seriously, the frog’s facial expressions are some of the best illustrations that I’ve ever seen and probably, my favorite. Without words, something has to tell the story and draw the reader in and the facial expressions do just that. With every page and every action, you want to know what the frogs are thinking, how much they’re enjoying themselves and what they’re planning on doing next.

This book is fun for all ages and would make a great story to enjoy as a family. Parents may pick up on a few details of the pigs’ expressions that children may not understand. And children can enjoy making up their own words to what’s going on with the frogs on this Tuesday night.

One thing is for sure. Wiesner reminds his readers that the extraordinary can emerge from any day of the week. So this Wednesday, make sure you check out Tuesday!

–Shae Earl

 

 

 

Trendy Tuesday: Troll Swap

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What is trendier than being yourself? With recent attention to ending bullying and getting kids to feel good about being themselves, being proud of who you are is definitely trendy! Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson (the author of the popular Charlie and Lola series) follows a little girl and a little troll that switch places.

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Timothy Limpet is a troll that is cleaner and quieter than all the other trolls, so he is made fun of because he does not fit in with everyone else. Tabitha Lumpit is a human girl that is loud and messy, but her parents want her to be nice and polite like them and like the other children. Timothy and Tabitha run into one another and realize that neither of them fit in with the rest of their kind, so they decide to trade lives.

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After they both fit in perfectly in their new lives, they realize that being the same as everyone else is boring, and that their families missed them. Timothy and Tabitha switch back, realizing that their homes are where they really belong.  Hodgkinson’s writing style is definitely embellished by the different fonts that the characters speak in and the bolding and size changes of the text.  It makes the book more active and engaging and practically begs to be read out loud!

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This book definitely shows that being you, even if you don’t fit exactly in with your peers, is the best way to be! Children may wish they could trade places with other people, but this book shows that your life is the best life for you. It also shows that your friends and parents may want you to be a different way, but if you change, you won’t be the one that they know and love already.  I think this book’s content is important for children to experience so they can be confident in themselves and realize that it is okay to be different.  It also shows that your family and friends really do love you, even if you guys do not agree on everything!

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The illustrations and style of this book are Hodgkinson’s typical style. Her cartoony drawings are cute and the different fonts, drawings, and collages make the book fun to look at and fun to read. The different fonts can help you read in different characters’ voices. The font of the text looks childish and silly, like a child wrote the book. I would recommend this to children in elementary school because it can be enjoyed by younger as well as older kids.  This book would be a great read aloud with children and would definitely bring humor into reading time, as well as the message that it is great to be yourself!

-Holly Reichert

 

Free Fridays: The Very Cranky Bear

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This week in Nashville, the weather has been atrocious. Snow storms, ice storms, freezing temperatures, you name it. Today, I decided to finally venture out and trek to the book store. On my way here, I managed to almost fall three times on the ice, which  put me in not the best mood. When I got to Barnes and Noble, I spotted The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and decided to read and review this story because I, like the bear, was very cranky.

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Reading this story definitely cheered me up. Nick Bland tells the story of four friends, a moose, a lion, a zebra, and a sheep, who on a cold and rainy day – oh the irony – meet a very cranky bear.  To cheer the cranky bear up, moose gives him antlers, lion gives him a mane, and zebra gives him stripes. 

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What can the animals do to cheer up the very cranky bear? The bear exclaims that all he really wants is to sleep, so sheep decides to make him a pillow out of his wool. The story is told in a rhyming way making it a really good read aloud, and teaches the moral of sharing with others. The illustrations are really expressive and detailed, which draws the reader or listener in. I would definitely recommend reading this book aloud in a classroom, and then doing an activity! CIMG2555_thumb4

In the classroom, you can also introduce The Very Cranky Bear app to the students or read another one of Nick Bland’s bear stories: The Very Hungry Bear and The Very Itchy Bear.

This story helped me not be cranky on this cold, wintery day.

Julia Fleming

Marvelous New Picture Books Monday: Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

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Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien, is a wonderfully fun and playful new picture book. The owl starts out by stating his intention to use his master of disguise skills in order to catch an animal to eat. He cleverly thinks to disguise himself as a carrot in order to lure an unsuspecting rabbit. However, his disguise does not work. So he hatches another plan to disguise himself, which fails, and another, and another, until he is finally able to outsmart a pizza by disguising as a waiter. Before he tries each new disguise, he states how tough and scary he is, only to have his disguise fail, well, expect when it came to the pizza.

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This book is delightful. The illustrations are simple but fun. I couldn’t help but laugh at the story. He is so confident in his sneaky skills, only to be outwitted at every turn.It is perfectly suited for a bedtime story. It is engaging and lighthearted. Some of the text might be written at slightly above the reading level of children who would find the story interesting, but there are a few lines that are repeated throughout the book, such as “and look there” which could be read by young children in order to enhance the experience.

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The element which really made this book shine, was that I can see many adults enjoying the story as well, making it easier for them to read it over, and over, and over again to children who make it their favorite bedtime story. I think this book would make an excellent addition to any children’s library.

-Jake Lesser

Traditional Thursdays: The Lorax

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The Lorax is a book that Dr. Seuss published in 1971. I first heard this story in fourth grade when I went to a theatre camp and performed the tale. The story transcends time; a movie version of The Lorax came out in theaters in 2012 and was very popular. It is an amazing story with an even better message: unless someone who cares tries to make a change, the world will not get better.

The story begins with the narrator talking about how in town one can still see places where the Lorax used to be. However, the Once-ler is the only one who remembers the story of the Lorax, so the narrator encourages the young boy to go talk to the Once-ler to get the full story. The Once-ler then becomes the narrator and talks about when it first came to town and discovered the amazing Truffula trees. The Once-ler began to cut down these trees to make and sell thneeds. As soon as the Once-ler started cutting down the trees, the Lorax appeared and told it to stop the deforestation. The Once-ler would not stop because it was making money off of thneeds.

All the animals in the town had to migrate because of all the pollution the Once-ler’s factories produced. As each animal had to leave, the Lorax warned the Once-ler. As soon as the last Truffula tree was cut down, the Lorax sadly left the town. At this point in the story, the Once-ler returns to the present and gives the boy the last Truffula tree seed and tells him that unless people like him care a lot, nothing is going to change. If the boy plants the seed, the Once-ler thinks that maybe the Lorax and his animal friends will return to the town.

The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. The bright colors of the Truffula trees emphasize the fact that while nature is preserved, life is good. However, as soon as the Once-ler begins to chop down the trees and release pollution, the pictures become darker and less colorful. The pictures are not as cheerful, which embodies the idea that nature needs to be respected. The images are simple, but they are memorable. I think the simplicity of the images almost makes the story more realistic because it shows how easy it is for pollution to take over the environment.

         

I do not think there are many books written about conservation, so I love that this book is still popular today. Conservation will always be important, and including important topics in children’s books ensures that children will not be ignorant to these important issues. I believe the major theme of this book is that anyone can make a change as long as he/she cares. Children need to know that if they do not like something, they have the ability to change it. I feel like sometimes children think that only adults can make lasting changes, but certainly they can as well. I believe that The Lorax encourages children to stand up for what they believe in and make change.

I love the story of The Lorax, and since it has remained well-loved in society for almost 45 years, I have a feeling it is here to stay.

By: Emily Barker

Winners Wednesdays: The Egg Tree

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In 1950, Katherine Milhous published her best-known book The Egg Tree.  By 1951, The Egg Tree won the Caldecott Medal for its colorful and captivating illustrations.

1951 Caldecott Medal winner The Egg Tree

1951 Caldecott Medal winner The Egg Tree

The pleasant story depicts children celebrating Easter with an egg hunt and the various places where the colorful eggs are hidden. The content seems fitting for younger children who may enjoy imagining the intricacies of the language and how it differs from the illustrations. Because of the length, the book captures a lot of information about the family dynamic and allows children to see the purpose of maintaining traditions and the love of family.

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The writing style of the author differs greatly from the picture books of today. The pages contain far more text than is typical in modern age, and the language in the story is more complex as it incorporates more obscure words that fit the narrative. Milhous also uses very descriptive language that ties in nicely with her illustrations. The length of the book would also be unusual if published today but would make for an appropriate read aloud for young readers.

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While this book won the Caldecott Medal in 1951, the illustrations are unique. The pictures are obviously outdated compared to today’s standard, however, one can see how the vibrant and detailed paintings garnered attention in 1950. Despite the old-timey feel of the illustrations, they are beautiful in the detail that does not overwhelm the reader and broad scoped drawings that show scenic, outdoors backgrounds.

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The age of the story is revealed in its lack of depth; the only themes I could find were of tradition and family. The book also seems very happy as there is no real conflict or tragedy. The simplicity of The Egg Tree provides a fondness that brings one back to memories of the exciting holidays of childhood. The book is notable for the progressive artwork of the time and the still classically beautiful illustrations. While the story does not challenge or provoke much thought, the nostalgic feel makes it an enticing read.

-Alyson Haffner

Trendy Tuesdays: P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

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It was One. Crazy. Summer.

But now the sisters of Rita Williams-Garcia’s Newbery Award Honor book One Crazy Summer are headed back to Brooklyn, and with great gumption and independence, are ready to take the city (and school year) by storm. (If you haven’t read One Crazy Summer, you can read a summary here: https://neelysnews.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/winners-wednesday-rita-williams-garcia-and-one-crazy-summer/)

Williams-Garcia’s sequel novel P.S. Be Eleven follows Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern after their whirlwind summer with their mother and the Blank Panthers in Oakland, California. Life might not be quite what the girls expect when they return home to their dad Pa and grandma Big Ma in Brooklyn, but the three learn to adjust. The girls arrive back in Brooklyn with newfound independence and a wealth of knowledge of what is going on in the world, thanks to a summer camp run by the Black Panthers. As each girl begins to embrace changes within themselves, their father (who has a new girlfriend), and their uncle (changed by war), and the reluctance of Big Ma to endure any change at all, narrator Delphine proceeds with some caution, always having the words from the letters she begins to exchange with her mother echoing in her ear, reminding her not to grow up to fast, to “P.S. Be Eleven.”

In her first book of this pair, Willaims-Garcia excels at offering readers a glimpse into the lives of these three young girls, communicating the chaos of 1968 through their individually unique, innocent yet humorous and knowledgable voices. Willaims-Garcia does it again with her second book, giving young readers a window to a more in-depth look into the typical lives of a young girl in 1968 Brooklyn. Williams-Garcia’s characters face highs and lows as they are forced to mature without their mother in an ever-changing environment. The greatest tension for the characters, particularly Delphine, is between having the knowledge and need to grow up fast, but the desire and spirit to stay young while they can.

Williams-Garica’s book follows a trend we see becoming more and more popular throughout children’s literature– chronicling the happenings of a time period or event through the story of a individual or group living during said time period. A most notable example of this trend can be found in one of this year’s Newbery Award Honor books, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which although a memoir of Woodson’s childhood, manages to give a new perspective on the life of a girl growing up during the heat of the civil rights movement, at time in which differences were exacerbated and hate was at its utmost. Another middle grade book that perhaps was one of the frontrunners for this trend was Christopher Paul Curtis’ 1995 novel The Watson’s Go to Birmingham- 1963. This book, a humorous tale of a close knit family traveling together to Birmingham, Alabama, manages to also educate readers on one of the most notable events of the civil rights movement, as the book culminates with the Birmingham Church Bombing of 1963.

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P.S. Be Eleven expands on Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern’s story as they move back in with Pa, Big Ma, and now their Uncle Donnell who returned from Vietnam while the girls were away for the summer. Once again narrated by eldest daughter Delphine, the reader gets the opportunity to see a contrast between mature Delphine– the one in the maternal role of caring for her two sisters– and young, innocent Delphine– the one who lets glimpses of herself show with her classmates in her sixth grade classroom. Williams-Garcia adds another element to Delphine’s story as the young girl tries to grow up with two (or three) opposing maternal figures, Cecile and Big Ma, and Delphine’s new stepmother if you count her. This books does an excellent job of contrasting serious and comical events in the life of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to give an at times troubling, yet undeniably accurate perspective of the coming of age of a young girl without a reliable role model. While the bigger message of Williams-Garcia’s book may not paint the most enjoyable picture, it is undeniable that the little moments that she compiles to make the story of these three witty, intelligent, strong willed, lovable sisters really make this book, though a bumpy ride, one worth reading.

P.S. Be Eleven definitely does not fall short of the standard set by One Crazy Summer. The sisters– whose story is funny and engaging, yet at times heartbreaking– continue to impress the reader as their lives unfold via Delphine’s words and throughout Williams-Garcia’s short book.

Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of a National Book Award finalist, and winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Award Honor Book, and a Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction.

By Lauren Christopher

Marvelous New Picture Books Monday: The Pigeon Needs a Bath (I Do Not.) by Mo Willems

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coverOur friend the pigeon is back! Today instead of wanting to drive a bus, he doesn’t want to take a bath. Similar to Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the title page features the bus driver asking us to help convince the pigeon to take a bath. Willems is very intentional in his choice for the inside cover and title page, similar to Emily Gravett and The Rabbit Problem. 

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As you can see, the inside cover sets the stage with the pigeon getting dirty playing in the mud.

 

 

 

 

The title page continues to set the stage and then launches the reader right into the problem.

 

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The story starts with the pigeon trying to remember the last time he took a bath which he believes was last month.

 

 

Next, the pigeon becomes angry that he’s being asked to take a bath and asserts that the reader is in fact the one who needs a bath. Then, the pigeon says that we shouldn’t waste time on things that are unimportant like taking a bath and that in some countries it’s impolite to take a bath, as if he was bargaining.

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It is not until a group of flies tell the pigeon that he smells bad and should take a bath,

 

 

 

 

 

 

that he begins to believe it and finally agrees to take a bath.

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Before the pigeon gets in the tub, he’s like a little Goldilocks. This water is too cold, too hot, too lukewarm, not enough toys, too many toys, etc.

 

 

 

When he finally gets in the tub, he loves it! He sings, plays in the bubbles, swims like a fish, etc. He loves it so much he stays in for 10 hours and asks if he can stay in the tub forever.

 

 

Finally, the back cover is also intentional. As you can see the pigeon is having a ball in the tub.

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I loved this book! It is the latest book in the pigeon book series. I thought it was a great example of a mirror. I remember the fight I would put up when it came to taking a bath, then, being extremely fickle in order to delay getting into the tub, and finally, once I was inside absolutely loving it. I think kids can absolutely relate to the pigeon’s journey into the tub. Another thing I found interesting was that the background for every page was empty until the flies came and then the backgrounds were plain once again. The blank backgrounds make the pigeon the focal point of every page. In addition, the reader is forced to stay focused on the story since there is nothing in the background acting as a distraction. The change in the background matches the change in the pigeon’s thinking about taking a bath.

Overall, I think this book would be perfect for children. It is very engaging and entertaining. It would be great for new readers as well because of its simplistic nature. Or it could be the perfect tool to get children in the bath. If pigeon can do it, anyone can do it!

 

– Chinassa Phillips