Monthly Archives: March 2015

Trendy Tuesday: Nightsong

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While this book isn’t super recent (published in 2012), I had never heard of it and really enjoyed stumbling upon it in the bookstore. Nightsong is a picture book with unique illustrations telling the story of a bat named Chiro that finally gets the courage to leave his cave and the adventures he encounters.

I love the message of this story – being brave to try new things. I think this is a good message for children who may be very attached to their parents and are scared to try new things without their parents help. It shows the good things that can come out of being bold and brave, while also putting an emphasis on the comfort and warmth that a mother gives her child.

But by far the most impressive aspect of this book are the illustrations that I mentioned earlier. The most notable aspect would be the distinct contrast between the light and dark, light representing bravery and courage and the dark representing fright and the unknown. When Chiro is with his mother he can see the light, but when he first ventures off everything is dark and he is scared. But when he starts using his sense and gathers his courage, color starts appearing in the pictures. By the end Chiro’s entire world is in color. The illustrations go along very well with the plot. I can’t tell exactly what medium Long used, (it sort of looks like oil pastel and colored pencils) but I like the detail that he used.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and think that it is a great book for children to read alone or with their parents. It leaves a child with a great message!

-Allie Norman

Marvelous Monday: Making Non-Fiction Marvelous

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Today for Marvelous Monday, we decided to look at a genre of books children might not usually find that marvelous and fun: non-fiction!  We searched for a book that was trendy and introduces new information to students in a completely attainable, understandable way. With that in mind, we found Environment Infographics by Chris Oxlade, which organizes facts about human interaction with the environment into accessible and engaging infographics for children.

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Infographics are a new and unique layout I never expected to see in children’s literature, just because you usually associate infographics with studies and publications that generally don’t cater to children. However, I think the format of these particular infographics will engage and excite students because of the bold color and computer generated graphics. Complex information about the environment is made accessible through pictures, maps and graphs. It is important to present dry, factual information in a fun and exciting way, especially when making non-fiction books for children.  The bold pictures and graphs help illustrate and bring facts to life.

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The topic is applicable to any child, because everyone participates in the activities mentioned in the book, for example flushing the toilet, or throwing away trash. Because of this, the readers will be able to relate to the information and realize how damaging their own actions could be to the environment. If they are able to apply what they are learning to their own life, they will retain the information much better! At school, this book could be read in one sitting, or could be used as a reference for certain information, such as information on deforestation. Teachers could also use Oxlade’s book to teach elements of non-fiction texts; it includes a table of contents, section headings, a glossary, index and a list of extra available resources. This book is a very unique and engaging way to present information to children; Oxlades Infographics series includes three other books about: weather, animals and population. Enjoy this marvelous Monday, and explore this new type of non-fiction!

By Kayla Staubi and Sarah Borton

Traditional Thursdays: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

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In 1902, Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published, and Potter created a character that would be remembered for years to come.

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Potter instantly transports readers into a world of fantasy and action as she begins the story with, “Once upon a time.” Given the age of the story, some language is antiquated, yet it pairs nicely with the older style of drawings. Potter strikes the perfect balance between suspenseful and engaging for children while still using storybook and old English grammar. Because of the age, Potter’s word choice may be challenging for some children, but it provides a wonderful breath of fresh air compared to many contemporary picture books.

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The illustrations are lifelike and detailed show fine lines. Because everything, including the shading of colors, is hand-drawn, the drawings show their age as they obviously do not use computers to fill in colors.  The illustrator uses a simple, muted color palette so as to represent nature, but she uses a few bright colors to attract attention and draw the eye in.

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Peter’s tale shows the trials that may arise when one disobeys a parent, which is prudent for young children. While this book may be used as a foreboding tale against rebellion, especially to children, Peter seems to only be meant to entertain and let readers escape into a magical land.  As adults look back on this childhood memory, the delight and anticipation are more memorable than the moral.

peter-rabbitMeant to excite young children, this book inspired a following of Peter Rabbit merchandise in order to continually bring out the childlike wonder in all of us. While children may enjoy reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit, more enjoyable are the timeless illustrations and story coupled with fond memories of youth.

Winners Wednesdays: The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

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In 2004, the Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread won the 2004 Newbery Medal. In addition to reading this book for our Children’s Lit class, I also read this book as a child and saw the movie and have absolutely loved it. I could never put my finger on why I loved it until I came back and read it now as a college junior.

despereaux The Tale of Despereaux is a story about essentially what the long title describes. A young mouse named Despereaux doesn’t fit in with normal mice. In fact, Despereaux breaks all the rules that mice have established to remain safe in the castle by meeting the Princess and falling in love with her, and because of that amongst other things, Despereaux is sent to the dungeon. In the dungeon lives a rat named Roscuro, who once fell from a chandelier into the queen’s soup and caused her to have a heart attack and die. Because of this, all rodents were ordered to be killed if seen, and rats were therefore banished to live in the darkness of the dungeon.   There are many different characters in this book and their stories intertwine in crazy ways until the final dramatic scene in the end of Despereaux trying to save the Princess from Roscuro.

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I think that Kate DiCamillo is a fantastic author. Her taking several different characters such as the Princess, Roscuro, Desperaux, and Miggery Sow, and interweaving all of their stories keeps the reader intrigued on how all of the characters are going to interact. For example, it is first hard to foresee how Roscuro falling into some soup is going to later on affect Despereaux when he tries to meet the Princess and is mistaken as a rat by the King and therefore banished. The back and forth between all of the characters makes this book a page turner, and it also allows you to get to know a lot of different characters deeply in addition to the protagonist.

1010589-_7 The other part of why I love this book is that I realized Kate DiCamillo is a great writer. She addresses the reader directly throughout the book, which somehow makes this book seem more personal, as if it was conversational, a story being told rather than a novel being read. In addition, she helps the reader expand on their vocabulary so subtly. She introduces the word in context that the reader can figure out the meaning, and then repeatedly integrates these harder vocab words throughout her story to challenge the reader, but not so much that it is overwhelming and causes the reader to have to put the book down and look up the meaning. The style of writing is very fluid and educational and it makes it the perfect page turner for elementary school kids.

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I think this book deserved to win its title – I mean, it was so beloved it was made into a movie. This is a story that I hope remains a classic, as the story is memorable and the characters win over your heart.

-Kayla Staubi

Trendy Tuesday: Fancy Nancy

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Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor is flying of the shelves. The first book came out in 2006 and now there are numerous picture books, countless activity and I can read book, and even a few chapter books based off of the first book. Nancy is a girl who loves to be fancy. She loves to use fancy words like fuchsia instead of purple, dress fancy, and really do everything as fancy as possible.

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As much as we don’t want to judge a book by its cover, the cover does play a role when deciding on which book to buy from the store. Fancy Nancy has a beautifully, eye-catching cover. The cover is full of bright colors and even has tons of sparkles on it. It’s no wonder children, especially little girls, are immediately drawn to this book.

The story is written from Nancy’s perspective and is written in a way that she is almost talking to the reader. The writing style of almost talking to the reader is very popular and kids love it as it really helps bring the child into the story. Nancy loves fancy things and that includes fancy words. However, well aware of her younger audience, O’Connor defines all her fancy words quickly after writing them. Defining the fancy words helps children in building their vocabulary as well as helping characterize Nancy.

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The illustrations by Robin Preiss Glasser are a bit much for me, there is just a lot going on. However, they also do a nice job of matching the story as well as advancing the story along. While, I think the illustrations are a bit much, it does match Nancy’s personality and are almost humorous like the book is when reading.

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    I think one of the best parts about Fancy Nancy is that is teaches kids that it is okay to be different from others. Nancy is the only one in the story that likes to be fancy but that doesn’t stop her one bit. Furthermore, it also teaches parents that it can be fun and really good for their child to indulge in the activities the child likes and follow along even if the parents think they would look or feel ridiculous because it will make for great memories both for the child and yourself. I will leave you with the touching ending of the story.

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-Lauren Patrowsky

Marvelous New Picture Books: Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh

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The heart-warming cover

The heart-warming cover

Happy Monday, readers! Today’s Marvelous New Picture Book is Winnie: The True Story of the Bear who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. Author Sally M. Walker tells the heart-warming and true tale of Winnie, a bear cub who is adopted by an army veterinarian during World War I and eventually becomes the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

Winnie and Harry

Winnie and Harry

The story itself stands alone. It is amazing and unique, and it is made all the more wonderful by the fact that it is true. Even so, Walker takes it to the next level by creating a wonderful sense of emotion; she beautifully depicts everything from friendship to heartbreak.

Winnie and Harry did everything together

Winnie and Harry did everything together

 The story touches on some controversial subjects such as war, hunting, exotic pets, and animal captivity, but these topics are artfully addressed, leaving it up to parents and educators to expand and explain where they see fit. Ultimately it is a story about friendship and doing what is best for Winnie, even if what is best is not what is easy.

Voss’ illustrations are beautiful and classic. Each one makes readers feel what the characters are feeling, and they truly bring the story to life. The end pages feature photographs of the real Winnie, Harry, Christopher Robin, and A. A. Milne, and the extensive author’s note offers more detail for those who are interested.

 

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Winnie and Harry Playing

The Real Harry and Winnie

The Real Harry and Winnie

This book is a wonderful read for avid fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and for more casual followers. The fact that the story is about a well beloved children’s literature character makes the book engaging for children and makes it a wonderful introduction to the non-fiction genre.

Winnie and Christopher Robin

Winnie and Christopher Robin

 

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

Happy reading,

Amanda Farenthold

 

Free Fridays: Tan to Tamarind

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It’s Friday!!!

That not only means that it’s time for the weekend, it’s also time for Free Fridays! This Free Friday is dedicated to Malathai Iyengar’s Tan to Tamarind: poems about the color brown. tan to tamarindTan to Tamarind explores the different shades of brown and the cultures that are often associated with people of those shades. Each poem is short and paired with a full page illustration depicting people of that culture in action. For example, the poem “Cocoa” depicts darker skinned African Americans and a young African American boy sipping on a cup of hot cocoa. The poems include light shades, such as sepia, representing Chinese culture, to dark shades like Cocoa and shades in between, like Sienna, representing Southwestern American culture.

"Sienna" illustration

“Sienna” illustration

Tan to Tamarind is a delightful way for children of color and children from various cultural backgrounds to see themselves represented in literature. Having diversity in children’s literature is crucial for children to form positive identities, and increases the joy that comes for reading books.

This book can be used in different ways. Teachers in a classroom can pair this book with lessons on cultures in different countries and within our own. It would also make a wonderful addition to children’s home and personal libraries. The poems are short, making it ideal for kids to read on their own or with their parents. It also provides a good opportunity for children to explore their own heritage and cultures.

I am so glad that I came across this book. It made me happy to see such a unique book celebrating children of color and their uniqueness.

This weekend, take the time to explore a new culture and reconnect with your own.  Happy Friday!

–Shae Earl