Monthly Archives: March 2015

Traditional Thursdays: There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon

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In honor of Traditional Thursdays, we’ll be looking at a childhood favorite of mine, a book called There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, by Jack Kent. The book centers around young Billy Bixby when a kitten-sized dragon appears in his room one day.

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When he tells his mother about his unexpected new friend, she insists that there is no such thing as a dragon, so he ignores it, even when it eats all of his pancakes at breakfast in the morning.

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Mrs. Bixby sees the dragon but refuses to admit that she was wrong and dragons really DO exist, so instead she goes on ignoring it. The more the dragon is ignored, the more he grows, until he is big enough to stand up with the house on his back like a turtle shell!

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He runs through the neighborhood, chasing a truck carrying fresh-baked bread. The mailman is forced to chase the house down the street, and when Mr. Bixby comes home a neighbor points in the direction that the dragon ran. When Mr. Bixby finally finds his house and family, Mrs. Bixby is forced to admit that the dragon does, indeed, exist. At that, the dragon shrinks back down until he is the size of a kitten once more.

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The book is silly and entertaining. Kids love to watch the dragon grow and take off with the house, and it’s fun to have them brainstorm reasons why the dragon is growing so quickly (although of course the most common answer is that he simply ate too much). It’s one that I read often as a child, and one that I would highly recommend to the next generation of young readers!

-Caroline Roberts

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Traditional Thursdays: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

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      Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, by Ellen Christelow, is a classic children’s nursery rhyme in the form of a book. The book tells the story of five monkeys at bedtime. The monkeys get ready for bed and after their mother tucks them in for the night they begin to jump on the bed.

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     While they are jumping on the bed, one monkey falls off and bumps their head!

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As a result, the mother calls the doctor and the doctor says: No more monkeys jumping on the bed!

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This cycle continues until there are no more monkeys left to jump on the bed. Once they are all injured, the five little monkeys finally fall asleep and then it is their mother’s turn to jump on the bed.

This book has both value in the classroom and in the home and I would recommend it to parents. This book teaches basic counting and the power of cause and effect relationships. The monkeys show that our actions have consequences. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad. In the classroom, activities that can be done are choral reading, creating art work depicting the story, and a song and dance time. The repetitive nature of this book possesses a rhythm that makes it perfect to read as a lullaby before bed. In addition, the pattern of the story makes it great for early readers because they can understand the scheme of the plot and will be able to guess what happens next. Finally, this book can function as a mirror for children. I remember jumping on the bed when I was younger. There’s just something about jumping in the air without a care in the world.

– Chinassa Phillips

Winners Wednesdays: Tuesday

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What better way to finish off Winners Wednesday than with David Wiesner’s Tuesday. Arguably one of the best wordless pictures of all time, Tuesday is the story of a group of frogs who take flight one Tuesday evening on lily pads that function as flying saucers. On their big night out, the frogs fly through clotheslines, watch some TV, and terrorize neighborhood pets, leaving a trail of lily pads behind when they return home at the end of the evening.

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The first thing that makes this book so wonderful is that it makes no attempt to explain itself. We never know why the frogs are suddenly able to fly, or what it is about this particular Tuesday night that sent them soaring through town. We also don’t know the frogs’ motives and, at times, they don’t seem to know either. One can easily imagine David Wiesner spending hours simply thinking of all the things a frog could do given the ability to fly and an entire night on the town.

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The second things that make this book one of of my favorites are the facial expressions of the characters. There is a scene where a man eating a midnight snack sees the frogs fly by, and his facial expression is exactly what mine would be if a fleet of amphibians soared by my window. Later on, the frogs are watching TV with a sleeping old woman and each of them appears to be having a slightly different experience. Some seem enthralled by the events taking place on the screen, while others seem bored. One of them is even peeking out from behind the old woman’s chair, as if too afraid to get close to the screen.

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The original and imaginative qualities of this book make it the perfect choice for children of all ages, both inside and outside of the classroom. I would be fascinated to hear how a child would tell this story in his or her own words. I would especially love to create thought bubbles for several of the characters in the story and have a child imagine what they are thinking in those moments. The possible uses for this text are truly limitless, and it is the kind of story that children will remember for years to come.

-Caroline Roberts

Winner Wednesdays: Officer Buckle and Gloria

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Officer Buckle and Gloria is a book by Peggy Rathmann that won the Caldecott Medal in 1996. It tells the story of Officer Buckle, a policeman who is so dedicated to safety that he travels around to schools, giving presentations on safety tips. The presentations do not go so well, as they are so boring that everyone falls asleep.

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One day, a dog named Gloria is added to the police force. She accompanies Officer Buckle and acts out his safety tips behind them as he presents. Although he does not realize Gloria is doing this, she makes his presentations engaging and fun. After this first talk, there isn’t a single accident in the school. Soon, Officer Buckle and Gloria are traveling to schools all over (313 schools, to be exact) to give their safety talk. Everyone loves them. They even get fan mail!

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Soon, they are recorded on television giving their presentation. By watching the recording, Officer Buckle discovers what Gloria has been doing and starts to believe that the crowds only liked Gloria and not Officer Buckle too. The next day he refuses to attend his safety talk, and sends Gloria alone. It does not go well, and everyone falls asleep. That afternoon, a HORRIBLE accident occurs. Everyone writes Officer Buckle to tell him about the disaster.

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Officer Buckle’s eyes are opened by all the letters, and he begins to understand that Gloria and Officer Buckle work best as a team, with each of them bringing their own talents to the presentation. This is how they come up with safety tip 101!

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Overall, Officer Buckle and Gloria is a heartwarming book, accessible to readers of all ages. The colorful images and creative illustrations are engaging and fun. This book also stresses the importance of teamwork, collaboration, creativity, and above all else, safety. As an added bonus to the story, safety tips can be found in the background of many pictures in the book, which can lead to an important talk with children about safety, and even a fun scavenger hunt to find all the tips! I am not surprised in the slightest that this book won the Caldecott Medal.

 

-Anna McCarthy

Trendy Tuesdays: Last Stop on Market Street

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“Nana, how come we don’t got a car?”…So begins the story of Last Stop on Market Street, a book that captures the value of being content and having a deep appreciation for the life that you live. It is relatively easy to constantly compare oneself to others. Adults do it. Children do it. I have no doubt that dogs probably do it, too. In this story, author Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson address the comparison game through the eyes of CJ, a young boy who, after leaving church one day, raises question to his nana about the differences between his life and others.

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He begins asking why he must ride the bus, can’t have the same headphones as others, etc., and his nana explains to him that the fact that people have certain things does not mean that their life is any better than his. Rather than simply telling him to appreciate the things around him, she makes statements that allow him to notice what is special in his own life. She points out small elements of his environment, such as the music played by the musician on the bus, “the bus that breathes fire”, and all the other people who he only knows because they ride the bus after church every Sunday. It is obvious that nana sees beauty in the simple things in life, and throughout the book, she leads CJ to the point where he can be proud of where he comes from. The book ends with nana and CJ serving those who are less fortunate than them at a soup kitchen on Market Street.

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De la Peña expresses the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of city life through vivid, poetic language while Robinson’s illustrations create a wondrous setting filled with bright colors and diverse characters. Together with de la Peña’s text and Robinson’s illustrations, the book creates a story that draws the reader into nana and CJ’s lives. The readers begins seeing the beauty that the characters feel and may even take an introspective look at the things in their own lives that make it unique.

-Danielle McKeiver

Trendy Tuesday: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

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Graphic Novels are growing in popularity these days, and all kinds of authors are experimenting with the form, including Stephen Collins! The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is the story of a place called Here in which everything is perfectly uniform, but everyone in it lives in fear of a place called There. There is a place with no order and no neatness, and it lies just beyond the borders of Here. No one has ever been to There and lived to tell the tale.

Gigantic Beard 2Dave is a thoroughly average citizen of Here until one day when a gigantic, uncuttable, untamable beard begins to grow on his face, turning his world upside down and destroying the neatness that governs his life. The citizens of Here must find a way to contain this outburst of chaos as it grows larger and larger, terrorizing the entire island.

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is a story told through words and black and white cartoons. It is an imaginative tale about chaos and order and the attempt to find a balance between the two. Dave is forced to confront his fears of disorder and the unknown, and the result is a journey that allows readers to contemplate similar fears and uncertainties.

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The book is dark, funny, and surreal, and I have never read anything quite like it. This would be a great book to use with any students who are interested in graphic novels, or those who simply enjoy a good story!

Caroline Roberts

Marvelous New Picture Books: A Bean, a Stalk, and a Boy Named Jack

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A Bean, a Stalk, and a Boy Named Jack by William Joyce and Kenny Callicutt is a modern adaptation on the story Jack and the Beanstalk. This book tells the story of a “smallish kid with the smallish name of Jack” and how he lives in a town where it did not rain for a very long time. The king’s pinky toe became stinky, so he made all the villagers come cry on his toe to potentially alleviate the smell. The princess was so embarrassed that she asked the old wizard to fix the drought.

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The wizard researched and did some magic, and a small magic bean appeared to Jack. The bean told Jack to dig a hole, burry it, add some water, and repeat magic words. When Jack did these tasks, a giant beanstalk emerged and took him up to a giant boy’s bathtub. He had been taking a bath for a long time because his pinky toe was stinky. His mom told him to get out of the tub, and Jack asked him to turn off the faucet. Jack returned to the village by going down the faucet, and then the rain came. The king’s pinky was no longer stinky. The princess and Jack became friends, and the bean told the princess he was thirsty. Jack asked the princess (whose name he learned was Jill) if she wanted to help him fetch a pail of water for his friend. The story ends with them walking up the hill, which alludes to the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill.”

The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. There is so much color, and I believe children would be drawn to it simply by looking at the cover. The illustrations appear to be computer-animated, so there is much detail in them. This book is recommended for ages 3-6, and children this age are just getting out of the sensorimotor stage of development. During this stage, children look to the environment and their senses to understand life. The bright colors of this book will help them to really engage in the story. There is also not a ton of text on most of the pages, which really encourages the readers to understand the story based on the illustrations.

3-6 year-olds are in the pre-operational stage, and during this time they begin to understand animism. This term means that children believe inanimate objects have human feelings and intentions. The children will enjoy the fact that the bean has feelings and needs, just like a human.

Children will like that the bean has human qualities like being thirsty.

I absolutely love that this story is similar to Jack and the Beanstalk but has a different spin on it. Parents will likely want to read this book to their children because it will remind them of their childhood memories associated with Jack and the Beanstalk but with a new spin. If kindergarten or first grade teachers used this story in their classrooms, they could compare this story to the traditional story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

I think that kids will live this hilarious story. The vocabulary is mostly words that kids use, but there are some new words that they can learn. The story’s theme is that anyone can do extraordinary things, and it is important for kids to know that they can do anything. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who may work with kids.

Written by: Emily Barker