Monthly Archives: October 2015

Winner Wednesdays: The Adventures of Beekle

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When I was a child, I had an imaginary friend named Bob. He was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and he came with me wherever I went. Bob also had a wife named Pam who would come play with us on the playground of my elementary school. I’ll never forget those days with Bob and Pam by my side. Just as I loved Bob and Pam, in The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Beekle longs for a child to love him.

This 2015 Caldecott Award Winner, written and illustrated by Dan Santat, portrays the story of an “unimaginary” friend who is looking for a companion in the real world. Beekle and other imaginary friends are born on an “island far away where imaginary friends (are) created.” As the story progresses, the creatures around him are “imagined by a real child” and they leave the island to join that child in the real world. However, as Beekle waits and waits for a child to imagine him, the days go by and nothing happens.

One day, Beekle finally decides to take matters into his own hands. He begins to journey to the real world by himself in order to find his perfect match.

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When Beekle arrives at the big city, he starts to explore, searching far and wide for his friend. He finds adults bustling about, children running around playgrounds with their own imaginary friends, but no child waiting for him.

Discouraged, Beekle climbs into a tree to see if someone will find him there, and he begins to feel sad that no one wants him. However, moments later, a young girl shows up with a picture she drew of her with Beekle. She had imagined him!

 

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“There was something about her that felt just right.”

Beekle and the girl are unsure at first of how to be friends with each other, but as time passes, they begin to do everything together. “The world began to feel a little less strange….and together they did the unimaginable.”

It is evident why The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend won the Caldecott award in 2015, as each page carefully integrates the illustrations with the text in order to portray the overall themes of the book: friendship, imagination, and adventure.image copy 7Santat uses pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink, and Adobe Photoshop to create vibrant pictures of a child’s imagination. Because each illustration is spread out over two pages, the scenes seem larger than life, and are really able to capture the minds of the readers.

Even the endpages of The Adventures of Beekle contribute to the overall themes of the book, with different illustrations of children and their imaginary friends surrounding a lonesome Beekle who has not found his friend (yet).image copy 8

Through the use of this one simple character that travels through elaborately detailed environments to find his friend, Santat is able to appropriately and effectively tackle the themes of friendship, imagination, and adventure. The book is especially relatable for young children who are just beginning to make friends at school; however, it is also relatable for anyone who feels like they are trying to find their place in the world. In The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Santat illustrates how having friends can make you feel invincible. With a true friend by your side, the world can begin to feel a little less strange, and together, you can do the unimaginable.

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-Angel Rajendran

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Trendy Tuesdays: Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues

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Pete the Cat cover

Pete the Cat has taken over the world, infiltrating preschool and early elementary classrooms and bookstores alike. My first introduction was to Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. It had a very repetitive story line: Pete kept losing buttons off of his jacket, but he never cried and still continued his song. Even though it was repetitive, the attentive preschoolers begged me to reread it at least five times. So I asked myself: what is the huge appeal for children?

The newest book in the series, which was released just earlier this month, is called Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues. Kimberly and James Dean continue the rhythm and artistic creativity of the rest of the Pete the Cat books. Pete and his friends have been at the beach all day, but now they don’t want the fun to end so they have a sleepover. Unfortunately, Pete’s friends are not as ready to go to sleep as Pete is, so they make noise that keeps them up longer. Every time Pete is awakened, his friends say “I don’t want to go to bed, I want to (do something else) instead.” Finally, Pete solves his friends’ problem by pulling out his favorite bedtime story (a fictional Pete the Cat book, according to the illustration), which calms them down and gets them to bed.

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I think the appeal of this book and other Pete the Cat books for children is the repetition, allowing them to chant along even if they are unable to read the words yet. It makes them feel more comfortable and familiar with the material. It’s also easy to catch on since most of the book is in verse or close rhyme. Children hear the similarities in endings of words and are able to predict the next word with little difficulty.

New Doc 1_4The illustrations are also very accessible: each and every one of them include bright and vibrant colors that attract children’s attention. The characters are very cartoon-like, but they are doing activities that any child would do like coloring, playing with toys, or riding a bike. These activities make it more relatable for children and allows them to put themselves into the book: would they be like Pete, who wants to get to bed pretty quickly, or would they be like his friends, who create distractions before finally falling asleep?

I think that the entire Pete the Cat series is relatable and entertaining for young children so they are hooked from the very beginning, making it terrifically trendy. To hear some of the songs from the books, watch videos, download free activities, and learn more about Pete the Cat, check out: http://www.harpercollins.com/childrens/feature/petethecat.

By: Mary Smith

Marvelous New Picture Books Mondays: Flowers are Calling by Rita Gray

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Need a new informational picture book?

Flowers are Calling by Rita Gray & illustrated by Kenard Pak is a lovely book that aims to inform children about various types of flowers and their pollinators.

A captivating front cover!

This book is a nonfiction disguised as a children’s rhyming book. It introduces concepts like flower colors, patterns, shapes, smell, and times of blooming for children to learn about. At the end of the book, it encourages readers to visit pollinator.org/guides.htm to follow up and learn more about how flowers/plants they can plant to attract pollinators. (What a fun way to apply the information in the book after reading!)

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Distinguishing the relationship between a magnolia and a beetle vs. a magnolia and a moose.

Gray has a unique way of narrating and explaining such concepts to children. To elaborate, she first gives an example of a flower that attracts a mammal, but ultimately that mammal does not have much to do with that flower. But on the next page, that flower attracts an insect, who helps pollinate that flower (ie. moose versus a beetle). After three repetitions of this pattern, there is a two-page spread about three different flower varieties the book mentions. This pattern continues throughout the book. I think this is noteworthy in particular because it makes sense psychologically. Young children (to whom this book is targeted towards) can typically hold up to 3-5 items in their head at a time. Rather than just putting a comprehensive list of all the flowers mentioned in the back of the book, talking about three flowers and then reviewing them in chunks of three can help in their overall remembrance of this text.

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A beautiful two page spread by Pak!

Pak’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. Each spread covers the entire two pages, and is a medley of various colors and textures made with computer illustrations. The spreads are in no way overwhelming, but are full of visual stimuli that portray the beauty of each flower. All of the animals are also on the spread, which help connect the print to the pictures. What is more interesting is that the spread focuses a lot on the flower’s environment, which can help children have a better understanding of each flower’s habitat. Any reader, young or old, can easily spend a nice long moment to appreciate Pak’s work.

This book is a great nonfiction book to read to emerging readers who may find the rhymes helpful in increasing their phonological awareness. The scientific vocabulary used throughout the book is also a great way to increase children’s lexicon. A recommended read for budding scientists!

by Sunny Kim

Winner Wednesday: Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

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From first glance of the Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, I had no idea what to expect. The cover seemed nice and different, but the only thing I could base my opinions on was the Kate Greenaway Medal seal that was placed in the top corner.

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett

This all changed when I opened the pages to see what intricate and unique illustrations and presentations that Emily Gravett had in store. I have never seen a picture book with this many details and components. The interactive maps and pull out pieces create a total piece of art. The ripped or burned look of the edges surrounding many of the these pieces and the pages added a distinctive component to the theme and topic of the story.

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I thought it was good that the book exposed the concept of fears and that it’s a universal experience that all individuals have. However, I’m worried that the terms for each specific type of fear might be too advanced for the intended audience of the book.The writing style used by Gravett is very simple and I think corresponds well with the crazy amount of illustrations and creative aspects that are occurring throughout the rest of the book. I also enjoyed the large amount of text on the newspaper clippings and posters, which allow older children to have more reading practice. However, the book can still remain simple enough for younger kids who just read the text and not the additional pictures.

I took this book originally to read to children at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and every time I have read it since, I have found new things. The uniqueness of the book really stood out to me and I think that is what entices children to read it. Children’s eyes bulged and wondered what would happen if they turned a page or pulled up a flap. Things like this are what books need to do—exciting children and making them learn to love to read!

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I encourage you to look into this awesome article from playingbythebook.net about activities to go with Little Mouse’s Big Books of Fears and many of Emily Gravett’s other great books. gravett

-Jordyn Margolis

Trendy Tuesdays: Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice

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The jacket of this brand new children’s book claims “This mystery is ¼ pepperoni and ¾ fun!” Marilyn Sadler and Eric Comstock have teamed up to write a book that combines two concepts, one that children love and one they are more likely to hate. Most children love pizza, and many children have math anxiety. This brand new book combines these two subjects to create an interactive mystery appropriate for children ages 4-8.

The artistic style is unique and resembles a collage and animation. This was Eric Comstock’s first children’s book, but a look at his website makes it clear that his modernized Picasso shapes and characters are very appropriate for children’s literature. The typography including speech bubbles, magnifying glasses, detective journals and pie charts invite the reader to interact with the text and the illustrations. The images and text relate to each other very well. The motif of the pie chart, pizza, and shapes reinforce the mathematical concepts Sadler and Comstock integrate into their story.

Eric Comstack uses his illustrations to invite the reader to take part in solving the mystery.

Eric Comstack uses his illustrations to invite the reader to take part in solving the mystery.

This integration and introduction of these mathematical concepts are what drew my attention to this new book and are where I believe their work holds the greatest potential. The concept of fractions causes many elementary students anxiety. Charlie Piechart’s story would be a very beneficial resource teachers could use to ease math anxiety in their students, demonstrate the universal applications of mathematics, and draw connections between subjects.

This book would pair nicely with a pepperoni pizza party during which the students could apply their new knowledge of fractions to the slices of yummy pie. ¼ peeperoni, ¼ teaching, and ½ fun! Speaking of which, one of my favorite parts of the visual experience was the illustration of pepperoni on the hard cover and beneath the jacket as if the book were one large pepperoni pizza!

The badge on the cover reading “A Charlie Piechart Mystery” holds the promise for a series of Charlie Piechart stories to come. If this book is a success, I think Comstock and Sadler could definitely extend this idea to different plotlines and introduce different math concepts through children’s literature. I will be sure to be on the lookout for more tasty stories to come!

 

A book that begs to be read and eaten!

A book that begs to be read and eaten!

Marvelous New Picture Book: I Am Helen Keller Review by Carly Meyers

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Brad Meltzer teaches invaluable lessons in his new children’s book, I am Helen Keller. The book documents Keller’s life and focuses on her childhood in an easy to understand first person narrative. Meltzer accurately captures the optimism and determinism Keller is known for, such as the last line summarized: “I am Helen Keller and I won’t let anything stop me.” At the same time, Meltzer realistically addresses the frustrations Keller felt throughout the obstacles she faces after losing her sight and hearing, such as her struggle with getting the attention of her dog, Belle.

Keller’s ultimate success comes upon her graduating college, after learning how to read through braille (the book even includes a braille alphabet that you can touch and feel the bumps to form your own name!), learning how to communicate (in three different languages!), and not giving up when life is challenging. Helen Keller’s life epitomizes perseverance, a crucial quality to teach children. Meltzer gets that across by taking the reader through Keller’s inspirational life in an easy to follow, well written manner.

Along with teaching perseverance, I am Helen Keller shows that people with disabilities have the same emotions and goals as everyone else. That is so important for children to know! Lastly, the end of the book mentions Keller’s work with activism for the education of other people of disabilities, women, African Americans, and the poor. Meltzer writes, “But the most important thing I did was to make sure that other people with disabilities could get the same education I had” and “to help people who needed it the most.” This is one of the most important lessons of the book; that someone who went through such a hard time uses her experience and her success to help others.

Christopher Eliopoulos illustrated the book in a beautiful way. Starting with the inside of the book covers, cheerfulness exhumes from the art. The cartoonish pictures make the story captivating and fun. There is a consistent quality of illustration throughout the book, the typography is perfectly sized, spaced and integrated throughout, and the layout definitely draws the reader in. The details on each page make it feel realistic, and Eliopoulos specifically did an awesome job on the characters’ expressions. Helen’s emotions were immediately clear on every page, helping the reader feel fully absorbed in her life and her story. Each book in Meltzer’s series, “Ordinary People Change the World” looks amazing, and I would love to include them in my classroom’s bookshelf!

Free Fridays: Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie

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My mom picked up this book at our public library. It came with an inscription from Grandma Ann, wishing Emily a “Happy 4th birthday!” I’m not sure I would choose this book for a birthday gift due to the difficult nature of the lesson Ruthie learns, but I was pleasantly surprised with the adorable fox Ruthie and her experience with lying and telling the truth.9781599900100

Laura Rankin tells Ruthie’s story using charming language, like describing flowers as “no bigger than fairy wings,” which makes the tough topic of lying more relatable and fun for children to explore. Accompanying the text are delightful illustrations created with ink and watercolor that make the tale even more accessible to kids.

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The illustrations convey a world of emotions through different perspectives. Sometimes the pictures are full-page drawings, like when Ruthie argues with her classmate Martin and their anger takes over the entire double page. Other times Rankin includes multiple illustrations per page, like when listing the activities of Ruthie’s day. My favorite drawing that stuck out most to me was of Ruthie when she approaches her teacher’s desk to tell her the truth. You can feel Ruthie’s nervousness solely from the perspective of the illustration.

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Rankin’s story is great for the classroom or at home reading. She takes what could be an uncomfortable situation and turns it into a lovable book, using kindness and compassion to teach kids about honesty and courage.

– Julie Schwab