Monthly Archives: April 2016

Free Fridays: The Day the Crayons Came Home

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The Day the Crayons Came Home, written by Drew Daywalt, tells the story of long lost crayons who send postcards home to their owner, Duncan. Except for the first and last page of the story, the book is composed of all postcards of crayons telling their stories and their journeys.  Each one talks about their color and how they got misplaced.  The illustrations are captivating and are comprised of different mediums, even including a fun glow-in-the-dark surprise. The way this story is written is different than most other stories and includes many different perspectives, all seamlessly tied into one story.

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This is a great book to read at home with children, and can even be broken down into short stories (a postcard a day) if that is desired.  This is also a great resource to use in a classroom.  After reading, students could write their own postcard from a long lost crayon.  Older students can also learn about personification techniques through the personification of crayons.  This would be a great book to keep in the classroom for fun reading, as well as for instructional purposes.

This is a refreshing and captivating story that is greater many ages and can be enjoyed by all.

Post By: Jamey Gallegos

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Traditional Thursdays: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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We all have those days. The world seems set against us. No one understands us. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. Young or old, we can relate to Alexander’s frustration and desire to give up and move to Australia. This classic story follows Alexander through his day, listing everything that happens to make his day so terrible, from a missing toy in his cereal box to cavities at the dentist’s office. Author Judith Viorst essentially captures the egocentric perspective of childhood through Alexander’s matter-of-fact narration. Viorst’s direct writing makes it seem as though Alexander is speaking directly to readers, allowing us to sympathize with his troubles. Her use of run-on sentences further overwhelms the readers, just as Alexander feels overwhelmed by his day.

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Ray Cruz’s illustrations reflect Alexander’s point of view. While Alexander is the only figure in color, his surroundings and other characters remain in black-and-white, as gloomy as they must appear to him. The simple sketches do not distract from Alexander’s detailed expressions, which effectively convey his emotions.

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As he falls asleep to a broken night light, wearing his least favorite pajamas, Alexander remarks “It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” Closing her story without a positive resolution to Alexander’s day, Viorst poignantly reminds readers that sometimes we have bad days. And that is okay. This message is particularly important for young children learning to cope with situations that don’t go their way or to understand that some things are out of their control.

by Kathleen Stevens

 

Winners Wednesdays: Knock Knock

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Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier, tells the simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting story of a boy who confronts his father’s absence from his life.  The book is the winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King illustrator award for Collier’s powerful depiction of the narrator’s yearning and hope for his father’s return. It is based on the author Beaty’s own autobiographical emotions after his father’s incarceration.

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Throughout the story, the narrator struggles with missing his father and the implications his father’s absence might have in his future.  “Papa, come home,” he says, “when I get older I thought you could teach me how to dribbScreen Shot 2016-04-16 at 8.47.28 AMle a ball, how to shave…”  The narrator remembers the comfortable and close Knock Knock game he used to play with his father each morning, and the ways his father helped shape his childhood.  “I want to be just like you, but I’m forgetting who you are,” the narrator calls out to his father in a particularly expressive scene.

 

While his father doesn’t return, he does so in the form of a letter to his son that is full of advice and love “for every lesson I will not be there to teach you.”  He communicates to his son powerful lessons about independence, strength of character, and hard work: “for as long as you become your best, the beScreen Shot 2016-04-16 at 8.47.15 AMst of me still lives in you.”  This book deals with complex and powerful themes by expressing them in simple and meaningful language, getting in touch with the narrator’s emotions, and balancing the saddest moments with the most hopeful ones.  It is an important narrative for any child struggling with the loss of a parent in any way, and knowing that even if someone isn’t physically present, it is still possible to feel that person’s love and advice.

 

Collier’s award-winning illustrations, made of watercolor and collage, blanket each page with intricate city architecture, lifelike sketches of the narrator’s family and home, and overlapping prints to show the many shades of emotion the narrator experiences.  This work is especially integral as the illustrations are what shows the reader that the narrator did, in fact, grow up and take his father’s advice as he entered the world on his own.

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-Katherine Sowa

Winner Wednesdays: The Watermelon Seed

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The Watermelon Seed, written by Greg Pizzoli, won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award in 2014.  The book follows the story of a crocodile who LOVES watermelon.  He enjoys it at all times of the day and for any meal.  Then, he makes the mistake of swallowing a watermelon seed.  The rest of the story follows the crocodile’s journey as he fears what happens now that he has eaten a seed.FullSizeRender-3

This book contains simplistic writing that is easily understood.  The text is large and there are only a few words per page, making this a great book for beginning readers to practice with.  The illustrations are simple, but the colors are vibrant and enticing.  The color choice on each page helps create the changing mood, as well.

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This is a great book to read to young children who do not have the attention span or understanding for long and complex books.  It is also great for working with younger or developing readers.  It is a fun story that will keep children of different ages captivated and the pictures help further the story and add a fun dimension.

Post by: Jamey Gallegos

 

Trendy Tuesdays: Spork

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The children’s picture book, “Spork” written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabella Arsenault is a story about being a little bit different. The main character, Spork, is different from everybody else. He is not a fork or a spoon, but a combination of the two! His mom, the spoon and his dad, the fork think spork is perfect the way he is. But, Spork knows that he is different from everyone and he wants to be the same as everybody else.

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Spork is ashamed of his differences and attempts to become like everyone else. He tries to make himself look more spoon-ish, but it didn’t work. Then, he tried to make himself look more fork-ish, but that didn’t work either.

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Spork began to feel very alone. He grew sad and wondered if there was anybody else who felt the same way he did. He wondered if anybody else felt different and felt like they didn’t belong.

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Until one day, something amazing happened. A baby appeared in his kitchen. The baby was so messy that when he tried to eat, neither forks nor spoons worked for him. So, the baby picked up Spork and used him. This is how Spork finally found his purpose and made his way to the dinner table. Spork became happy, as he finally found his way.

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I think that this silly little picture book has a lot more meaning to it than it may seem. The character, Spork, is very representative of anybody who has ever felt “different.” As a child, it can be hard to look different or act differently than everybody else around you. Spork is neither a spoon or a fork, but a little bit of both. He doesn’t look like everybody else, he is a little bit different. In the end, Spork finally finds acceptance and begins to love himself for who is he. I think this could be a really great book to read to any child who is struggling with feeling different. It can help to show that being “different” is normal and okay, and that everybody has a place in the world, no matter what.

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-Mia MacLean Vernic

Marvelous Mondays: A Blooming New Book

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Despite the pink letters and flowers that grace the cover, Bloom by Doreen Cronin is no delicate fairytale. Illustrated by Caldecott winner David Small, the new picture book tells the story of how an unconventional fairy and an extraordinarily ordinary girl save a kingdom. Banished from the glass kingdom because of her muddy feet and the beetles in her wings, Bloom the fairy takes refuge in the forest. But when the pristine glass castle begins to fall apart, the king and queen seek out the fairy’s magic to save their crumbling kingdom. They send Genevieve, the queen’s quiet, ordinary servant, into the forest to solicit the fairy’s help. Genevieve discovers that magic can be found in something as ordinary as mud, and with this knowledge she rebuilds the kingdom.

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Cronin’s playful writing captures the childhood frustration of feeling misunderstood by adults, represented in the relationship between Bloom and the haughty king and queen. The story will indulge young readers’ love for getting dirty and discovering magic in the world around them. This delightful fairytale also reminds adult readers of the value of humility.

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Varying typography enhances the reading experience and creates a movement within the form which reflects the liveliness of the story. The typography also serves to enhance the characters’ distinct personalities and mannerisms by emphasizing key descriptive words. Small’s watercolor illustrations are whimsical, dancing softly across the cream-colored pages. Their humorous, expressive quality complement the lively text.

~Let Bloom unfold its magic on your bookshelf~

Kathleen Stevens

Free Fridays: A Boy and a Jaguar

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“A Boy and a Jaguar” written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Catia Chien is an endearing story that follows the life of a young boy who struggles with stuttering and finds refuge with his pet animals. His teachers think that he is disruptive in class and it seems like nobody understands him, except for his animals.The story follows the young boy all the way into adulthood. It begins as he is a young boy who has trouble speaking to humans, BUT he has no problem speaking to his pets (a hamster, a gerbil, a turtle, a chameleon, and a snake)! He goes into his closet and talks to them every day. He says “I make a promise to my pets. I promise that if I can ever find my voice, I will be their voice and keep them from harm.”

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He is able to relate to the animals as he says, “I know my pets listen and understand. Animals can’t get the words out, just as I can’t get the words out. So people ignore or misunderstand or hurt them, the same way people ignore or misunderstand or hurt me.”

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As time goes on, the young boy gets through school by staying quiet and avoiding certain situations. Eventually he goes on to college where things begin to change. His teachers help him learn how to become a “fluent stutterer” and for the first time in his entire life, the boy is able to speak without stuttering.

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Although the boy can now speak, he still longs for something more. He sets out to work with animals, as he has always cared dearly for them. He studies Black Bears in the Great Smoky Mountains and Jaguars in Belize. He feels at home with the animals and in the wild.

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But the boy soon realizes that the jaguars are in danger. Poachers are out to kill them and the animals are not safe. So he sets out to find a way to protect the jaguars. He goes to the office of the Prime Minister to convince him that Belize needs to protect the jaguars. He uses his voice to keep the animals safe, as the Prime Minister agrees to set up a jaguar preserve.
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This is a wonderful story about a young boy who finds a deep connection with animals. His stuttering held him back from communicating with humans, but lead him to a world of discovery and accomplishment. He found friends in his pet animals as a young boy, and continued on to feel at home with them as he grew older. He kept his promise to protect the animals with his voice once he found it, by helping to start the first jaguar preserve.

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-Mia MacLean Vernic

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Traditional Thursday: The Skunk by Mac Barnett

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Have you ever felt like someone was following you? Did you ever feel like you could not get away? Didn’t you want to know why that person was following you? In The Skunk, by Mac Barnett, the questions above were proliferated as a man was relentlessly followed by a skunk. When he walked a few blocks, the skunk would follow him. The man took many sharp turns down the road, hailed a taxi downtown and hid behind shrubs just to get away from this skunk. However, the skunk was always two steps ahead of him. Every turn, every taxi, every bush, held a skunk relentlessly by his side. The man would ask the skunk, “What do you want?” However, the skunk being a skunk could not answer the poor man. When the man finally found himself alone at a party without the skunk by his side, he wondered, where the skunk was, was the skunk looking for him, was he following someone else? With his mind racing with all these questions, Mac Barnett reverses the roles between the man and the skunk. The man was now looking in the alley way, searching on top of Ferris Wheel’s and diving in the sewers just to find the skunk. When he finally found the skunk, he carefully followed his every step. The picture book ends with the man saying, “I think I will keep an eye on him and make sure he does not follow me again.”

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Barnett’s clever and sly storytelling is simple in form however, the meaning behind the picture book is much more complex. The narration is considerably a dark comedy with features of silliness and suspense. For younger readers, they will appreciate the simple concept of a skunk following a man throughout the book. When the roles reverse, and the man starts to go against the norms of what they see in society, children may think this is comical. However, older children will appreciate the overall meaning of the narrative. The refusal of Barnett to wrap up the story with a cuddly harmony of results makes the ending seem a bit ambiguous. The reader is still left with the question to the man’s questions unanswered. The reader is instead forced to create his or her own understanding of the meaning of the text. One of the greatest pleasures with picture books is that it allows you to overanalyze everything. As readers we are not only just reading the text but we are also trying to find hints of the authors intentions in the illustrations. Is it about letting go? Curiosity? Passion? Obsession? The beauty of this narrative is the ability for the meaning to be taken in a variety of different directions.

-Sasha Gray

 

 

 

Traditional Thursday: The Skunk by Mac Barnett

Winner Wednesdays: Rosie Revere, Engineer

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“This is the story of Rosie Revere, who dreamed of becoming a great engineer.”

Andrea Beaty’s wonderful children’s book, “Rosie Revere, Engineer” is brought to life with illustrations by David Roberts. It is an exciting story of a young girl who dreams of becoming an engineer. The rhyming style of the story creates a fun rhythm that draws children in and makes for a playful, upbeat story. The pages are filled with bright, electric illustrations that add even more to the children’s story.

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The story follows Rosie Revere’s progress with her various inventions. The reader sees what Rosie invents and the reactions Rosie receives. Rosie is a shy little girl who creates inventions in the privacy of her attic. She hides her creations under her bed so nobody will find them.

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She is so shy and self-conscious about her inventions because when she was younger, her uncle Zookeeper Fred laughed at one of her inventions, “and when it was finished young Rosie was proud, but Fred slapped his knee and chuckled out loud. He laughed till he wheezed and his eyes filled with tears, all to the horror of Rosie Revere, who stood there embarrassed, perplexed, and dismayed. She looked at the cheese hat and then looked away.” Ever since then, Rosie Revere keeps her inventions to herself. Until one day, her great-great-aunt Rose came to stay with her family. Her great-great-aunt Rose has always wanted to fly and Rosie Revere attempts to help her. Rosie Revere invents a “heli-o-cheese-copter” which flies in the air for a second, and then falls to the ground. Rosie Revere hears her great-great-aunt Rose laughing, but this time it’s different, ‘”I failed.” said dear Rosie. “It’s just made of trash. Didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.” “Yes!” said her great aunt.”It crashed. That is true. But first it did just what it needed to do. Before it crashed, Rosie… Before that… It flew!”‘

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This is a darling story of encouragement. Children have bright imaginations that are overflowing with creativity. As adults, it is our job to foster their ideas and to encourage their curiosity. We cannot laugh at their failures and put them down. Instead, we need to help them create, build, and imagine. The story of Rosie Revere reinforces the idea that it is okay to fail, you just have to keep trying and never give up. With positive encouragement and a little bit of help, children can accomplish many things!

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-Mia MacLean Vernic

Trendy Tuesdays: Dragons and Nursery Rhymes

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2016-04-12 08-28 page #0Joining the growing trend of reimagined fairytales comes There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight. Author Penny Parker Klostermann takes the reader back to medieval times where dragons wreak havoc and armor-clad knights race to the rescue with valiant steeds. The book is a reinvention of the nursery rhyme “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” replacing the old lady with a mischievous red dragon.

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The story begins with the dragon swallowing a knight, as promised in the title. Yet after the knight is gone, his steed keeps “gallop[ing] around at a terrible speed./ Oh, how the dragon wished it would stop.” So he swallows the steed as well. Like the poem it is based on, There Was an Old Dragon is a cumulative poem, which means that after every new swallow, the reader gets a repeated list of everything the dragon has eaten up to that point. After greedily gulping the knight and his steed, a squire, a cook, a lady, a castle, and a moat, the dragon is so bloated and uncomfortable he takes up an entire page. After admitting his mistake of overindulging, the dragon burps out the animals, people, and castle and settles down for the night with just the knight left in his belly. Everything ends well. Well, for everyone but the knight.Dragon 1 page #0

While Klostermann’s text is full of wit, Ben Mantle’s illustrations truly make the book hilarious. Perhaps created with a mix of pencil, digital color, and watercolor, Mantle’s pictures resemble stills from a children’s TV show. The characters have cartoon-like exaggerations complete with a knight with teeny, tiny legs and a dragon with a wolfish grin and large horns. Mantle’s lines are clear and the text is always integrated into the full-bleed illustrations. Small details make this book a treasure hunt for attentive readers. Multiple signs warn of the dragon, as do scattered bones and scorch marks. A taloned arm can be seen seasoning the cook with pepper before he gets eaten by the dragon. And, my favorite touch, every time the steed is shown in the dragon’s stomach, his illustration is accompanied by the words “clippity, clippity, clippity, clop” in a miniature font.

2016-04-12 08-26 page #0The rhyming text and silly situations of There Was an Old Dragon are funny and rhythmical, both qualities that tend to engage children. Young readers would particularly enjoy this text because once they master a phrase, they get to repeat  it again and again. This book could be called a fractured fairytale, which is a story that the reader can only understand if they know the original iteration of the tale. However, I did not realize this text was based off of the nursery rhyme and I could not stop from laughing out loud as I read the book for the first time. Knowledge of the nursery rhyme is not required to enjoy this book, but it does help explain the rather odd rhyme scheme shown in the lines “I don’t know why he swallowed the knight./ It’s not polite!” I heartily recommend this book for readers ages 3-8.

-Rebekah Moredock