Monthly Archives: January 2017

Trendy Tuesday: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

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It’s hard not to be cliché on Trendy Tuesday, but I couldn’t resist reviewing this classic picture book. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is the first book of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series and was illustrated by Felicia Bond. The storyline (if by chance you’ve never read it or have forgotten over the years) is circular, where the mouse asks his owner for a cookie, then wants a glass of milk to go with it. Then he wants a mirror to check if he has a milk mustache, and the domino effect continues until he decides he wants another cookie.

The illustrations in this book are vibrant and full of color. They are done in colored pencil. There is also a lot of white space, which makes the illustrations smaller on the page and less distracting. Bond uses interesting perspectives in some of her drawings that exaggerate some parts of the story. You can see in this illustration the bright colors of the grass and the boy’s jeans, and then the depth used to show the sidewalk up to the house.
img_0416Some of the written text will end like a cliffhanger. This is a fun characteristic of the book because it leads the reader or listener to the next page in anticipation. It also makes the book a little more unpredictable, because some continuations of text are just small additions that tack a funny ending to the sentence.img_0417

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This book is very fun to read with children and not difficult to follow. It is definitely still a trendy tale, even if it was released over 30 years ago. I would read this story to any age level and there are so many fun classroom or at home activities that can be created from this book. There is even a board game on the back cover of the Special Edition that I looked at! If that’s not the cutest thing ever, I don’t know what is.

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Post by: Jenna Adamczak

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Marvelous New Picture Books: We Found a Hat

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We Found a Hat

Author: Jon Klassen

Illustrated by: Jon Klassen

When I heard that Jon Klassen had finally written the conclusion to the “Hat,” trilogy, partner to I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, I jumped at the chance to review it. I was not disappointed. We Found a Hat stays true to Klassen’s trademark dry humor, minimalistic illustration and subtly profound attention to underscoring teachable lessons. I continue to be amazed by Klassen’s ability to convey themes as vast and complex as loss, problem-solving, morality and friendship through devices as simple as animals and headgear.

"We Found a Hat" Cover

We Found a Hat chronicles the journey of two turtles, companions and friends, who stumble upon a hat. They find the hat together, try it on, and confirm that it  suits both of them. However, there is only the one hat, and there are two of them. They conclude that it would not be right for one turtle to get the hat and the other turtle to go without it. So, they abandon the hat and attempt to forget they had ever found it.

This turns out to be easier said than done. They try to distract themselves, watching the sunset together and trying to fall asleep. While one turtle dreams, the other creeps away toward the hat. The turtle appears quite tempted by the now-available hat.

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But then, his friend shares his dream, a dream in which both turtles have hats, and both turtles look very good in them. Compelled by this dream, the turtle returns to his friend and they fall asleep together, both dreaming of a companionship where they wear hats together. 

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The illustrations in We Found a Hat are quite minimalist, in keeping with Klassen’s traditional style, but convey a great deal of emotion and meaning. I especially liked Klassen’s attention to the turtles’ eyes, which shift and peer in a wry and humorous way. In some cases, the turtles eyes give away their true emotions, glancing slyly at the hat or at one another.

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Klassen’s illustrations depict time in an interesting way, beginning with entirely light pages, continuing through a pink evening sunset, and ending with the turtles floating in a dark night sky, both donning identical white hats.

We Found a Hat imparts to readers one of the most basic rules of friendship: if the friendship is true, nothing can disrupt it, not even the most beloved of hats.

 

Post by: Natalie Gustin

 

Free Friday: The Dark

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The Dark

Author: Lemony Snicket

Illustrated by: Jon Klassen

As a child, the first chapter books I ever read were A Series of Unfortunate Events. When I found out that Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler also wrote a children’s book called The Dark, I immediately was intrigued. Did you know that Lemony Snicket is Daniel Handler’s pen name? I didn’t. Lemony Snicket continues to write dramatic stories that keep readers on the edge of their seats, eager to find out what is going to happen next whether it’s a children’s book or a chapter book.

The Dark is a story about a boy who is afraid of the dark and learns to overcome his fear. Snicket describes the scary house as having a creaky roof, empty halls and rooms and even cold windows. These words are repeated throughout the story and carry heavy meaning. Aside from the illustrations, these specific descriptions allow readers to picture the creepiness in their heads, especially when it is read with a deeper, more thoughtful tone. I found it very interesting that Snicket named the main character Lazlo. The name reflects Snicket’s ability to think outside of the box and not just choose a familiar name. He also writes stories about some of the more difficult and not so happy subjects.

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In the story, instead of the dark being a term for what it looks like at night, “dark” is a character. The darkness helps Lazlo and it guides him down to the basement. Once Lazlo is encouraged to open the drawer, he conquers his uncertainties. The bottom shelf contained multiple lightbulbs that made the room brighter than ever before. No longer uneasy, Lazlo realizes that the dark is not something scary, but instead, an entity that helped him feel safe and comfortable once again.

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Since the story is called The Dark, it is no surprise that most of the pages are filled with black illustrations. Portions of color from household items appear only when Lazlo points his flashlight towards them. I also loved how the story depicted time, beginning with a sunset and ending with a sunrise.

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The Dark is a unique children’s book that teaches readers that anyone can live with and conquer their fears. Most importantly, individuals must face their fears and never let fears immobilize or define them.

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Post by: Samantha Soloway

Traditional Thursday: No, David!

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No, David!

Author & Illustrator: David Shannon

No, David! always has been one of my favorite childhood bedtime stories. The story is written with very few words, which makes it easy for readers to follow along and even memorize the words. This repetitive story can be read aloud using different humorous voices to represent the various characters in the story and to emphasize certain phrases, particularly, the “NO DAVID!”

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I never knew that David Shannon actually wrote this book when he was five years old. Even at that young age, David reflected on his childhood experiences, depicting all of the things that he was not supposed to be doing. He also recognized that a common phrase he always heard from his mother when he broke the rules was a firm “NO DAVID!” I love that Shannon used his childhood experiences as the inspiration for creating the award-winning Caldecott book we read today because it demonstrates to children how everyone, no matter how young they are, can be an author.

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No David! is a funny and easy to relate to story that allows children to put themselves in David’s shoes and think about what are appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. It also indirectly helps children understand why there are certain rules and expectations they must follow.

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Aside from the educational life lessons in the book, the illustrations are incredible, full of color and life. They appear to be drawn to capture a child perfectly scribbling the drawings onto the pages. Readers can envision David’s crazy actions simply through the backgrounds in the illustrations. The illustrations include broken pots, toys tossed all over, airborn stuffed animals and even muddy footprints on the carpeted floor. Despite the chaotic mess David creates, the story ends with David’s mother embracing him. This really helps children grasp that no matter how silly or mischievous they may be and no matter how much they may be scolded for their actions, their family always will love them.

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Post by: Samantha Soloway

Winner Wednesday: What Do You Do With An Idea?

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What Do You Do With An Idea?

Written by: Kobi Yamada

Illustrated by: Mae Besom

What Do You Do With An Idea? is an Independent Publisher’s Award Winning story that encourages children to continue to use and follow their imagination and never doubt the value of their ideas. Although the book primarily is written as a children’s book and geared towards a child audience, it can inspire people of all ages to persevere with their ideas, recognize that they have value and don’t just throw them by the wayside if others don’t see their value at first.

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The book’s illustrations are key because they help children visualize the abstract concept of what an idea is. At the beginning of the book, the idea is depicted as the only colored element on the page, a golden crowned egg with legs. Everything else surrounding the boy is sketched in with pencil. These black and white, gray-scale drawings are deliberate and meant to illustrate that the boy is uncomfortable with the “idea.” He does not understand why the idea is there, what the purpose of an idea is and why no one believes in the idea. Later, as the boys evolves, he begins to get more comfortable and confident about his “idea.” He transforms into a protector of the idea and with that change, the illustrations on the pages suddenly gain more colors and life to them. The golden egg begins to get larger and larger as the boy jumps in and devotes himself to making the “idea” grow to its highest potential. At the end of the story, the final pages are filled with bright colors to signify that when the boys embraces his “idea,” he truly can change the world.

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This thought-provoking story challenges readers to think more deeply about the importance of acting on their ideas. Yamada does an excellent job explaining the reality that pursing an idea that is outside the box often may be met with obstacles that hinder progress. However, Yamada’s message is strong that with perseverance even through the naysayers and obstacles, an idea is unstoppable.

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Post by: Samantha Soloway

 

Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton and illustrated by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

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In this ten-page picture book, Dolly describes her childhood, and how one day when she was young, someone gave her family a “box of rags” which her mama “put to use.” She describes her mom sewing the pieces of material together to make a coat for her, and how she told her about Joseph’s “coat of many colors” story from the Bible.

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Dolly talks about her happy memories wearing the coat of many colors, and how although her family was poor, wearing her coat made her “as rich as [she] could be.” Dolly recalls how kids at school made fun of her coat, which she couldn’t understand because it made her feel rich.

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The book ends with an illustration of Dolly and her family happily playing in the family living room, and the child muses that to be “rich” had much more to do with company and joy than with anything money can buy.

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The simple, watercolor-like illustrations in the book match the theme and early-childhood level content of the story well. Most pages had at most four lines of words, and the phrases often rhymed, making this an ideal book for younger children who may be able to understand the story better in this lyrical way. The book was simple and short, with a sweet message: happiness cannot be bought and one is rich when one has love. I personally think, though, that the story could have still been a little more nuanced; I think that the part when Dolly was bullied was glossed over — there didn’t seem to be any sort of resolution of the conflict as she just ignored them and went on.

While this book does not carry complex themes, it is a story to read to kids who are below kindergarten age, and brings a heartwarming message that kids of all backgrounds can relate to.

— Abby Wei