Author Archives: neelysnews

About neelysnews

Professor of Children's Literature

Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: Elizabeth Warren : Nevertheless, She Persisted

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Given the disparaging quality of the news, it is good to have positive literature around for kids. This book tells the story of someone who came from less than optimal circumstance and ended up as one of the country’s most influential leaders. This someone is Elizabeth Warren. The book tells us about her childhood and how she learned the value of hard work in order to support others and those you care about. She took these lessons and used them to earn a spot as one of America’s leading voices against bigotry and close-mindedness. This book is a great pick up for parents looking to give kids a figure to look up to in regards to striving for success and achieving it fair and square.

 

Posted by Jacob

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Trendy Tuesdays: The Shine of A Radiant Child

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Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe was the 2017 Caldecott Medal Winner. This story is one of the most visually stunning as well as most powerful that is available for young readers in libraries and book stores across the nation. This book gives readers a glimpse into the life of one of the art industries most influential minds: Jean-Michael Basquiat. Javaka Steptoe is the son of 2 time Caldecott Honor recipient, John Steptoe.  The second Steptoe provides a beautiful look into the early beginnings of Basiquiat’s life and some of the troubles he faced on his way to stardom. What is truly special about this book is that to pay respect to Basquiat’s beliefs about how art should be created, each page in itself is constructed like a piece of art. The coloring and textures on every page reflect the erratic and almost haphazard tendencies of Basquiats own pieces. With hand drawn imagery as well as collage style backgrounds all juxtaposed on frilly frames readers will be entranced as they follow the story of one of the most amazing artist to ever exist.

The cover is already a masterpiece and every page after is no disappointment. Do no hesitate to gift a child with the experience to learn about how a child very similar to them overcame some of humanities hardest known trials and then became one of its biggest influences.

Posted by Jacob

Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: Hello Lighthouse

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img_2787.jpgI read “Hello Lighthouse” by Sophie Blackall. This book is a heartwarming and beautiful story about a lighthouse keeper’s life tending to the lighthouse that he lived in. With frequent repetition of the phrase, “Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!” and the text about the family that makes a home in this lighthouse this story is touching and amazing to learn about. Before reading, I had no idea about the hard work and countless restless nights that it took keepers to tend to lighthouses that they were placed in. This story was not only amazing to read, but taught me so much in terms of the lives of these keepers. Their tedious work of waking up like clockwork to keep boats safe and the detailed records of everything that happened made this job no easy feat. There was almost no contact between those who lived in the lighthouse and the outside world back on shore. Once a month, supplies such as food, items to tend to the light and letters or visitors were brought over on a small boat and hoisted up on a rope over the steep rocks to this lighthouse.

While I cannot relate to their living situation, I greatly admire after learning about their daily lives from this book and am curious to learn more about lighthouse keepers. The author’s note at the end was especially informative and useful to answer my questions about what I had just read, and allowed me to deepen my curiosity about the history of lighthouses. While this is a topic I have never considered before, reading this book opened my eyes to the reality and beauty that there is in living this way, and I am sure that many children would be fascinated while reading. This story would pique students’ interests about lighthouses and their keepers, and I predict that reading this story in the classroom setting could provoke an extremely interesting conversation and potentially instigate further research about lighthouse keepers.

The illustrations in this book were calming and detailed. The tall structure of the book allowed for the true height of a lighthouse to be demonstrated to the reader. You were able to see into each room of the lighthouse, as well as those who occupied them, what jobs there were to be done in different places, the dangerous rocks that surrounded and the blue ocean with crashing, beautifully destructive waves. The format of these illustrations let me notice what was happening both inside the lighthouse and out, and demonstrated just how useful the lighthouse is to save boats from crashing and shine out still even during fog and storms. I would definitely use this book in a classroom, and I highly recommend reading it to experience the beauty of the lighthouse for yourself.

-Ariele Lerner

 

Free Friday: Pocket Full of Colors

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81dfGU3cSFLPocket Full of Colors is a relatively new picture book that was released in 2017, written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, and illustrated by Brigette Barrager. It is a nonfiction text about Mary Blair, the artist behind the Disney ride called “It’s A Small World.” While it is about Mary Blair’s life, it is not the format of an informational text, but rather like a typical picture book. It’s exciting and colorful illustrations make this biography engaging and interesting to read, and children will thoroughly enjoy getting to know Ms. Blair through reading this story of her life.

At the beginning of the story, you learn about how Mary Blair grew up loving colors. She wanted to continuously learn new ones, and use them in her paintings. When she grew up, this translated into her work. She got a job at Walt Disney helping to design some of the artwork for their movies. She was one of the first women to ever be hired, and she was excited for the prospect of using her colors to create as her profession. However, she faced a company run by men in the 1940s, where the animations were done in black and white and no one wanted to hear her opinions and where her colors were rejected. She quit this job to go elsewhere, where she was free to use her colors to her heart’s content. Eventually, Walt Disney himself contacted her to help him create a new ride for his park—It’s A Small World. He would need her immense knowledge of colors to design it. Upon making a deal with him that she was in charge, she agreed to create the ride that is still loved by so many children to this day.

While this book is full of interesting facts about Mary Blair’s life and her experiences with Disney, it is amazing to read and full of beautiful illustrations to match Mary Blair’s affinity towards using color in her art. Children of all ages will love this biography teaching about how a Disney ride came to be and about an artist whose progressive artwork came to be recognized despite gender inequality within the workplace and setbacks in her career.

 

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Pocket Full of Colors is also rich with opportunities for academic language. It contains countless names of non-typical colors, which can be used as instruction in the classroom. It also provides opportunities for enactment! Have students become Mary Blair and act out scenes from the book, or paint like her using colors beyond your imagination as an art integration activity.

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This book would be a great addition to a classroom library, and to classroom instruction on topics such as influential women, biographies, reading nonfiction texts, comparing and contrasting to other texts or even to learn about history. It has so many facets where it can fit into a lesson and enhance students’ reading literacy skills alongside content that is being taught in the classroom. It is one of my favorite new picture books, and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

-Ariele Lerner

Free Fridays: Nursery Rhyme Comics

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This Free Friday will focus on a fresh new take on traditional nursery rhymes, Nursery Rhyme Comics, a collaboration between 50 different cartoonists. Leonard S. Marcus introduces the book, explaining that this book seeks to celebrate and transform these beloved tried and true 50 classic nursery rhymes. Each cartoonist will take their own specific inspiration in order to interpret these poems and present them in a new way. Some are based on misconceptions that the artist had themself about the poem as a child, some decide to take the rhyme ultra-literally to a comedic effect, while others just show the classic rhyme with a beautiful new illustration. This book is ideal for the young reader who may not want to read a book cover to cover, but can flip open to any page in the book and be delighted by the comical and fantastical, and often familiar, story being told.

Because of the unconventional format, one blog post cannot do the entire book justice, but I have chosen to showcase a few select cartoonist and nursery rhymes as a preview into the book.

fullsizeoutput_35f9Stephanie Yue puts a twist on the typical way of viewing the mouse in “Hickory, Dickory, Dock.” Rather than showing the mouse as fearful and startled by the clock’s ringing, Yue decides that the mouse has taken on the important job of ringing the bell to signify the time, before hang gliding to safety.

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R. Dart takes a nursery rhyme I had never even heard of before, “If All the Seas Were One Sea” and illustrates it absolutely beautifully. The swirling words, comedic speech bubbles, and lovely colors come together to make this spread one to notice.

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Cytil Pedrosa turns one of the most popular nursery rhymes, “This Little Piggy,” into a modern tale of revenge and scheming, unpredictably ending in the antagonist wolf becoming a vegetarian.

– Annagayle Lance

Winner’s Wednesday: The Ugly Duckling

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For my Winner’s Wednesday book I chose The Ugly Duckling, a classic children’s picture book, which was a 2000 Caldecott Honor Book. While this book received this honor 18 years ago, it is just as relevant today as it was then. FullSizeRender-11

 

The story of The Ugly Duckling follows a “duckling” that does not look like the other ducklings that surround him. He is teased and prodded his whole life, and promptly runs away. Despite running away, he still receives maltreatment from those around him, and suffers through a hard winter and not fitting in. One day, he finds a flock of birds that he wants to follow, and realizes when he looks at his reflection that he looks just like them!

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He is actually a swan, not a duckling, and is the most beautiful swan that there is. He learns from this experience that he is glad he was lonely and suffered, because it allowed him to finally experience true happiness when the time arrived and he was able to recognize this.

 

I think that this picture book has beautiful and engaging illustrations to match the plot of this story. The author and illustrator successfully show the adversity that this duckling experiences, and how it helps him grow in the end when he has finally found his place as a swan.

 

The Caldecott honor is definitely suitable for this picture book—the pastel colors and beautiful scenery and animals are very inviting to the reader. The illustrations are amazingly detailed and intricate, which I believe is remarkable considering that they were done with watercolors.

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This book is still relevant in today’s world, maybe even more so now than when it received this honor 18 years ago. Many children feel out-of-place at some point in their lives, and this story is something that most can relate to if not personally then something that they have witnessed someone close to them experiencing.

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It shows that you should be kind to everyone, and not put him or her down due to looking different from you—everyone is unique and that is what makes him or her special. But, it also teaches that eventually, if you are persistent in trying to find happiness, you can find it no matter how much suffering you have endured throughout your life.

This book would be enjoyed by children and adults of every age, and will bring joy to all who read it.

-Ariele Lerner

 

Traditional Thursday: Farewell to Shady Glade

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For this Traditional Thursday I chose Bill Peet’s 1966 book, Farewell to Shady Glade.

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This book follows the animal inhabitants of a once-idyllic habitat called Shady Glade, whose peace is threatened by the daily approach of rumbling noises. The raccoon climbs to the top of their sycamore tree and spots the source of the rumbling: giant machines clearing the ground, heading straight in their direction! The animals decide they must leave Shady Glade and find another place to live. Led by the raccoon, they all leap on top of a passing train from a branch of the sycamore tree. They ride the train through the countryside, not knowing how to get off. The train stops in a station, but a city is not a suitable place to relocate. The animals get lucky when the train stops at a rock slide, just under the branch of a sycamore tree, and they get off at a spot “almost exactly like Shady Glade.”

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and feature picturesque scenery of natural lands and saddening smog and destruction. Bill Peet was inspired to write this book by his anger upon seeing the creeks and woodlands of his childhood in Indiana destroyed by development. He wrote another book, The Wump World, a few years later that also addressed environmental problems. Both books were published before The Lorax, which Bill Peet argues has similarities to his books (http://www.billpeet.net/pages/farewell.htm).

 

I love that Farewell to Shady Glade tells the perspective of animals whose home is being destroyed by humans for development.The animals in this book have personalities that add humor to the story; the raccoon is the wise leader, the rabbits are nervous, and the bullfrog is grumpy but always right. Though I enjoyed the characters, I found it disappointing that all the characters that spoke were male.

The only issue I have with the story is that the animals are perfectly able to replace their old home, as if there were no serious damage. In reality, the destruction of habitat results in reduced animal populations–we don’t find out whether the new shady grove is already fully occupied by other animals. Parents and teachers can have important discussions with children after reading this book, and I think it can be a powerful learning tool.

-Nora Yanai