Category Archives: Ages 6-8

Free Friday: Heartbeat

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Although this picture book would perhaps fit best under Marvelous New Picture Books, after reading it I could not resist the urge to have it exposed to more people as soon as possible. Heartbeat, a beautiful book published this year that was written and illustrated by Evan Tuck, only took one read to become an instant favorite.

Right away, the colorful cover is an incentive to read and enjoy the book. I definitely recommend (if you are a parent or teacher reading this book) to go ahead and read the author’s note before you read the book, because there will be a lot more details you can notice and be able to pick out in the book.

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When the cover is peeled back, it reveals a different image that later on, would be represented in the story. I personally appreciated the fact that the aesthetic of both covers matched, though they weren’t necessarily meant to be seen together.

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The visual beauty of this book continues with pitch black end pages that melt into the beginning of the story. Perhaps one of the most beautiful pages earlier on was that of the mother and daughter whale’s synergy as they sung together. However, as we approach the climax of the story, the beautiful red and blue hues are disrupted by a sharp jab of white.

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I believe Turk managed to execute this scene beautifully, as the novelty and foreignness of the human spear is very clear, and the typography of the heartbeats induce a panicked feeling of anxiety. Somehow, Turk is so expressive that over the next seven pages, even with nothing but the words “beat” and “heartbeat”, a reader is able to track the path of the baby whale who has now been left all alone.

Turk made the conscious choice to change the baby whale to a white color, and slowly begin to move it through human elements while relating the photos to uses that humans had found for whales (such as candles or as part of weapons).

It was clear both here and in the illustration of the only colorful human (a little girl) that Turk made the distinct choice to use different styles for the whales’ versus humans’ world.

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The way that Turk finally reincorporates color is extremely expressive as it models how one little girl’s voice can reach out and make a difference for the daughter whale who has been wandering almost aimlessly with nothing but a white emptiness till she is “full” again.

This book was sparse on words but was so expressive in terms of illustrations that I would even say it would be a book to look out for for possibly winning the Caldecott Award. The book is able to express the horrors of whale-hunting, of how whales have helped humans in so many ways, and how times have and are changing with new waves of people like the purple girl at the end who want to keep them safe.

I believe that this is an excellent book to read, especially when talking to children in relation to the animal kingdom. I believe the book shows how humans have acted in the past and how things have changed, and can open up the topic of how certain animals have been approached in the past in comparison to the present. This could work for an ocean unit or even a general unit on humans versus the wild.

Overall, the book was a powerful story that celebrated the change in humans’ attitudes towards whale-hunting and their impact on wildlife. I hope that children will read this with an appreciation of the beautiful art but also of the beautiful message: we have come so far, and we will only continue to further enhance our future as we better learn ways to protect and appreciate our dwindling wildlife.

-Hannah Park

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Where the Wild Things are

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For Traditional Thursday, I chose the book, Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It is one of the most loved and acclaimed children’s books of all time making it the winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of The Year. It has been on many teacher’s and children’s bookshelves all over the country, but what is so remarkable and timeless about this story? I wanted to delve deeper into the messages that Sendak is relaying to his young readers and how it still impacts us today.

This book is about a young boy named Max who loves wearing his wolf suit and making mischief. Through his rather naughty behavior, he is sent to his room without eating anything, but his imagination transforms his room into a forest where he could sail off to meet other wild things. While meeting Wild things, he was able to befriend and rule over these creatures becoming the “King of all wild things.” Together, Max and his friends were able to create all the ruckus and noise they wanted. However, he missed home and the smell of good food, so Max said his goodbyes to his dear friends. That night, he sails back into his own room and is happy to see hot supper waiting for him.

 

Through Max, Sendak was able to show all children and adults that imagination is a gift that we all have. If we are open to seeing the world beyond what is here, we can craft a world where we become the main characters of our own crazy stories. We can sail far, far away to foreign lands. We can befriend the wildest friends. We can become kings. Children are more open to expressing their imagination than adults. But does imagination ever leave us? It never left us when we were children, and it never will. It is a part of who we are. As a little boy, Max shows all of us not to be afraid of creating your personalized world. Everyone can live out their dreams no matter how wild they are, and we can be the individuals we’ve always wanted to be without being afraid.

Max shows us that we can silence our fears and be the masters of our stories. When Max stands up to the wild things that were roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth, Max says “BE STILL!” He becomes the superhero. As adults, we constantly live in fear without acting on anything. Instead of learning how to conquer our fears, we often sit and just think about it. If this little boy can courageously look at fear in the eyes and magically make them obey him, how different would our lives be if we did the same? Being brave is a choice, and Max is the perfect example of someone who makes the brave choice in order to lead and make friends.

One last thing, that I took away from this children’s book is the comfort of home. Max became very lonely even with his all wild friends and wanted to be with someone he loved. He chooses to sail back home despite everything he could be in his own world. I strongly believe that this teaches all of us that the feeling of wanting to be home never leaves us. My mother would read this teary-eyed if she knew that I missed her warm meals. If I told her that I missed the smell and coziness of being home. No matter how old we get even as college students, we all ache where we came from. Max shows us that there is the little child in all of us that knows that wherever our imagination and our life takes us, we can always come home, to the place where everything started. The place where we know hot meals await us.

This story teaches us many lessons from having an imagination, being brave, and knowing where we belong. Sendak is able to captivate his audience with his beautiful and creative illustrations while being able to teach valuable lessons that are still applicable to our lives today.

-Chelsea Yang

Super Happy Magic Forest

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Super Happy Magic Forest, written and illustrated by Matty Long, tells the story of five brave heroes from the Super Happy Magic Forest who must go on a quest to recover the Magic Crystals of Life after they are stolen. These crystals are the source of the forest’s happiness, so they must be returned as quickly as possible.

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The heroes’ epic quest to save the Magical Crystals of Life takes them through all sorts of treacherous terrains filled with spooky and dangerous creatures, until they reach the “the very doorstep of evil”: the Goblin Tower. It is there that they believe they will find their crystals.

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However, after discovering that their Magical Crystals of Life are not in fact in the Goblin Tower, they return to the Super Happy Magic Forest, where they find that the true evil force who stole their crystals was there the whole time. They must banish him to the Super Creepy Haunted Forest, where he belongs. Finally, they can celebrate knowing that their forest and its crystals are safe from the forces of evil, and that they will always be happy.

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The story itself is very simple, with only one or two sentences of text on each page. The real fun part of reading this book lies in the illustrations; they are bright and reminiscent of comic books, with silly speech and thought bubbles housing the characters’ dialogue and thoughts. Much of the action of the story is told through these illustrations, and there are tons of small details on each page that make each picture almost like a story in itself.

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Even the end papers are illustrated like a map that shows different locations within the story, mirroring the style of illustration used throughout the book.

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This book is a wonderful take on the classic hero’s quest that removes some of the drama sometimes associated with these types of stories, and replaces it with pure fun. It had me laughing out loud at some of the characters’ thoughts and dialogue, and I found myself lingering on each page, trying to find all the hidden details within the illustrations. I would recommend this book as a fun, silly story to read to kids of all ages; I think that the story is appropriate for younger audiences, while older kids may enjoy finding all the small details within the pictures, almost like a game of “I Spy.” The story is one that celebrates teamwork and fighting the evil in the world, while also reminding readers not to take things too seriously, and to find the fun and humor in all of life’s epic quests and everyday adventures.

– Maya Creamer

 

Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem

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Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem

Emily Gravett’s playful representation of the Fibonacci sequence in her children’s book The Rabbit Problem, is known for its unique use of media and style to illustrate the story.   This book is a deserving winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, for its creativity of the ilustrations that become the backbone of the entire story.  Emily Gravett truly makes the most of every single page of this book.  Even the cover page, title page, and copy right pages are illustrated, with great detail, to contribute to the story and keep the story world alive.

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Even on the first end page, before the story even begins, there Emily Gravett includes this double page spread illustration that wonderfully functions as a prologue to the book.  The subject of the story is introduced on the chalkboard, while a drawing on the chalkboard comes to life.  The coming-to-life rabbit drawing appears to be looking at the calendar on the wall, which is where the story begins…

The basis of the story is a twelve month calendar that includes illustrations of the “rabbit world” on the top page, and a monthly calendar including relevant, engaging, and interactive bits of information that are added on the bottom page.  In order to read the book, and to enter the rabbits’ world told through the media of a calendar, the reader is required to turn the book on its side; the left page becomes the top page, and the right the bottom.

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As you can see in this page that depicts the calendar page for the month of May, the calendar theme becomes the foundation of the story as a whole.  It keeps the story moving at a consistent and comprehensive pace.  The top page is an illustration of “The Hungry Rabbit Problem” where the rabbits appear to be tearing apart the edges of the page in their search for food.  On the top page, there are hand written notes, an interactive ration book, and an order form-which acts as foreshadowing for the months and problems to follow.
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I have included a close up picture of the open-able pages of the ration book on this page, to demonstrate the incredible creativity and attention to detail that goes into every single page of this book.  The unimaginable time and effort that was clearly put into the illustrations and visual aspects of this book are what really stood out to me.  As a child, I would have loved the interactivity and the playfulness of the book, but as an a adult, I feel that I am able to fully appreciate the hard work and thought that was exerted to create this book.

Each month poses a new problem for the growing rabbit population to overcome.  Not only does the rabbit population grow according to the number of rabbits depicted in the illustrations, but also in the tiny population sign in the background of every illustration that increases in number, according to the Fibonacci sequence.  The problems for the rabbits evolve each month, as they often relate to eachother in a cause and effect type of relationship.  For example, the rabbit problem for the month of September is “too many carrots, causing the problem for the following month of October to be the “overweight rabbit” problem.

Depending on the age and developmental cognition of the child, this book can be used to demonstrate and teach various different lessons, concepts, and discussions.  For a younger audience, the concept of a calendar, of different seasons and times of year, and of basic cause and effect relationships can be taught using this book.  For upper elementary and middle aged students, this book can be used to demonstrate variety in book style, importance of detail, more complex and overarching themes of cause and effect, population growth, and the mathematical Fibonacci sequence.

I would recommend this book, more specifically to elementary school teachers, but also to anyone that wants to read a really cool childrens book!  I really enjoyed taking my time to look through each page, discovering the little details in the illustrations and extras that add to the visual representation quality of the story.  I had such a refreshingly exciting and engaging experience reading this book, and I believe that any child, adult, or caregiver will too.

Casey Quinn

Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India

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Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India

Chitra Soundar and Frané Lessac have adapted a traditional Irula story to make it more accessible: turning the traditional churraka into a pumpkin and highlighting the story’s universal themes.

The story does, not, however, abandon its cultural roots. It is authentic in its language, retaining the Indian names Pattan and Kanni and placing the tale at the base not of any old mountain range but of the Sahyadri Mountains. Pattan and Kanni are illustrated with the characteristic dark skin of the Irula people and are dressed in traditional garb. Soundar also does not shy away from describing the details of Pattan and Kanni’s way of life as they grow pepper, rice, nutmeg, and bananas; ride elephants; and nurture animals in the foothills of South India’s mountains. As any culturally diverse book should, Pattan’s Pumpkin presents its characters positively: clever, resourceful, grateful for what they have, kind, and willing to share. These characteristics not only help children understand cultures beyond their own as positive but also model values for the children themselves!

Lessac’s pictures are as bright as the spirit of Pattan himself. The colors – oranges, yellows, reds, greens – pop off the page and bring the story to life. The use of full-page spreads accentuates the size of the pumpkin, sure to make any child shriek with shock and delight, and the landscapes are rich and vivid in their scope.

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Lessac’s spread toward the end of the story is lush green and deep black, dotted with every color in between. A picture does not do these colors justice!

Pattan’s Pumpkin comes together to tell not only an entertaining, engaging story but one that is valuable in any lesson on geography, history, culture, or even religion.

-Addison

She Persisted

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She Persisted

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She Persisted spotlights 13 women who were game changers and trailblazers in different fields throughout American history. The book also discusses the adversity that girls face, even today. This book would be a valuable addition to any classroom as its characters are diverse in race, socioeconomic background, and influence, it depicts accurate historical experiences of women, and it is inspiring to young girls throughout our society to fight for their passions and to make a difference. Author Chelsea Clinton and illustrator Alexandra Boiger succeed in compiling beautiful, timely stories of women that need to be shared.

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The story begins by showing a young girl in a museum, which is exhibiting portraits of important women in American history (notice Hillary Clinton in the background). The book emphasizes that even though these women where often told “no”, they were able to persist and follow their dreams. This message shows the importance of celebrating strong females who may become important role models in the lives of young women.

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This story highlights both women who we often learn about in school and women who are less known and celebrated. For example, one featured woman is Virginia Agpar, who became a doctor despite her superiors discouraging her and created a critical test for infants. Each woman’s story is depicted with a stunning image showing their amazing feats and hinting at the time period in which they lived. In addition, the book features a powerful quote from every woman.

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My favorite section highlights Ruby Bridges because it shows that women do not need to be adults to make a difference. Ruby persisted when she was just a kindergartner, a pioneer for her educational rights. The other women featured in the book are: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Covin, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor.

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The story closes on a scene where 3 young girls have discovered a favorite pioneering woman and a call to action for the future female leaders of our nation and the world. Our society often puts women down and many times powerful female role models are not brought to the forefront in discussing history in the classroom. This is discouraging for young girls, but this book proves that women of all races and creeds have fought against this societal repression and have made huge strides that we are all thankful for, making it both an educationally and an inspirationally necessary work for children.

Rachel Platt

Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat

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Imagine That! Is a new picture book by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. The way it is written reminds me of Balderdash!, the story about John Newbery. Imagine That! describes how the now loved children’s book, The Cat in the Hat, came to be.

The story begins by introducing the year 1954, and talking about why it was a great year to be a kid… unless you wanted to read! During this time, there were few books for young children to enjoy as they learned how to read. While books like Charlotte’s Web were being released during this time, there were few interesting books that would help a child make the transition from knowing a few words to being able to read more challenging books. The books they used in schools were boring.

A writer named John Hersey agreed, and he wrote in an article for a magazine that Dr. Seuss would be the perfect author to write a book for children that they would actually enjoy. The only problem was that he had to use words that were on the official list, not the made up words he loved to use in his stories. Dr. Seuss sat down and decided to write a book for a younger audience, but it was harder than he expected. He was limited to short words that first graders learning to read would understand. Finally, he saw the words “cat” and “hat” on the list and started from there.

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Dr. Seuss believed that rhyming words and comical drawings would get a young child’s attention. Using 236 different words, Dr. Seuss wrote a book that became popular all over the United States. Motivated by his success, Dr. Seuss continued to write rhyming books for young children first learning to read. When his friend challenged him to write a book using only 50 words, Dr. Seuss came up with Green Eggs and Ham.

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Imagine That! is well written, and the illustrations are colorful and lively. The story is informative and provides historical details, but it is interesting to read. The writing style and illustrations play off of and seem to be inspired by Dr. Seuss’s own creations, which are most likely familiar to the readers. Many of the pages even include doodles from Dr. Seuss’s books.

Some of the words in this book would be challenging for students first learning to read, but this book would be helpful for expanding and deepening the vocabulary knowledge of more advanced students. In addition, this book discusses the writing process of Dr. Seuss, which would be helpful when teaching students how to create their own stories. Brainstorming, challenge, and creativity are all highlighted in this book. The end of Imagine That! even includes writing and illustrating tips from Dr. Seuss. I would recommend this story for teachers who are working with students in the early stages of writing.

Teresa Heckman