Category Archives: Ages 6-8

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

 

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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

Flora and the Flamingo

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Flora and the Flamingo

Flora and the Flamingo is a beautiful wordless picture book by Molly Idle. Flora and the Flamingo was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2013. Molly Idle illustrates a stunning book in which two unlikely characters learn to become friends and dance as one. The book starts off with a young girl wearing flippers and a graceful flamingo. The young girl copies the flamingo’s ballet, but is quick to look away when the flamingo catches her. The flamingo does a flip and makes the young girl, Flora, flop. As Flora is upset, the flamingo reaches out to her and they begin to dance. They begin by doing the same dance apart, but soon the unlikely friends join together to dance as one. The picture book ends with a splash and a bow!

I think there are so many special features in this picture book. First, I love how the picture book is wordless. It allows the readers to create their own stories. A lot of the book is left up to interpretation. For example, one could read the beginning of the book as the flamingo purposely trying to make Flora fall, or as a dance battle between the two characters. I interpreted it as Flora copying the flamingo’s dancing because she want to be like the flamingo.

I also love Flora’s character. Flora is a little girl that doesn’t fit the typical standards of being pretty. I admire that Molly Idle did not create Flora to be a perfectly skinny ballerina. Flora is a character that kids can look up to. She is realistic. If Flora could learn to dance than so can any other young girl.

The best part of the book is the illustrations and the interactive features. Idle nailed the illustrations in Flora and the Flamingo.  The drawings contain simple, yet very detailed watercolors. The consistency of color thought the book makes it very visually appealing. Even without words, Idle finds a way to give Flora and the flamingo personalities. The interactive flaps in the book are a fun touch for reading with children. They also allow for the book to speak even though there are no words.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Molly Idle tells a story with personality and fun without using any words. The illustrations are simple yet stunning, and the soft colors engage the eye. Flora and the Flamingo’s friendship is inspiring, and I cannot wait to share this book with a young person.

 

By Aliya Meadows

Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons

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Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons is a beautifully illustrated picture book with a unique topic that will bring diversity to any classroom’s library. Written by Alice B. McGinty, the book tells the story of a welcoming Jewish Rabbi who loves for his congregation to be happy.

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At the beginning of the story, the congregation gives Rabbi Benjamin a beautiful holiday vest that has four silver buttons. He is so excited to wear his new vest to all of the special holiday celebrations. The Rabbi eats the food that has been specially prepared, and he is excited to see the smiles on peoples’ faces as they watch him enjoy the food they have made. As the year goes on and more Jewish holidays come and go, Benjamin’s stomach begins to grow because of all the delicious food, and his vest gets tighter and tighter. One night, while he is celebrating Sukkot, one of the silver buttons pops off his vest! He is so worried that his congregation will notice, so when he goes home he fixes the vest with a pin. He continues to wear his vest to more holiday celebrations. Finally, the vest has had enough and all four of the buttons pop off and fly into the bowls of food on the table.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.58.32 AMThe Rabbi is sad, but he has an idea! That summer, he helps a family plant a garden, picks apples, goes on a hike, and his stomach shrinks! He hopes that the vest will fit again, but when he puts it on it is saggy and ruined. The Rabbi worries about what his congregation will think when he shows up without his holiday vest! Thankfully, his doorbell rings and he finds his congregation on his porch. They hand him a box with a new holiday vest, featuring the same four shiny silver buttons.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.58.57 AMI was excited to find this book, because it provides the opportunity to teach young students about the traditions of a religion that they may have never heard about. It can also serve as a mirror for Jewish students who might have struggled to find books that represent children like themselves. The end of this book contains short definitions of the Jewish holidays and foods featured in the story, as well as recipes of the food that the Rabbi eats. This provides a unique learning opportunity for students who have not experienced Jewish culture. In addition, the themes of service, joy, and helping others are featured prominently in this book, making it relatable and pertinent for all students to enjoy. Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s illustrations in this book are colorful, fun, and beautifully done. The families she drew in the congregation are diverse, with varying skin colors, hair styles, and ages. The story even says that the Rabbi “welcomed everyone who entered,” and on the first page he stands on the porch with his arms wide open and a smile on his face, portraying a message of acceptance. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.57.38 AMThis message is especially important for students to understand in the classroom to foster a safe and welcoming learning environment for all. It is critical to expose students to diversity through literature that offers positive representations of various cultures.

Teresa Heckman