Category Archives: Grades K-2

Trendy Tuesdays: The Cat from Hunger Mountain

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The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young is a book about the greedy Lord Cat who has everything he could need. From the fanciest meals to the finest silk and gold clothing, Lord Cat’s life revolves around his possessions. He lives in a village that profits from rice paddies, and when a long drought strikes, everyone must move away. Lord Cat is able to stay with all of his riches up in his pagoda while everyone else flees the famine. “What would life be without all of his possessions?”

Eventually, Lord Cat runs out of food and is forced to leave his lavish home. His journey as a beggar teaches him the lesson that his possessions are not what is most important in life. 

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Ed Young grew up in Shanghai, China, and incorporates Chinese characters and patterns into his collages. He has an original style combining photographs, paper, and other textures to create his scenery and characters. On some pages, the collage is a mere suggestion of the figures and scenery. Although some illustrations are very abstract, the meaning is still clear. 

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Some collages are extremely detailed. Lord Cat’s face is composed of many different types of paper and photographs that work together to create one cohesive image. img_7491

 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain tells a unique legend from another culture. While the story communicates clear morals, it is not didactic. While the writing style is sophisticated, it is not too challenging for younger elementary schoolers. I would also recommend this book to teachers exploring fantasy and legends with their classes. The Cat from Hunger Mountain could be both a captivating teaching tool and a wonderful bedtime story. 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain was published by Penguin Random House in 2016. img_7492

Review by Charlotte Jeanne

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Winners Wednesdays – Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type

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Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type immediately caught my eye at the used book store last week. I had seen it in countless classrooms and home libraries, but had never gotten a chance to look through it. After flipping through the first few pages, I could easily see how the book has garnered so much popularity – and why it was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2001.

The giggle-inducing picture book, illustrated by Betsy Lewin and written by Doreen Cronin, is written in a blunt storytelling style that adds to the humorous nature of the book. The premise is simple – the cows at Farmer Brown’s ranch somehow acquire a typewriter, and use it to communicate their demands for electric blankets to the distressed farmer. After a bit of back and forth, the cows and the farmer reach an agreement. Young readers will be delighted by the cows’ antics and the farmer’s ensuing frustration. Even though there is no “main character” among the animals, readers can’t help but root for the group of mischievous cows.cows-2

Click, Clack, Moo also plays with sounds and repetition that engage children in the reading. Almost every page ends with onomatopoeia that highlights the sheer absurdity of typing cows: “Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo.” This repetition is the perfect invitation for choral reading in a classroom or other group environment!

The book’s illustrations are lighthearted, playful, and overall superb: Lewin uses bold lines and bright colors to invoke a goofy energy. Her use of perspective also draws the reader into the story. In several illustrations, the reader is situated behind the characters or objects in the scene, creating the illusion of peeking into the action. Further, the notes between the animals and farmer are included as part of the illustrations, so that the text and images blend seamlessly together.cows-3

With a witty plot and even funnier illustrations, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type deserves a spot on every parent, teacher, and child’s bookshelf.

Post by Sami Chiang

Trendy Tuesday: Laugh Along with Baa Baa Smart Sheep

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Author: Charlotte Jeanne

Unique and full of humor, Baa Baa Smart Sheep by Mark and Rowan Sommerset is a great choice for Trendy Tuesday. Even on the dedication page, the mischievous Baa Baa can be seen causing trouble. Baa Baa’s tricks warrant the warning on the front cover.

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Baa Baa Smart Sheep, published by Candlewick Press in 2016, is a book about childhood mischief and silliness. It is perfect for elementary school children who find tricks and potty jokes to be hilarious! The book begins with Little Baa Baa, who is bored. Quirky Turkey comes along and starts asking questions about what Baa Baa insists are “smarty tablets” that make one “more intelligent.” Baa Baa convinces Quirky Turkey that these tablets are for him [Quirky Turkey], and that they will make Quirky Turkey smarter. The dialogue between Quirky Turkey and Baa Baa is enough to make readers giggle.

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The characters are very simple, and include Baa Baa, the trickster, and Quirkey Turkey, his victim. Although the characters are simple, the pages are dynamic and humorous. All of Rowan Sommerset’s illustrations are wonderfully expressive. Baa Baa and Quirky Turkey’s facial expressions convey the characters’ emotions and are easy to read. Additionally, all of Mark Sommerset’s writing is hand-lettered, making the book extremely creative and fun.

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(Above) Quirky Turkey voraciously gobbles up the “smarty tablets,” which supposedly make people smarter and are “only free to turkeys” (the “tablets” are actually poo).

When Quirky Turkey discovers that he has been tricked into eating poo, Baa Baa again becomes a bored little sheep. However, Silly Billy, the goat, comes along, suggesting that Baa Baa’s pranks are not yet over! This book is a quick read and is sure to make children, parents, and teachers laugh aloud. Creative, fun, and full of mischief and humor, Baa Baa Smart Sheep is a great choice for early-elementary-school-aged children.

Smooooooooth Jazz

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new-doc-2_3Take a trip back in time with Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. Using a collection of original poems, writer Roxanne Orgill tells the stories of jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Rex Stewart, and Maxine Sullivan who all gathered one day on  126th Street.

This story started with an idea—all the good ones do—and this idea was a spectacular one in its own right. As told in the book’s introduction, Art Kane, in 1958, decided to take a picture. But not just any picture mind you, but rather a picture containing as many American jazz musicians as possible. Not even owning a camera, Art Kane partnered with Esquire magazine to help make this photograph a good one.

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Armed with the Francis Vallejo’s tantalizing artwork, Orgill tosses us lightly onto those sun-bathed sidewalks, surrounded by laughter, chatter, and smiles. We are no longer viewing the book from 2016, because we are standing next to Rex Stewart as he passes a small cornet to a little boy named Leroy. We are standing next to a group of men wondering where Duke Ellington is at the moment. We are comforting a frantic photographer who is attempting, without prevail, to get everyone’s attention.

This is a great book to remind kids that history isn’t dead. Instead history is in the poetry found between the covers of a book, or in Vallejo’s exquisite illustrations, or in the smooth jazz that they might hear in an elevator, or even in a single photograph.

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Post by: Stephanie Thompson

Trendy Tuesdays: Painting Pepette

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Painting Pepette, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Claire Fletcher, sends young readers on a fantasy-like journey through the streets of Paris in the 1920s. Set almost 100 years before its publication in 2016, the book breathes child-like wonder into art history, a topic generally reserved for more sophisticated readers.

Painting Pepette tells the story of a young girl named Josette, who lives in a quaint Parisian home with her family and her best friend, a stuffed rabbit named Pepette. Inspired by the magnificent family portraits framed in her home, Josette takes to the streets of Paris to find an artist willing to paint Pepette’s warm and genuine spirit.

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As the duo travels through Montmarte, they encounter an assortment of artists, each of whom paint Pepette in his own unique style. Adult readers familiar with the great artists of the Golden Age of art may recognize some familiar faces and styles: Dali paints Pepette with an aura of surrealism, while Matisse uses vivid colors to portray the beloved stuffed rabbit.

Josette feels that while each of the artists have painted wonderful works of art, none of them have truly captured Pepette. Empowered by each artist’s personal style, Josette herself paints a perfect portrait of Pepette.

Children will be immediately entranced by Fletcher’s dazzling illustrations, which capture the gentle yet bustling streets of Paris. The detail of the illustrations gives young readers a glimpse into a time and place unlike anything they have ever experienced before.

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Painting Pepette also provides an enchanting view into the often dull world of art history. Though the text does not mention specific artists by name, the book would be a perfect addition to a unit on famous artists, providing insights not just into the art, but into the place where the art was created.

Finally, Painting Pepette sends a positive and inspirational message about art itself. When Josette comments that the paintings do not look much like Pepette, one of the artists proclaims, “But through art we can see the world any way we want.” The appreciation of subjectivity sends an important message to young artists – that art is not about accuracy, but rather, about individual expression.painting4

Post by: Sami Chiang

All Hail The Water Princess!

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new doc 1_1Based on a true story comes the picture book The Water Princess by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Taking place in an African village, Reynolds’ illustrations cause us to feel the sand underneath our bare feet and the approaching sunrise whispering over the horizon. However, it is Verde who turns us into a Princess, or more specifically into Princess Gie Gie, a young girl who despite her wonderful array of powers—which includes taming wild dogs, dancing in the grass and playing hide-and-seek with the wind—cannot bring the murky, and faraway, water any closer to her village.

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And it is this combination of delicate prose and stunning artwork that we begin to feel Princess Gie Gie’s thirst. However, while I, the reader, can easily get up and grab some Dasani from my fridge, Princess Gie Gie and her Maman must wake up before sunrise to go and get water from a well.

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However, even after the journey to get the water ends, the relief is only short-lived as Princess Gie Gie is reminded that she must once again make the trip to the well in the morning. The heartfelt ending reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in a place where not only is most of my water clean but rather easily assessable as well. With the promise of “Someday . . .” Princess Gie Gie reinstates within us a fiery burning dedication to our homes, one so strong that no amount of my crystal clear Dasani will quench.   the water princess_4

Note: This book will be released September 13, 2016. We hope you read and enjoy it!

Post by: Stephanie Thompson

Winner Wednesdays: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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If you are looking for a great story to read out loud to children, The Gruffalo is the book for you. The Gruffalo was written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler in 1996, and won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in 1999. The Smarties book prize was a prestigious UK award given to the “best work of fiction or poetry by a British author for children in three age categories (up to 11).” The prize was awarded annually by Booktrust from 1985-2007. The Gruffalo won the Gold Award in the youngest category, for children ages 0-5. More information about the Smarties Book Prize can be found here.

The Gruffalo is a comical story about a mouse who outsmarts hungry animals with his quick wits. Donaldson writes in flexibly metered verse that (in my experience) keeps children engaged with its lilting rhythm. Scheffler’s illustrations envelop the reader in the lush, earth-toned woods. Set against a realistic woodland background, Scheffler’s animals have clearly defined lines and are more cartoon-like in style. With the exception of the Gruffalo, all of the critters have endearing underbites. As the titular monster of the book, the Gruffalo will make children laugh rather than scream because his appearance is so silly in its eclectic nature.

 

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As readers, we follow mouse through the woods as his journey is relayed by an unnamed narrator. Immediately, the mouse encounters a hungry fox, and invents the creature of the Gruffalo to escape the fox’s lunch invitation (which he sees as an invitation to be the fox’s lunch). Mouse describes the Gruffalo with characteristics that are particulary scary to a fox, and then subtly states that the Gruffalo’s favorite food is “roasted fox.” The fox runs off, and the process happens again with an owl and a snake. Imagine the mouse’s surprise then when he walks straight into a Gruffalo! The beast has every strange characteristics the mouse has dreamed up: “He has knobbly knees and turned-out toes/ And a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.” To keep the Gruffalo from eating him, mouse has to come up with his smartest plan yet. I won’t spoil the ending, but the story ends well for the mouse.

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I would highly recommend this book for children ages 3-7. The book is perfectly suited for reading aloud, especially if the reader gives the animals different voices. Children I have read the book to have made up games based on the book, and a park ranger I met in England takes children on Gruffalo walks through the woods. Needless to say, children love this book, and I bet you will too.

Rebekah Moredock