Category Archives: Grades K-2

Winner Wednesdays: Arrow to the Sun

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CM_arrow_sunArrow to the Sun: a Pueblo Indian Tale is the 1974 Caldecott winner by Gerald McDermott. Focusing on a folktale belonging to the Pueblo Indians, fans of mythology will be very familiar with the story. It has a similar structure to Hercules, following a son who endures trials to prove himself worthy to take his rightful place as the son of a god.

The narration style is reminiscent of old storytelling, but most striking about the story are the illustrations. Brilliant golds and oranges nod to the red-gold glow of adobe, which is the main ingredient in the houses of the Pueblo people. The angular lines also mimic the style of the buildings of Pueblo villages and give direction and action to the story, giving the eyes lines to follow and previewing the direction of the protagonist to come.

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The story tells of the powarrowsunelderer of self-direction. Driven to find his father by bullies who tease him, the protagonist (called The Boy) asks for help, but is given very little to go on. The only elder to pay him an attention makes him into an arrow to send him to the sun where he can meet his father. After that, he is left to his own devices to confront the trials put to him by his father, the Lord. When he completes all that is asked of him, the whole town celebrates.

The story is an easy read, good for anyone studying other cultures or mythology, and dynamic to look at. It was simultaneously developed by the author as a short film, so here is the story professionally narrated, directed, and animated, with music:

-Julia McCorvey

 

 

 

 

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Traditional Thursdays: Chester’s Way

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“Chester had his own way of doing things…”  chesters_way

From the title and these open words of Kevin Henkes’ beloved book, Chester’s Way, one would not guess that this is actually a story about childhood friendship.  Instead, perhaps, the book could be more aptly named “Chester and Wilson‘s Way.”  

In this classic story, Chester and Wilson are inseparable best friends.  Henkes portrays their friendship through the many details one would expect characterizing a close friendship between young children-“two peas in a pod”-who have the same likes, dislikes, and habits, as they do everything together, through thick and thin.  Even if that means Chester has to risk growing a watermelon plant inside himself because his friend accidentally swallowed a watermelon seed first.  They are content to be exactly as they are, and are certain nothing could ever change. That is, until…  

 

 

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… the unexpected introduction of a new kid into their neighborhood.

What will happen when this new kid, Lilly, arrives on the scene?  She is a bit wild and unique, even somewhat intimidating to these two boys who find comfort in sticking to their familiar routines.  

Without giving away too much about the story, it can be said that Henkes is willing to break some stereotypes in this book, especially through Lilly’s character.  For those who are not already acquainted with Lilly through Henkes’ other books, she is definitely not your “typical” sweet little girl.  Rather, she has a variety of fun quirks and is simply full of surprises every step of the way.

“‘She’s something else,’ said Chester.  ‘Looks like it,’ said Wilson.”

To find out how her arrival in their neighborhood affects the boys, their friendship, and even the new girl herself in ways no one could have expected, enjoy this childhood classic today.

This book will prove accessible for a variety of young children, as it speaks to the common experiences of friendship and change in childhood.  Furthermore, it shows kids that making new friends- even when it can be challenging or require them to go outside their comfort zone- can be a delightful and tremendous adventure far beyond what they could have ever hoped for.

-Reviewed by Octavia White

Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

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Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

The need for multicultural books and books with female protagonists is rising exponentially as more minority and female children enter the educational system around the world. The book Searching for the Spirit of Spring, written by Mosa Mahlaba, illustrated by Selina Morulane, and designed by Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, is a story of a brave young girl named Nkanyezi who journeys to bring the spirit of spring back to her village in Swaziland. Nkanyezi’s favorite day of the year is the day that her entire village gathers together to celebrate the spring festival. The festival, which is meant to welcome in the spring season and to unite the community is filled with joy, laughter, music, and dance. When Nkanyezi overhears some of the village elders gossiping about how the villagers are not excited for the spring festival this year, she decides that she must act. “The people of Ndlovu have lost their spirit of celebration. How can we have a Spring festival in a village that has forgotten how to celebrate?” With the well wishes of her elders, she adventures off to search for items that can help replenish the spirit of celebration for her village and family. Nkanyezi crosses rivers, climbs mountains, and treks through forests as she journeys across Swaziland in search of this spirit.

 

While on her quest, Nkanyezi encounters people from other villages who offer her special items that will help her find the missing spirit. Through these encounters, she learns about happiness, generosity, and community, and how the three intertwine. Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.03.21 PM.png

One of the most fascinating elements of this book is how it was created. It was written and illustrated in June of 2015 in only twelve hours! The creators of this book are part of an organization called Book Dash (an organization that creates and gifts books to children). In June, Book Dash hosted an event with another organization called African Storybook (an organization that promotes multilingual literacy expansion) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together, they arranged teams of forty volunteer writers, illustrators, and designers, to create African story books that are then printed and distributed to children in need for free! This book is also unique in that it is posted for free public use and print . The wonderful people in this organization host book dashes every few months, with their ultimate goal being that “every child should own a hundred books by the age of five.”

This is a fabulous book about a courageous, motivated, and strong young girl who goes on an adventure to bring happiness to people that she loves. It’s a great story for children ages three to six, although children older can still benefit from its beautiful portrayal of selflessness and generosity. The illustrations are beautiful and accurately depict the village of Ndlovu (which is a real village in Swaziland).

If you’re interested in more African story books written by South African authors to introduce in your classroom or to read to your children, they are periodically posted here as they are written. Some of my personal favorites are: Londi: The Dreaming Girl (a girl with a huge imagination), Why is Nita Upside Down? (a girl learning to love herself), and Sizwe’s Smile (the tale of a contagious smile).

-Devyn O’Malley

Winner Wednesdays: Tales for Very Picky Eaters

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One thing anyone who has dealt with children during meal times can relate to is how difficult it can be to get some children to eat. For me, the worst was a 7 year old boy who would refuse to eat anything all day but one small carton of milk. This was at a fairly active outdoor summer camp and it’s a wonder he never passed out. Today’s Winner Wednesday brings us a book just for those picky eaters (although any child can find amusement between its pages). Josh Schneider’s Theodore Seuss Geisel Award winning book Tales for Picky Eaters brings us a new perspective on picky eating which both children and parents can enjoy. The book is told in 5 chapters (or stories) each focused on a different food the main character, James, refuses to eat. James’ father takes a fresh approach to this problem and instead of yelling, he convinces his son through the use of extremely imaginative tales. Children will be delighted with the humor of each outlandish situation.

 

The father’s strategies range from listing other alternatives such as eating socks soaked in the apple cinnamon flavored sweat of a runner and some very special dirt to explaining the sad story of a troll in their basement. This troll is their lasagna chef and is used to guilt James into eating his dinner for the sake of its livelihood.

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Each story Schneider includes is nicely unique and despite the repeated theme does not feel overdone. His father character tells of an ever growing glob of oatmeal which threatens the family as it eats everything in sight and later of a boy with bones that can bend like rubber.

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In the last story, the son catches onto his father’s game and begins to create his own stories basing them off of what his father has said as well as adding his own twists.

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Each story is nicely complemented by colorful cartoons of expressive characters and the odd imaginings of father and son. Schneider’s illustrations do a wonderful job of bringing the unique stories to life and making the book a desirable read. Whether these tales will help change your child’s view on food or not, they will surely entertain.

Traditional Thursdays- A House for Hermit Crab

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When discussing great children’s literature, Eric Carle is certainly an author who comes to mind.

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While everybody has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, there are so many other amazing Eric Carle books out there! I picked Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab for today’s “Traditional Thursday” because it was one of my favorite books growing up. A House for Hermit Crab is a classic example of how Carle is able to use his distinct, bright collage-style illustrations to entertain children while also educating them.

The story starts with a hermit crab who has outgrown his shell and needs a new one. He finds a shell but thinks it’s too plain. He plans to try to spruce it up a bit to make it feel more like a home.

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The next month he stumbles upon some beautiful sea anemone and asks if one of them would like to live on his shell. A sea anemone agrees to and he gently picks it up and places it on his shell. This pattern of interaction repeats every month throughout the year with other sea creatures including sea urchins, coral, lantern fish, star fish, snails, and pebbles until his shell is full and beautiful.

However, by November he realizes that he has grown throughout the year and his house is now getting too small for him again! The sea creatures on his shell have become like family to him and he doesn’t want to leave them. He then meets a smaller hermit crab who says he would love to live in and take care of hermit crab’s shell. Hermit crab agrees to give his home to him and finds a larger, plain shell for himself that he plans to decorate all over again.

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I think A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful book to read to early elementary school students, especially when they’re going through some sort of major change. Hermit crab shows children that change can be a positive thing and you can do your best to make the most of the necessary changes in your life. Hermit crab also demonstrates that when you are kind to others, they will help you out and you can create friendships for life.

Additionally, this book is a fantastic educational resource. The text includes lots of sea-life vocabulary words, including a glossary of terms at the end of the book. This book would fit wonderfully in a curriculum that includes learning about the ocean and aquatic animals and would help reinforce a lot of terminology. It is also useful for teaching kids about the sequencing of months and passage of time. The story unfolds throughout a full calendar year, and having a repetitive pattern every month makes the timeline easy to follow for children.

Although the color scheme of the illustrations can be kind of plain and boring, it just makes it that much more pronounced when color is added as the shell gets increasingly more decorated with each page.

Overall, I would say that A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful picturenew doc 12_1 book that can be utilized for both entertainment and education in an elementary school classroom. The themes of accepting change and creating friendships are powerful sentiments that help make learning facts about sea life more accessible and engaging. In Eric Carle’s vast collection of children’s books, A House for Hermit Crab is a hidden gem that the children of today should definitely get a chance to read.

-Jenna Ravasio

Winners Wednesdays: The Kissing Hand

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An absolutely perfect book for back-to-school time is The Kissing Hand  written by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Published in 1993, it has quickly become a classic children’s bookissinghandk. In addition to being a New York Times Bestseller and landing high on lists of recommended children’s books, The Kissing Hand  received the Ed Press award for excellence in educational publishing.

The story begins with a young raccoon named Chester who is extremely nervous about his first night of school. His mother sees his worry and lets him know that he will find lots of fun things to do at school. Most importantly, their family’s secret of the kissing hand will make him feel like he’s at home anytime he’s lonely. It will give him the courage to go to school without her.

She kisses his palm and shows him that all he has to do is press his hand next to his face, and he will be reminded of how much she loves him. The kissing hand works to make Chester feel better, and he even decides to give his mother her own kissing hand before he heads off to class, making the mother happier and more reassured too.new doc 2_4

I think this is a wonderful book that I would read to students between the ages of 3 and 8. They can likely relate to Chester’s anxieties about being away from his mother and starting something strange and new that he doesn’t know if he will like or not. They can take comfort in knowing that even when they’re at school for what may be the first time, their parents still love them and are not far away from their hearts. The text is simple and straightforward enough for children of these ages to understand, and the watercolor illustrations help to engage the children and further their understanding of the emotions in the story.

The story obviously conveys that it’s okay for kids to be nervous when starting new things, but it also touches upon the fact that parents can get nervous too and need the love of their children to comfort them. Children don’t normally realize that parents can be vulnerable like them, and the fact that they can reassure their parents is empowering.

While the illustrations are certainly not Caldecott worthy, they are still colorful and illustrate the action of the book well. Additionally, there is a set of heart stickers in the back of the book that can be used by a teacher or parent to reinforce the idea of the kissing hand. I think the stickers are a fantastic way to remind children that they are loved, and the stickers could help comfort them in times of trouble.

The Kissing Hand‘s message of love and comfort is a heartwarming sentiment that readers of all ages can benefit from. Parents, teachers, and children alike can take something away from this story. No matter how old you are, it is clear to see that The Kissing Hand is an adorable picture book that can easily capture the hearts of all of its readers.

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By Jenna Ravasio

Trendy Tuesday: Dewey Bob

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Dewey Bob cover“Dewey Bob Crockett was born in the pocket of an old pair of pants.” And thus opens the story of Dewey Bob, a fastidious little raccoon who loves to collect shiny things, but discovers how hard it is to find — not to mention keep — a friend.

Dewey Bob, both written and illustrated by Judy Schachner, was published just earlier this month, making it a great choice for our first Trendy Tuesday post of the semester. Schachner is best known for her best-selling Skippyjon Jones series, but she branches out into a new world of characters with Dewey Bob.

The adventure begins when Ma Crockett sends Dewey Bob into the world to find his own pair of pants to live in after his hoarded treasures weigh down the family pants too much. He finds a treehouse instead and sets about fixing it up and cleaning it out — very different from most raccoons in real life! Dewey soon decides that his apartment is lonely and that he needs friends, so he goes around throwing animals into his shopping cart in hopes of making them his friends.

Understandably, the animals all run away at the first chance they get, except for a mud ball in the bottom of the cart. Dewey begins to suspect the unresponsive mud ball isn’t alive until he gives it a squeeze — and it turns out to be a filthy baby cat (though Dewey incorrectly believes it is a puppy). Dewey cleans up the kitten, feeding and caring for him, and realizes his back legs are disproportionally short: that’s why the kitten didn’t run away like the other animals.

So Dewey makes the kitten a wheeled rig out of buttons to attach to his back half so the kitten can run on his front two feet. However much Dewey wants a friend, he realizes he needs to let the kitten be free to roam on his own. The book ends with Dewey’s poignant choice:

“But the truth is, the mud ball wasn’t a thing. He was a livin’, breathin’ critter who deserved to experience the world in all its splendor. And Dewey knew it. So first he opened his heart…and then he opened the front door. ‘Roll on, Mudball, roll on. And roll he did…right back into the arms of his very best friend.”

I actually had planned to do my Trendy Tuesday post on another book, but as soon as I read this final page I knew I had to write about Dewey Bob instead. The book introduces a lot of more complex themes (some of which might going over very young kids’ heads) but slightly older readers will enjoy this warm-hearted book — and mom or dad might find themselves tearing up a bit at that ending as they think about letting their own babies go.

Adults will also enjoy their own moments of humor, such as the pelican who tells Dewey “You should see what’s floatin’ in the ocean, Dewey!” as the raccoon searches through the trash heap. They will also recognize the front page of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine Dewey consults while renovating his treehouse.

Speaking of the magazine, the illustrations in this book looks almost like collages, and incorporate many photographic elements, adding lots of visual interests that will no doubt keep kids absorbed in the pictures. The front matter says that “the illustrations for this book were created in acrylics, gouache, mixed media, and the kitchen sink,” and that certainly seems almost true. The collage style of the pictures fits perfectly with Dewey Bob’s homespun character and dialogue.

Should I ever need a picture book library of my own some day, I would definitely consider adding Dewey Bob alongside other older classics from my own childhood. It’s a charming read that children and adults alike will thoroughly enjoy.

By Kara Sherrer