Category Archives: Picture Books from the past

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

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

Traditional Thursdays: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

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Some may not consider Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to be along the classic genre of children’s books. However, this was a book I grew up with and it is very endearing to me. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. It was published in 1989 by Little Simon which is part of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Company.

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Children were unaware as they were reciting along with the book in its rhythmic cadence that they were actually learning the alphabet. As a child, I loved the competition of which letter would get to the top unaware that I was learning the alphabet.

The book is about a group of friends going on an adventure that ends up with them racing to the top. The reader experienced anticipation to never knowing which additional letters was eventually going to crash the tree. So again it drew on children’s imagination which lead to discussion with the reader and the child.

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The illustrator made the book bold and colorful while relating it to the reader by providing some human elements to the letters. For example, when they fall out of the coconut tree the letters had injuries like any other child might experience. So some of the letters ended up with injuries like “skinned-knee D and stubbed-toe E and patched-up F.”

An important lesson this book teaches is being inclusive. The reader sees throughout the book that no letter is ever left behind not even “tag-along K.”

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This book allows any child’s imagination to imagine the adventure always begins anew each day even if “A is out of bed.”

P.S.: For all of you teachers or aspiring teachers out there. There are some different lessons, crafts, activities on Pinterest that go along with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom if you want to use the book in your classroom.

-Kendall Shaw

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

Traditional Thursdays: Angelina Ballerina

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Traditional Thursdays: Angelina Ballerina

Most little girls (and some boys too!) dream of being a ballet dancer at some point while growing up. Whether it be the beautifully ornate costumes, graceful movements, or the thrill of performing on stage, ballet dancing always seems to capture the hearts and imagination of children. As a dancer of fifteen years myself, I fell in love with this book at a very young age and was overwhelmed with warm memories upon rereading. This week’s Traditional Thursday selection, Angelina Ballerina written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig (1983), tells the story of little white mouse named Angelina who dreams of becoming a ballerina.

The book opens with the simple statement, “More than anything else in the world, Angelina loved to dance.” Whether in her room, on the playground, in the kitchen, or in her dreams at night, Angelina dances wherever she is. She spends so much time dancing, however, that she often neglects her chores and is late to school. As is easy to do when exploring the realms of your imagination, Angelina is oblivious of the world around her. She upsets the boys in her class by not letting them catch her during recess, knocks over her mother’s Cheddar cheese pies, and even squashes Mrs. Hodgepodge’s pansies!

Angelina-imageAngelina’s mother and father finally decide that it’s time to enroll Angelina in dance classes. They even buy her a pink ballet dress and shoes. Angelina is overjoyed! She takes lessons at Miss Lilly’s Ballet School with nine other little girls. Miss Lilly encourages Angelina that if she works hard enough, she might grow up to be a ballerina! At home, Angelina now helps with the chores and is no longer late to school; she even lets the boys catch her on the playground!

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“She went every day to her ballet lessons and worked very hard for many years…until at last she became the famous ballerina mademoiselle Angelina, and people came from far and wide to enjoy her lovely dancing.”

The exquisitely detailed illustrations by Helen Craig remind me of a ballerina. They are light, effortlessly beautiful, and extremely nuanced, with each line perfectly placed. The plain white backdrop of the pages focuses the reader on the illustrations and the story. My favorite part of the book though is the ending. Too often, I feel, children have their early dreams of becoming a firefighter, astronaut, garbage man, or ballerina dismissed too early by adults. Angelina Ballerina is a wonderful resource for teaching that with enough dedication, hard work, and passion, achieving your dreams is possible. And for the aspiring ballerinas (or dance lovers in general) out there, this book is perfect. Holabird’s use of proper ballet terminology, such as plié and arabesque, add a sophisticated authenticity to the book. Overall, Angelina Ballerina is a classic children’s book that incites the imaginations and wildest dreams of children everywhere. ballet-group

Author and Illustrator Info and Related Books

  • Katharine Holabird grew up in Chicago, Illinois but moved to Italy after college to write. She now lives in London, which is where she authored Angelina Ballerina (at her kitchen table!). The story and characters in the Angelina Ballerina series are based off her children. Her two daughters loved to dance, and their younger brother was the inspiration behind the character of Henry, who is introduced in subsequent Angelina Ballerina books. She is also the author of a new picture book series Twinkle.
  • Helen Craig is a native of England and still lives there today with her family. She is a member of the Terry family, who were famously talented members of the theatrical community in the 1800s. Other than Angelina Ballerina, Craig has also illustrated the Bear books (This is the Bear, This is the Bear and the Picnic Lunch, This is the Bear and the Scary Night) as well as authoring The Night of the Paper Bag Monsters and the Mouse House series of picture books.
  • There are thirteen Angelina Ballerina picture books, two Angelina Ballerina early readers, and four Angelina Ballerina chapter books (see below). So…as young readers progress, they can follow Angelina’s love of ballet and fun adventures in stories that match their level of reading ability.

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Fun Facts

  • In 2006, Katharine and Angelina were invited to attend the Queen of England’s 80th Birthday celebration!
  • Katharine Holabird is fluent in three languages: English, French, and Italian
  • The Angelina Ballerina books were turned into an actual ballet performed by The English National Ballet in 2007

Winning Wednesday: The Little House

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51fFMFk9FqL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_For this Winning Wednesday I will be reviewing The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Published in 1942, this book won the Caldecott Medal and has been beloved by generation after generation.

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This book tells the story of a little house out in the country. The family who built her promises that she will live on for generations to come and will always be loved. We see the house through the years, remaining a constant as the world around it subtly becomes more industrialized and less rural. Eventually the house starts wondering what it would be like to live in the big city. Season pass, and the world around her changes bit by bit, growing more and more industrial every day. Then one day a steam shovel (a subtle nod to Burton’s other classic, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel) comes and creates a big city all around the house. As the city grows the house becomes abandoned, and she just sits and watches the world race by. One night the house reflects back on how she wondered what life in the big city would be like, and how she misses living out in the fields. Then one day, the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built the house walks by and recognizes it. She hauls the house back out to the country, and the house is content with its rural life.

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This book is absolutely beautiful, with stunning illustrations. We see the slow progression of industrialization as the city grows around the little house, as the house begins to fall a part from neglect. The story line teaches the idea that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The pictures and story combine in such a way that there is ease and flow. It’s not hard to see how this book won the Caldecott, as the words and pictures blend together in a beautiful story. While an older book, it has remained popular for over sixty years, and I don’t see it going out of style any time soon. It is a timeless story, with gorgeous illustrations and a simple yet powerful plot.

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– Mary Nobles Hancock

Free Fridays: The Keeping Quilt

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The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco depicts the history of an immigrant family as they acclimate to America over many generations while preserving their heritage through a quilt.  The story is based on Polacco’s own heritage, and is told from her perspective.  The story opens when her Great-Gramma Anna, having just come to New York from Russia with her parents, begins her new life with only a dress and a babushka to remind her of home.  Once she outgrows them, her mother uses pieces from the dress and babushka, combined with articles of clothing from family members back in Russia, to create a quilt to remind them of home.  We see how the quilt follows Anna throughout her life, from carrying on their Jewish heritage to getting engaged and then married, and then to welcoming her daughter, Patricia’s grandmother, Carle.  The story continues to see how the quilt plays a role in Carle’s life, and then her daughter, Patricia’s mother, Mary Ellen’s.  The quilt is always there, in times of hardship and joy, as Anna dies and Patricia is born. Patricia describes how the quilt has been used in her life, and the story ends with her holding her own daughter in it.

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The Keeping Quilt emphasizes the importance of maintaining one’s heritage while still moving forward in life.  We see traditions carried on but also how times and customs change.  There are four weddings shown in this book, one for each girl who has owned the quilt.  Each one is married beneath it as a huppa, and each incorporates a gold coin, bread and salt into the ceremony.  But we also see how the generations slowly change.  In Anna’s wedding, the men and women celebrate separately, but then at Carle’s wedding they celebrate together but do not dance with each other.  At Mary Ellen’s wedding there are both Jews and non-Jews present, and Mary Ellen wears a suit instead of a dress.  Patricia’s wedding shows men and women dancing together, and she incorporates a sprinkle of wine for laughter.  The changes are gradual, but by the end we see many key differences between Anna and Patricia’s weddings.  Teaching this book can be used to show children not only a different culture than they may be used to, but also how heritages may be maintained while still moving forward.

This book includes beautiful pencil illustrations by Polacco herself, shown in shades of gray with the only color being the quilt.  The drawings are incredibly realistic, with facial expressions depicting lifelike emotions to match the scene.  We see an evolution of the facial structure as the family intermixes with the American culture. As the book progresses we can clearly see that time is passing based on the changing fashions, settings and furniture and also through the additions of technologies such as cars.  But, in almost every picture there is some depiction of the Jewish faith, whether it’s a Yamaka, a Rabi, or a Torah, showing the value they still place in their heritage.

The 25th anniversary edition includes an additional fifteen pages of the story that picks up where the original book ended and tells how the quilt has continued to live on.  A new chapter in the family begins when the quilt becomes so worn out that Patricia’s children surprise her with a new, identical quilt.  Patricia makes the hard decision to donate the original quilt to a museum, but we see how the new quilt carries on the story.  We continue to see the changing of cultures in this addition, with Patricia’s daughter marrying another woman, but still under the huppa of the quilt.  This new addition shows that the legacy of the quilt lives on.

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This book would be great with a wide range of ages, and can spark a discussion about different cultures and the idea that every family has a history that lives on through children.  We really enjoyed reading this book and were moved by how such a powerful story was told in such an understandable way.  Combined with the beautiful illustrations, this book will continue to be cherished for generations to come, just like the keeping quilt.

By Mary Nobles Hancock and Adrianna Moss