Category Archives: Pre-K

Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog

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Teddy the Dog: Be Your Own Dog definitely falls under the category of Marvelous New Picture books. Published earlier this year (2016), it was written by Keri Claiborne Boyle and illustrated by Jonathan Sneider. This picture book follows Teddy on an adventure after he receives an unexpected package.

Teddy seems to have it all. He loves living in Teddyville by the motto “Be Your Own Dog”. This all gets turned upside down when he receives a package from his Aunt Marge containing none other than a cat! It seems as if Teddy and this cat just cannot get along no matter what they do, and it drives him crazy!

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However, in this charming book about friendship and accepting others despite their differences, Teddy and Penelope eventually begin to get along. Sometimes our differences are the most important part of our friendships. A friendship between two people who are exactly the same would be pretty boring! Boyle does an excellent job of portraying the idea that we are not going to get along with everyone that we meet, but all friendships involve some sort of compromise.

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Teddy is able to recognize that although he and Penelope have different interests, it does not mean that they cannot be friends. He changes his motto to “Be your own dog…even if it means being a cat”. This picture book teaches important ideas of love and acceptance through relatable (and very cute!) characters. These are critical life lessons that can be taken with them wherever they go: school, the park, soccer practice, or anywhere else!

Post by: McKenzie Scott

Free Friday: Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner

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While walking through Barnes & Noble, Never ask a Dinosaur to Dinner’s bright cover caught my eye.

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Never ask a Dinosaur to Dinner is a lively picture book full of rhymes that is a perfect read aloud for young children. It is the story of a little boy trying to get ready for bed. At each step, he contemplates asking a wild animal to help him but then explains why that would be a bad idea.

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The child first explains that asking a dinosaur to dinner would end horribly because the dinosaur would have no manners and eat everything in sight (including the table!). He then moves on to talking about why you shouldn’t share your toothbrush with a shark, share the sink with a beaver, use a tiger as a towel, use a bison as a blanket, or let a barn owl in your bed. By the end, the boy realizes that the only animals you need at bedtime are a teddy bear to cuddle and a flock of sheep to count! He is finally able to fall asleep once he acquires these animals.new doc 8_1

This book is lovely! The rhyming text is cute and easy to follow, and it highlights the hilarity of wild animals doing human tasks. The consistent pattern of interaction between the boy and different animals keeps the story dynamic but enjoyably predictable. The only downside of the book is that some of the rhymes are kind of forced, like “And build a great beaver dam, and/fill that whole thing up with salmon”. These cause the flow of the text to become more awkward. Despite the few slant rhymes thrown into a text full of rhyming couplets, the overall writing style is solid because it is distinct and funny.

new doc 9_1The illustrations are very engaging; the colors are bright and bold. Even though there are a bunch of wild animals, they are drawn cartoon-like which keeps the tone more kid-friendly. There’s so much to look at in the illustrations! If you examine them closely, you can find a teddy bear on each page. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the illustrations also add to the plot. The pictures contribute immensely to the humor and lightheartedness of the story and help clarify what is being said in the text.

I think this would be a great bedtime story since it perfectly follows a bedtime routine from dinner to sleeping. This routine in particular is just a little more absurd and filled with more wild creatures than your average bedtime! The realistic, cozy ending brings the story home and puts kids in the mood for going to sleep.

This story can also can be used for an educational purpose since it goes through a series of different animals. Seeing these pictures and thinking about what each animal might do with a human helps reinforce kids’ understandings of those animals.

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Never ask a Dinosaur to Dinner is a fantastic picture book! I would use it as a bedtime story for any kid between 2 and 6 because they would adore the story’s silliness. Plus hopefully by the end, they would be ready to cuddle their own teddy bear and fall asleep!

-Jenna Ravasio

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.

Trendy Tuesday: Waiting by Kevin Henkes

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Waiting by Kevin Henkes coverAnother Trendy Tuesday, another brand-new picture book! Today, I’m reviewing Waiting by Kevin Henkes, which was published less than a month ago on September 1st. Henkes is a very talented guy who both writes and illustrates his own books, and he has won the Caldecott Award (for Kitten’s First Full Moon) as well as a Caldecott Honor and two Newbery Honors.

His newest offering, Waiting, follows the story of five toys who sit on a ledge, well, waiting: an owl, a pig, a bear, a puppy, and a rabbit. Each of the five waits for something different. The pig, who wears a dress and carries and umbrella, waits for the rain, while the owl waits for the moon. However, each toy gets what he or she waits for in the end.

This simple but elegant picture book is definitely targeted to younger readers, pre-school to perhaps first grade. Waiting can be a tough concept for impatient young kids to understand, and this book offers an excellent example-in-action for young readers who are trying to figure out why they can’t do something right now.

The text uses repeating word patterns throughout to help kids keep track of the various toys and what they are waiting for, once again indicating that this book is targeted towards younger readers. The simple sentences are all short and declarative, with only a few running longer than about ten words, making it easy to read and understand.

As for the illustrations, Henkes uses a limited pastel palette based on the toys themselves. He draws the scenes in gentle, calming shares of brown, pink, blue, and green, complemented by a slightly off-white background. Most of the pictures stick to the restricted environment of the window and the ledge, and the limited palette contrasts with the bright, outlandish pictures of many other books.

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However, the restrained illustrations are a perfect match for a book that deals with a book about waiting (which is all about self-restraint, after all). The repetitive word patterns and calming color patterns make this a good option for a bedtime story — I definitely felt a little bit soothed as I read it myself, especially after paging through some other, more wildly illustrated picture books beforehand.

Waiting doesn’t seek to take on controversial topics or weighty historical events, but it does accomplish its goal successfully: demonstrate a hard-to-explain concept through charming illustrations and approachable text. If you have some impatient kids who simply can’t understand that they can’t have or do whatever they want immediately, turn to this book to help you explain what waiting is and why it’s important.

As a bonus, here’s an interview Kevin Henkes did with NPR just a couple days ago about Waiting and what it’s like to write children’s books:

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/442521229/442582532

By Kara Sherrer

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

Trendy Tuesdays: Clifford the Big Red Dog

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When thinking of things that are trendy these days, I could not help but think of the throwback theme and the trends of our childhood coming back. From the relaunching of Boy Meets World into the spinoff Girl Meets World to Friends being on Netlfix, the 90s are everywhere. One of my favorite childhood books was Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell. Upon searching it on the web, I found out that the book was first published in 1963! While that was not the 90s, Clifford was popular then and is still popular now, as there are many many books in the Clifford series and there is a PBS show by the same name.   Because Clifford has been around for over 50 years and is still relevant, I decided that it is definitely trendy!

 

The edition of Clifford the Big Red Dog that I found has older illustrations, so I will also put up a photo of a newer cover that I found online.

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The story in the original Clifford book is that of Emily Elizabeth explaining how her dog, Clifford, is the biggest and reddest dog on her street. She then tells stories about the games that they play together and all the time they spend together. The funniest part is when she says that she can always find Clifford in hide and seek (because he is too big to be hidden completely). She goes through the bad habits of Clifford, as well as the difficulties of taking care of such a giant dog. I think it is a nice foundation for the series that follows because it introduces Clifford and talks about his good qualities and his bad qualities, and also how Emily Elizabeth loves him no matter what.

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I think that Clifford was popular for us as children because there were still books being made and it was adapted into a TV show. The simple, brightly colored illustrations were easy to adapt into animations so the books and the TV show matched well. The characters largely stayed the same as well, and I remember as a child watching the TV show as well as reading the books before bed. As the illustrations evolve over time, new editions of the books come out, keeping Clifford current. There are still Clifford books coming out today, even though Norman Bridwell has passed away. I hope that Clifford will live on through his stories and TV show so that kids for many years will still find Clifford as one of their favorite childhood characters.

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Overall, I think Clifford will stand the test of time and continue to be read to children because of the sheer number of books that exist about him!  Beyond the book, on the PBS website, there are interactive games that you can play with Clifford and his friends as well as listen to stories on the website.

 

The simple, engaging illustrations and story lines of Clifford the Big Red Dog make it a timeless read that will continue to capture children’s hearts everywhere!

-Holly Reichert