Tag Archives: children’s literature

Free Fridays: A Book of Reverso Poems

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When I first pulled A Book of Reverso Poems: Mirror Mirror off the shelf, the cover captivated me. Author Marilyn Singer and illustrator Josée Masse were able to master the ability of combining multiple perspectives into poetry and art.

A Book of Reverso Poems: Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josée Masse

A Book of Reverso Poems: Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josée Masse

Poetry is a tricky thing to write for young children and I think Singer did a wonderful job in making it accessible and interesting. Singer used fairy tales and princesses as the characters of each poem. I think this was smart because they are stories that children already know and have background knowledge for, but they now have put it into poetry. Poetry can be difficult for students to understand, so this helps aid them in the reading and comprehension. IMG_9857

 

When you read a reverso poem down, it is one poem like normal. Then when you read it up, slight changes in punctuation and capitalization allow it to become a different poem. This style was tremendous and brought a whole new dimension to poetry. The structure provided the perfect form for telling two sides of one story. It becomes like solving a puzzle, both provoking and fun.

 

The dual nature of these poems also demonstrates how there are always multiple perspectives in a story. This would lead to a great discussion with students about point of view or about learning to understand individuals who have different views or opinions.

 

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In children’s literature, I believe pictures are essential in aiding children as they are exposed to print and as they learn to read. Josée Masse’s illustrations, just like the poems, were split in half to reveal the double nature of the poems. This really helped emphasize the nature of the book/poems that they can go two ways and they were interesting to see and continually search for new clues within each poem and image. Every page kept me searching for new details as I tried to follow the story line that was being represented. Additionally, Masse’s use of color and shadow really helped emphasize the dual nature and emotions of each story.

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This book would be great for a poetry unit and it could easily be modified for all different age ranges. Having students write reversos, their own “puzzles,” would be a great partner or small group activity. I loved that this book wasn’t your typical picture or poetry book, keeping things exciting and unique. I’m interested and eager to explore Singer’s other Reverso Poem books!

-Jordyn Margolis

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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!

The book ends concludes with,

“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

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

Marvelous Picturebook Monday: Eat Like a Bear

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“Eat Like a Bear,” written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (whose illustrations you may recognize from the Caldecott Honor recipient “What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?”), is a charming informational picturebook about the Brown Bear. 

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With its gorgeously detailed paper collage medium and its clever involvement of the reader through questions that ask how the bear will handle the challenge that each new month brings, young nature enthusiasts are sure to be excited about this recently published book. The repetitive phrases about how the bear moves and eats food can lead to fun pantomiming for both the readers and the listeners. A great way to show what new vocabulary words like “gnaw” and “claw” mean and to keep children physically engaged throughout the book!

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However, for readers who are easily distracted or grossed out, this may not be the best choice. I will explain why from both a child development standpoint and a personal experience standpoint, since I read this book to many times to young children and their parents at our local hospital! The frequent use of questions (nearly every 2-page spread) means that any response time could lead to being off-topic. Amazon suggests that this book is for children ages 4-8. Up until around age 7, though, egocentrism is a primary mode of thinking, meaning that kids may end up relating the questions to themselves rather than the brown bear they are learning about throughout the book. I ended up in more than a few conversations about what the human children liked to eat rather than the preferences of the bear and what was going to happen next. In addition, I got more than a few “eww!” remarks and raised eyebrows from parents when the bear ate a dead bison for lunch, followed by a live squirrel as a snack. I appreciate the veracity of the information found in this book, but I’m not sure how appropriate this is for youngsters, let alone those who are more fond of the great indoors. I know I would have squirmed a little bit at that age, especially since I felt a bit weird every time I read that page as an adult!

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Regardless, it’s a fun and informative read and I’m glad to have brought it with me to read to children – I was asked to read this book more than any other of the 5 I had with me!

Emmie Arnold

 

 

Trendy Tuesday: “Press Here” by Hervé Tullet

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Coming at you now is a book that’s been trendy for readers ages 2 and up for more than 2 years now, according to the New York Times children’s picture books best sellers listPress Here by Hervé Tullet! It’s received a 4.8/5 star rating from over 500 Amazon reviewers, along with rave reviews from sources such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the School Library Journal. So, what exactly makes it so captivating? 

It’s because you are the driver here. You are the one that causes this book to move, shake, and surprise!

Look at what happens between these two spreads:

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To a child as young as 2, what really happened here? Was it my doing? Wow!
To a group of college students who all got to participate in manipulating one spread, we knew what was happening, but still were totally charmed and brightened by the delightfully simple and colorful concept that this book focuses on.

I think, though, that anyone who’s old enough or is capable of enacting gross motor actions (or watching someone else, perhaps the reader, do it if a handicap is the barrier), will feel a sense of fun from watching the book change with the movements. It’s got universal potential!  

If you’re charmed by the concept of the book, watch its YouTube book trailer – you’ll get a smile out of young kids reading it and watching the magic of their imaginations, as the end of the trailer quotes: “It’s not magic… it’s the power of your imagination!” 

Emmie Arnold

“Yoo-hoo, Ladybug!”

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Mem Fox is a winner in many different ways. She is not a winner in the typical Caldecott sense, but in civic awards in her native Australia for her many years of passionate and dedicated service to children’s literature. (Cool, right?!) You may recognize her as the author of classics such as Time for Bed and Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (and you can check out her books on Amazon here at her author page). On this Winner Wednesday, I want to talk about her new book that has been bringing joy to many children at the hospital this past week: Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug!, illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist.

Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug!

Your job as the reader is to find Ladybug, who loves to hide, amidst animals, furniture, and other household objects! The book has few words and many pictures, making it a fun experience for even the youngest readers. Its bright colors, simply aesthetically pleasing cartoons, and sparse and repetitive text will have young children ages 2-6 clamoring all over you, trying to snatch the book from your hands! (Not that I know this from experience or anything). You can even entertain the youngest of kids (0-2) by showing them the pictures and naming other objects as you find ladybug for them. Just be playful, smile, and act as perplexed as they are if you have youngsters who may be too young to find Ladybug themselves or who have trouble finding her!

Have you flown away?

Ladybug’s smile is huge every time you find her. So go for it, readers!

By: Emmie Arnold