Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Jewel Box Ballerinas

By Monique De Varennes and Ana Juan

This book was different but I enjoyed it. I of course wanted to read it because I knew it would have wonderful illustrations. Bibi Branchflower reminded me of a lonely "crazy cat lady" or a middle-aged woman who had all the money in the world but was not happy. I loved the dogs on each page jumping around and I'm sure children would love finding them on the pages. I felt like the moral of the story was that money does not buy you happiness and that friendship and love are two of the most important things to have in life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Chicken of the Family

By Mary Amato

I think I was drawn to this book because I always felt like the chicken or the baby of the family. I love how the title is a play on words; when I read the title I thought it would be about the person who is always scared or shy in the family. The main character is the more shy one and is constantly being bullied by her older sisters, but she is also told that she is literally a chicken. Henrietta is scared but decides that she can't do anything about being a chicken, so she goes to the farm closest to her house and introduces herself to the chickens. She wondered if any of the chickens were her brothers or sisters. She decides that they are MUCH nicer to her than her other sisters were and actually loves the life of a chicken. Her sisters show up and tell her the truth; that she isn't a chicken, and get upset when they realize that Henrietta is actually having fun. The joke ended up turning on them. I could definitely relate to Henrietta because my older brother would always tease me about crazy stuff like that and I would most likely always believe him. I really enjoyed the illustrations, they were cutesy kind of drawings with vivid pinks and greens which were my favorite colors as a little girl.

Slow Loris

By Alexis Beacon

I chose this book because it was by the author of Jitterbug Jam. It was not at all what I expected from the same author but was pleasantly surprised. Slow Loris is about a meerkat (I think!) who is, you guessed it...very slow. The people who go to the zoo watch him and are bored. However, no one knows that at night he is up doing anything and everything super fast. That is why during the day he is so slow, because he is exhausted. I loved how the author used two full pages for a picture of Loris that made him look super fast. The book has a page that folds out and a flap that folds over on a different page. I think kids would love this book because it has the element of surprise when you see Loris fast and it also has the pop-up illustration book feel.

What do you do with a kangaroo?

By Mercer Mayer

I can vaguely remember reading this book in elementary school. Mercer Mayer and especially the little critters were always my favorite. I think this would be a great read aloud book because it has a predictable pattern. I think students would enjoy how particular each animal is. It is ironic how the animals demand very elaborate things when we know that animals live very minimalistic lives. I like how Mayer illustrated the little girl trying to move the animals out on three different pages to show how difficult of a task it was without saying anything. It was a great precursor to the surprise ending when she gives up and lets the animals stay and they all seem happy. Very cute!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

By Judi Barrett

I was excited to read this book because I had seen the trailer for the movie. I was first surprised by how dull the first couple of pages were in black and white. I thought it was interesting how the book illuminated with color only when the grandfather was telling the story, because at the end of the story and the end of the book, it returns to black and white. It made me very curious as to what the movie would be like because it's such a short book. I wondered how the author came up with the type of food that fell from the sky. The kinds of foods were very typical American staples-like hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, and spaghetti. I think it would be neat to see this book transposed to a different culture and what different foods would be falling from the sky. I loved how this book is very imaginative and keeps you interested. Good book!!

The Night Eater

By Ana Juan

I chose this book because I absolutely loved The Elephant Wish and figured that if Ana Juan was such a good illustrator that she probably does okay writing books too. I was right, and this book is currently being added to list I've made for books I want to have in my future classroom. I instantly fell in love with the cute, chubby night eater in pink pajamas wearing the mischievous smirk on his face. I enjoyed reading about how the night would taste, the clouds like cotton candy, the darkness like bitter chocolate, and the stars like bubbles of gas. I also thought the metaphor of the sun greeting the people was very clever. When the night eater decided to stop eating the night because he was embarrassed about being too fat, all the people realize how they need the sun to survive. I saw this as a great opener for a science lesson on the importance of the sun or even what happens when something in our ecosystem is altered. In my opinion, this book ended up being a great lesson on how we shouldn't take things for granted. LOVED it!

The Knight Who Took All Day

By James Mayhew

I chose this book from just browsing through the curriculum lab shelves. I thought the title was a clever play on words. After reading books with illustrations by Ana Juan it was hard to appreciate the illustrations in this book. They were very simple and looked like they were done with colored pencils. The story was funny and had a lot of old vocabulary like squire and plume. It was also very ironic because the knight was so caught up with his looks that he didn't notice the princess was dressed up in less armor and had already tamed the dragon. I liked how the princess, although she starts off as the typical helpless woman who needs to be saved, ended up being more brave than the knight! I think this would be a good book to read aloud to primary elementary grades.

A Boy Called Slow

By Joseph Bruchac

This book was different from any book that I have read for this class so far. I picked it up for my child study student because he likes to talk about his Native American heritage. The main character of this book is given the name Slow because it is a custom for the Lakota Sioux to give their child a name that represents how they act. Once that child has grown, they have to do a courageous act that will allow them to be renamed based on something from that act. I could only imagine how self-conscious the young boy was because being "slow" does not have a positive connotation. Throughout the story, Slow looks up to his father and dreams of being just as brave and courageous as he is. It is fairly easy to predict that Slow turns into someone who is just as legendary as his father. I think this was a great lesson for children--that although you may start off "slow", you can take what you've learned and become whoever you want to be.

A Picture Book of Sitting Bull

By David Adler

This was another book I picked out for my child study student. My child study student loved this book and really liked the illustrations because he has a Native American heritage. The story was along the same lines as the book A Boy Called Slow because obviously the main character is Sitting Bull. In my perspective, the book was a little boring and did not keep me very interested. I did not care for the drab, old-looking illustrations. This book has made me realize how important reaching the interests of all students is when using literature in the classroom.

Love You Hate You Miss You

By Elizabeth Scott

This novel is in the top five of my favorite books of all time. It is recommended for sixth grade and up; however, in my opinion, it should be for at least seventh or eighth grade. It is an easy book to read but I do not think some of the content is appropriate for upper elementary students. The lead character, Amy, is a sixteen-year-old who lives with her mother and father who are still so sickly in love that they do not seem to notice their daughter spinning out of control. She has taken up drinking at parties that she goes to with her best friend, Julia. Julia has a boyfriend, Kevin who is known to be a bad guy at their high school. Amy is sick of her best friend being betrayed by Kevin. One night at a party she decides to plan for Julia to catch Kevin being unfaithful . To her surprise, Julia does not break up with him, but is completely traumatized. Julia ends up driving away from the party, with Amy as a passenger, and crashing the car. Amy survives, but her bff Julia does not. You do not find out any of this information until the very end. The process of getting tidbits of information at one time is what kept this book on the edge of my seat. From the start, all you know is that Amy has a friend from high school who passes away and she misses her a lot. The book is split up into two different parts; one part is letters to Julia and the other is a personal narrative, all in Amy's perspective. She goes through the mourning process that coincides with the title of loving her best friend, hating her for dying, and missing her beyond belief. Amy also has to deal with the enormous feeling of guilt that, although she was not driving, she was the reason Julia was driving so careless. Reading about how Amy goes through picking up the pieces of her life again was an emotional roller coaster. The written letters are incredible--I do not usually cry for movies or books but I definitely cried when reading this book!

The Giver

By Lois Lowry

WOW...I had no idea that I would like this book so much. I did not read this book in high school, but had heard of it. I was very confused at the beginning and did not know whether to think the book was either set in the future or in some socialist community in history. I was very curious when Jonas was talking about being afraid of a plane overhead. I was amused by how they classified children and people's jobs. I also found it interesting how his father took the role of what we could call a nurse in our society and his mother was a judge. At times I felt like I was reading a different language or reading about a different time period. Everything was very set, rigid, and very controlled. I would not have liked to live like they were, and am glad that Jonas stood up for what he believed in, I like to think that I would have done the same. I liked how the book allowed for many different interpretations. For instance, the ending I felt like could go either way. I viewed the book as a glass half full, and believe that Jonas and Gabriel did in fact find "Elsewhere" and lived on to lead happier, more exciting lives. Overall, I would definitely love to use this book in my classroom if I teach upper elementary. It was not what I expected at all but I am glad I read it!

Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein

By Don Brown

I picked this book up for my child study student because he is a very intelligent second grader and thought he would enjoy reading about someone who was also very smart as a young boy. It is the story of the childhood of Albert Einstein and not only is it funny but it tells interesting facts about Einstein that I did not know. I had no idea that Albert Einstein did not talk for the longest time when he was younger; I just assumed that smarter children spoke sooner. The setting takes place where Albert was from, Germany, so it gives the reader a glimpse into a different culture. I loved the illustrations that were almost like sketches and the fact that almost every page was either yellow or blue depending on the mood of Albert (mostly the pictures were drab, Albert was not portrayed as a happy young boy). The end shows Einstein as an old man, how we would picture him today. I loved the last line, "For the world, Einstein comes to mean not fat baby, or angry child, or odd boy, but great thinker". It just comes to show children that the sky is the limit.

The Elephant Wish

By Lou Berger and Ana Juan

I was very curious about this book because our teacher has a blog post about it and the picture of it intrigued me. I wanted to find out for myself what it was all about. It didn't surprise me that it was a fabulous book! I found out after reading this book that my favorite children's literature genre is fantasy. I loved how the main character is not as skinny as a twig, and that her parents are a little crazy and occupied with their own personal lives. I think that I expected to see a mother and a father who loving took care of their child, but that was not the case. This little girl made a wish to be taken away by elephants, in my opinion, because she felt alone and depressed. It made me feel blessed that my parents were always so involved in my life. But I could also relate feeling alone because I was very shy (and am still trying to come out of my shell more) and did not have very many friends growing up. I also just enjoyed reading this book because the words Berger chose were very fun to say, like Prattlebottom. Not to mention the illustrations! At first glance, I thought there was smoke behind the little girl, then saw the elephant, and made the connection that she was blowing out candles from a birthday cake and the smoke took the shape of what her wish was. I could have probably looked through the book for hours finding tiny details that Juan incorporated into the book. It was interesting to see how the parents felt remorseful and found out that they needed to change in order to show their daughter that they loved and cared for her. My favorite page was when the whole jungle was still--I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I came to that page! Overall, I think that everyone should take the time to read this book, it's very interesting!

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend

By Melanie Watt

This book is hilarious! It is about a squirrel who lives in a tree and is afraid of EVERYTHING! It was a quick read and does not have a lot of text. It mostly consists of labels and cute descriptions of what Scaredy is worried about doing. I love how throughout the entire book Scaredy's main goal is to avoid the dog but ends up becoming great friends with him. I felt the overall message was that some things may have germs and be scarey but they are worth the risk!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Red Book

By Barbara Lehman

This is a wordless book I found searching for fantasy and science fiction books for our genre presentations. The front of the book does not even have a title, which immediately made me very curious. It won the Caldecott award in 2005, so I knew it was probably pretty good. I would not have picked it up on any given day, but I'm glad I did! My interpretation of the book was that a young girl finds a red book in the snow and when she finally opens it, she sees a boy on a far away island looking in the same book at her. She wants to go see this boy so she buys a huge bouquet of balloons and flies there. On the way she drops the book. The story then continues from the dropped book on the sidewalk and you see the girl reach the island to meet the boy. At the end, a boy on a bike sees the red book and takes it, and left me thinking about how the same thing would happen to that boy. It then got me thinking about how I, the reader was also looking in the "red book" and was yet another perspective. In other words, I was reading the book that a girl was reading, that a boy was reading all at the same time. What a crazy coincidence! I really loved this book and it made me realize how much I want to have all types of genres of books in my classroom, including wordless books because they are open for interpretation and can require as much effort as reading does!

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

By Charles M. Schulz

I had not heard of graphic novels until this class. The few that I flipped through at the curriculum lab, when we were looking at all types of genres,I did not really care for. It was hard to figure out what to read next and just like we discussed in class, it hurt my eyes looking at the illustrations! That said, I used to love Charlie Brown as a little kid. I do not remember reading the books, only watching it on TV. I felt that graphic novels were perfect for Charlie Brown because the pictures were sequenced and were very similar to the TV shows. I loved the part where Charlie asks Snoopy to help set up a table and Snoopy gets sidetracked with Woodstock playing ping-pong. I also liked the fact that there were multiple problems for Charlie that kept the reader waiting for something to happen next. My favorite part about this book is the humor and the irony that I never really got until now. My only concern with this book is that I would be cautious of having it in my classroom. I would be sure not to have Christmas and Thanksgiving to be the only holidays represented in literature in my classroom. Overall, as far as graphic novels, I enjoyed this book.

Jitterbug Jam

By Barbara Jean Hicks

This was such a fun book! Yet another children's picture book I would not have read if I did not have the fantasy/science fiction genre to present. It is a book about a young monster who is afraid of the boy hiding under his bed at night. The story is told in the little monster's point of view and so is not in grammatically correct English. The author uses repetition with the tongue-twister phrase "lickity-split and spit-fish" which is quite amusing to read. I liked how the family consisted of two brothers, a mother, and a grandfather. Some children could maybe relate to living with a grandparent, which is not portrayed in children's literature very often. I thought the end to the story was very cute how it related to the title. While reading the book I kept wondering where Jitterbug Jam came from. It wasn't until the end where the little monster makes friends with the human kid by sharing a piece of toast with the monster form of jelly on it-jitterbug jam. The illustrations were very different and really captured the theme of monsters, I really liked them. One page is just one big picture to show the climax of the story when the little monster gets up the nerve to go under his bed to find the human boy. I also noticed that the paper was not shiny and slick like most picture books, it had the feel of construction paper. Overall, I loved this book and will be putting it on my Christmas list this year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jimmy Zangwow's Out-of This World Moon-Pie Adventure

By Tony DiTerlizzi

I stumbled upon this book while searching the bibliographies pages on the curriculum resources lab website. This book is a science fiction tale about how Jimmy, a very hungry boy, is denied a moon pie from his mother and flies to the moon to get his own moon pie. I like how the mother is not portrayed as perfect. You do not see her face but she is wearing shabby slippers and is making a mess cooking dinner. Also, there are finger prints on the cupboards most likely from Jimmy and he has his toys strung out in the kitchen. I can definitely relate to this illustration because my house growing up was usually untidy. I also love Jimmy's outfit; he has a blanket on for a cape, cowboy boots, suspenders, and goggles around his head. He depicts a very adventuresome young boy. I love the puns the author includes in the book--how Jimmy flies to the moon for a moon pie and then goes to the milky way to get some milk to go with his moon pie. Jimmy has multiple problems throughout his journey that keep the reader interested. Ironically, Jimmy never gets to eat all the moon pies he finds on the moon but when he returns home he gets a moon pie for dessert from his mom. I love the last page with the moon in the background outside the window while Jimmy is enjoying his moon pie. I think this would be a great read-aloud. LOVED this book!

Jumpy Jack and Googily

By Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall

I actually found this book in the classroom I have practicum at. I read the book to three first graders and they absolutely loved this book, especially the illustrations. I enjoyed reading this book out loud because it was fun using alliteration saying Jumpy Jack every other sentence and saying the name "Googily" was just a fun word to say. Also while reading to the students it was easy to change my tone, pitch and speed for the two different characters. I spoke really fast for Jumpy Jack because he was always scared and read at a low and steady pace for Googily because he was a brave monster-type creature. I also thought it was great how there was a pattern to each page; Jumpy Jack always wanted Googily to check certain places to make sure he wouldn't be scared. He always says something along the lines that there's probably nothing hiding that would scare him, but he just wants to be sure. The fact that students can predict what Jumpy Jack will say keeps them engaged and interested in the book. The ending is very cute. Jumpy Jack wants Googily to check under the bed for monsters. I think the students could definitely relate to that same situation. I can't remember how many times I asked my parents to check for monsters under my bed before I could go to sleep. It is a surprise ending, because after Googily checks for monsters for Jumpy Jack, he starts to get scared himself and asks Jumpy Jack for help. I like how the brave character shows a vulnerable side and shows kids that it is okay to be scared sometimes. Great book!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Deaf Musicians

By Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs

I like to read the dedications of each book, and this one grabbed my attention. The first dedication reads, "To my deaf father: Charles Louis Seeger". I think the fact that the author has written this book about and/or for his father makes it more meaningful and interesting. Everything about this book is Jazz-inspired, from the style of writing, to the font and arrangement of certain words, and especially the illustrations. I loved the picture when Lee is on the subway. There is a lady dressed in formal attire and a young guy slouching with his hat turned sideways and Lee bending down tying his shoe. For me the picture was almost like I was watching a movie; it was very realistic. The author's relation of signing and jazz music was unique and gave me a different perspective on sign language. I particularly like the end where Lee proves that his hearing loss does not stop him from expressing his musical talent or love for jazz. The afterward written by the author reminded me of Mr. Holland's Opus where they have a sign interpreter for the final concert so his son could "listen" to the music. This book opened my eyes to the different ways music can be expressed and heard!

One of Those Days

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I chose this book because it was by an author that our guest speaker in class thought was really good. When I found the book I was actually having "one of those days". It is a very easy book for children to read-it just has the name of the bad day on each page. I enjoyed reading all of the different scenarios and could relate to just about all of them. I think children would think this is a really funny book. I especially enjoyed the "Say The Wrong Thing Day" and the illustration that has a girl saying hi and a boy replying "uh...marshmallow?" I have a lot of days where I can't seem to say anything right! After reading this book I felt a little better about my day. I think that may be the overall message of the book-that everyone has a bad day. I thought the ending was clever where she says "luckily every single one of those days eventually turns into night....and every night turns into a brand-new day". It is a great uplifting ending. I thought the illustrations were unique. I liked how the illustrator drew lots of people with different heights, hair color, skin color, and style of clothing to further represent that everyone has a bad day. Loved this book!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Boxcar Children

By Gertrude Chandler Warner

I can still remember the day when I checked this book out at the school library about thirteen years ago. As a child I really enjoyed Gertrude Chandler Warner's novels. Reading this book again was pretty cool because I could remember a few chapters and it was weird to see it from my perspective now. While reading I couldn't help but think how the scenario is very unrealistic. It was almost like a fantasy novel to me when I was younger; how simplistic life was for the children who only needed food and shelter to be happy. I can't even think of life without my cell phone or the internet! The roles that the children took were very stereotypical. Jessie, the oldest sister, was in charge of setting up the boxcar and making dinner that the oldest brother, Henry brought home after a long day's work. I felt that the whole field day race that the grandfather sponsored was random. I did not care for how the children just assumed that their grandfather was old and mean as if the two qualities go hand in hand. However, I did like the fact that the kids missed their boxcar and their simple life compared to living in luxury under their grandfather's roof. I loved this book when I was younger but I think now it is a little outdated.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Esio Trot

By Roald Dahl

I chose to read this novel because it was by an author I have heard of (the author of James and the Giant Peach). Otherwise, it would not have been a book I would typically pick up judging by its cover. I felt that the story kept me interested but I was disappointed with the ending. I liked when I finally figured out what the title was about because I was a little confused as to what the title meant. I think children would enjoy the silliness of Mr. Hoppy fooling Mrs. Silver that turtles really talk backwards. When the text is written so it creates a staircase and it clearly states that Mr. Hoppy leaves the door to his apartment open, I expected all of the turtles to come out and for Mrs. Silver to figure out what he was up to. I think that may have been a better ending. It was a little unrealistic for my taste, but on the other hand, children might enjoy it. I did not think that Mr. Hoppy should have gotten away with lying and overall, I do not think it sends a very good message. On the bright side, I did enjoy the more simple, sketch-like drawings throughout the book.

The Whales

By Cynthia Rylant

This is an older book that I found in the curriculum lab. I chose to read this book because I was familiar with the name Cynthia Rylant but have never read any of her books. I think it is great how she wrote and illustrated the book. I like how the book is written as a poem about whales. Rylant is definitely able to capture the grand and majestic characteristic of whales. I felt that I actually learned a few things about whales from the poems. For instance, I learned how whales do not have a sense of smell and how they communicate by sound and touch by the part " But a rose is lost on them, for they haven't any sense of smell. No matter. They love songs and touching and can court without flowers." I do however have an issue with one of the last pages that reads, "Like angels appearing in the sky, whales are proof of God." I think that some parents may have an issue with that part of the book. Other than that, I loved the illustrations and the unique style of writing that the author uses. I also like the page at the end that has pictures of whales with their names on them so students can see all the different types of whales that were written about in the book.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

By Laura Numeroff

I loved this book! When I was younger the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by the same author was very popular. I thought that the illustrations of the greedy little pig were hilarious! I think it is neat how the pig goes off on a tangent wanting so many different things but ends up where she was at the beginning of the book wanting a pancake. I think that it would be fun to take the same style of writing Numeroff uses and have children come up with their own animal to write a story about.

Itty Bitty

By Cece Bell

I was not too impressed with this book. I was initially drawn to it because I love dogs. The story begins with Itty Bitty (a very tiny dog) finding an enormously large bone to live in and has to find furniture to fit inside. It is a very quick and easy read appropriate for pre-school through kindergarten. Personally, I did not see how children could connect to this book or be very interested in reading it. There isn't a pattern to the book or a point where students can predict what will happen. There is no purpose to the story. Although the book is newer, the illustrations were not very unique. Overall, nothing to write home to mom about!

Moon Rabbit

By Natalie Russell

Once again, this is a book I found off of the display shelf in the curriculum lab! I love the new books that are out because they have such unique illustrations. I really liked the moon; it has a colorful block pattern on it. This book is appropriate for the primary elementary grades. The story is very simple and short, and not what I expected at all. From the title I thought there was going to be a little rabbit going into space, but that is not the case! Little rabbit lives in the city by herself and has many places she likes to see and things she likes to do. She is very independent. One night while on the balcony of her studio apartment, she sees the moon and begins to wonder if someone else is out there that could be just like her. What little rabbit finds I think will make readers wonder themselves about what else is out there!