Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Fun!

School's out and summer is officially here!  Does that make you think of roller coasters, the beach, camping, and baseball?  You're not alone.  Here are my picks with a summer-theme.  (Note: My blog will be on-again-off-again this summer due to some of the summer activities mentioned below!  Also, Perfect Picture Book Friday is on holiday until the fall.)  Let's get our feet wet!

Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee - This account of a classic summer pastime, by one of my favorite author/illustrators, is simple and brilliant.  Each pair of roller coaster riders has a story to tell and such personality!  Her illustrations are full of action and speed.  I love how she uses only illustrations to draw the reader into each character.  We make assumptions, change our opinions as we read their facial expressions along the ride, and redefine their personalities by the end.  A masterpiece!

Wave by Suzy Lee - This exquisite wordless picture book captures the playfulness of a day at the beach as a girl befriends a wave. Perfect for storytelling and inferring emotions.

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse, pictures by Jon J. Muth - One of the most lyrical picture books I know, Come On, Rain! depicts the city, heat, and craving for rain that a long, hot summer can bring.  With phrases like "Up and down the block, cats pant, heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway" you can't help but be transported to that parched landscape.  And then, "The first drops plop down big, making dust dance all around us."  From listlessness, to hopeful anticipation, then a joyful rain dance, this book leaves you feeling refreshed.

Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristine O'Connell George, Illustrated by Kate Kiesler - From putting up the tent, to seeing wildlife, and toasting marshmallows, camping is ripe for stories and poetry.  O'Connell George uses a variety of poetic forms, including concrete, haiku, and two-voice, as well as a rich mix of poetic devices such as metaphor, onomatopoeia, and rhyme.  If you have ever gone camping, you will find the words for your experience in this book.

Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe - Brinckloe captures the fascination for fireflies that we feel as children and the summertime thrill of capturing "moonlight" in a jar. 

Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen, Illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen - Peace. Stillness. Quiet. Nature observation at its best.  Paulsen's poetic language draws the reader onto the serene lake with him and his canoe.  My favorite line?  "The water is a window into the skylake."  The illustration perfectly captures the mirror image of the lake's edge in the glassy water.

Just Like Josh Gibson by Angela Johnson, Illustrated by Beth Peck - A girl in the 1940s didn't play baseball.  But, as Grandmama retells it, she wanted to be just like Josh Gibson, the "Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues."  I love this story because of its layers: baseball summers, the history of the Negro Leagues, and the social role that girls were expected to fill.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Dogku
Author/Illustrator: Andrew Clements/Tim Bowers
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2007
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+

Themes: poetry, haiku, dogs

There on the back steps,
the eyes of a hungry dog.
Will she shut the door?

Written in haiku, a stray dog shows up at a family's doorstep. They feed him, bathe him, name him... but will they keep him?

Why I Love This Book:
How clever is it to write a story in haiku?  17 syllables on each page draws the reader in and moves the story along, effectively, simply.  While full of story, poetic language is instilled throughout, making this a very satisfying poem/story.

Check out:
Here you can see the story as a powerpoint, learn haiku, and try your own "petku"!

Writing prompt: Take a story you have written and rewrite it in haiku.  See how streamlined you can make it!

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Potty Training

Potty training held some anxiety for me as a mom.  When to start?  Will he go willingly?  Will we be spending the whole day in the bathroom?  For how many days?  What will my toddler be doing during all this time?  I admit, I put off potty training until I was ready.  My preschooler had been ready for a while.  On the other hand, waiting until he turned three made it fairly easy.  There was still the first day full of accidents where I felt like we would never get it right and we were on a newborn schedule (but for peeing, instead of eating), but after that, he got it.  Since I’ve been asked to share by some friends, here’s what we did:

For a couple of weeks before I planned to dive into serious potty training, we read the potty books listed in this post.  I had a special basket for them and I would use the opportunity to repeat to my son that he would be using the potty soon. 
I introduced potty training with a treasure hunt.  My son followed a rope downstairs to a present of wrapped undies, through a tunnel to find juice and salty snacks, and into a tent which held a treat for successful pottying: M&Ms.  After that, he saw a wastebasket and a pile of his diapers.  We made a big deal of “throwing out” his diapers (which we saved for our next son) and putting on his first pair of underwear.  He’s been in underwear ever since, even at night. 

I’d put the timer on for 30 minutes.  When it went off, he’d ring a special bell and I’d yell “It’s potty party time!” (I put a “party” sign on the bathroom door.)  We’d march in and he’d try to go, surprising me by knowing how to pee standing up (he must have learned that at preschool!).  We had a container for toys that was out of reach of his brother, but luckily, keeping my toddler entertained while big brother was in the bathroom was not as much of a challenge as I anticipated.  He wanted to be in the bathroom with us, practice pottying on the portable potty and listening to the stories while big brother waited and waited on the big toilet.  After a successful attempt, complete with flushing and hand washing, I doled out the M&Ms.  You know, I actually bought mini-M&Ms in a cute little tube and gave him 2 each time?  I think that amounted to ½ a regular M&M.  His little brother had to get one for practicing, of course.
As I mentioned earlier, there were quite a few accidents for one day, then he started going on command, and finally, he started telling us when he needed to go.  He was completely potty trained in 4 days, without any wet nights.  We made our special trip to Target to pick out underwear (Thomas, of course!) and we celebrated the end of potty party weekend with cupcakes.  (That was the treat finale.  No more M&Ms!)  We are so proud of our big boy!

(Disclaimer: These are not all original ideas, by the way.  I put together advice from other moms, with a good dose of ideas from Potty Training in One Day by Narmin Parpia (which I didn’t read, only heard tell of) and tips from the book Potty Train in Three Days by Lois Kleint.)
Potty Rating:
J Read once; “I can hold it.”

JJ Read a few times; “Let’s sit and wait.”

 JJJ This is a keeper; “I went potty!”

Pirate Potty (A: Samantha Berger; I: Amy Cartwright) – Of course, a book with accessories becomes immediately endearing, as did this book with its pop-out pirate hat.  Did you know that “Even pirates use the potty!”?  My son was especially taken with the pirate potty songs, which he would try to imitate at times: “Fi-fiddle-dee-dee, I’ve got to make pee-pee. “ Or, “Fi-fiddle-dee-doo, I’ve got to make poo-poo.”  And, yes, there is a girl version called Princess Potty. JJJ
Dinosaur vs. The Potty (A/I: Bob Shea) – Dinosaur is a stubborn toddler who insists he doesn’t need to go potty through a whole series of contests.  He always conquers his liquid-filled (!) fun: making lemonade, running through a sprinkler, drinking three juice boxes at lunch… until finally his victory dance turns into a potty dance.  Who will win?  Dinosaur or the Potty?  A lively, roaring good time (although I’m not sure a toddler will quite follow the connection between the contests and having to use the bathroom…). J

Time to Pee! (A/I: Mo Willems) – MoWillems, of Sesame Street and Knuffle Bunny fame, has created a team of mouse cheerleaders to prompt and encourage toilet use.  One of the best parts is that the book includes a success chart and stickers.  Overall, I found the text a bit disjointed since nearly every word gets its own “text box” in the form of a flag, balloon, parachute, etc., which a mouse is maneuvering.  The pictures are fun to look at, but the message can get lost.  I appreciate the line near the end, “Everything will still be right where it was.”  Most books don’t treat this anxiety, but my son needed to be reassured that his toys would be waiting for him.  (And not played with by his younger brother.) JJ
 The Potty Book for Boys (A: Alyssa Satin Capucilli; I: Dorothy Stott) – As you would expect, there is a “girl” version of this book.  This book was especially effective because the boy’s name and favorite color were the same as my son’s, so he felt like he was the boy in the book.  “Bye-bye, pee!  Bye-bye, poop!” is a line he exclaims when flushing the toilet and we even followed the book’s ideas of calling Grandma to share the news and making a special shopping trip for big boy underwear. JJJ

The Potty Train (A: David Hochman and Ruth Kennison; I: Derek Anderson) – Trains in any form are a big hit in our house, so it is no surprise that this book was requested again and again.  I think it’s a bit vague as far as potty procedures go, but the theme and illustrations are highly engaging.  Another favorite potty line: “Chugga chugga poooo-pooooooo!” JJJ

Big Boys Go Potty (A/I: Marianne Richmond) – I like the way this book starts out describing all the things big boys can do before going into the potty procedure section of the story.  I think this is what drew my son in, too, but it was not his favorite.  Big Girls Go Potty is also available. JJ

It’s Potty Time (for boys; In the “Time to” series) (Edited by Chris Sharp and Gary Currant) – This is a pretty basic “how-to” potty book.  What distinguishes it?  A push button that makes a flushing sound.  That clinched it for us! JJJ

Even Firefighters Go To The Potty: A Potty Training Lift-The-Flap Story (A: Wendy Wax and Naomi Wax; I: Stephen Gilpin) – This might be the overall favorite. This is NOT a potty procedure book, but instead, highlights important community roles, such as firefighter, doctor, police officer, and lets you “open the door” to find them on the potty!  This is funny, of course, but it is also a subtle (or not-so-subtle!) lesson that all people, even role models, have to go to the bathroom.  This was the only book I found that showed an occasional urinal, which was incredibly helpful, since I had never been able to show one to my son in person. JJJ

Friday, June 1, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The Old Woman Who Named Things
Author/Illustrator: Cynthia Rylant/Kathryn Brown
Publisher/Date: Voyager Books/1996

Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+

Themes: loneliness, old age, dogs

Opening: "Once there was an old woman who loved to name things.  She named the old car she drove "Betsy"."

Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly - "The unlikely protagonist of this quirky and tenderhearted story is a little old lady with cat glasses and a beehive who might have stepped out of The Far Side. Lonely, she names inanimate objects-her car is Betsy, her bed is Roxanne. A stray dog wanders into her life but she refuses to name it; after losing many friends "she named only those things she knew she could never outlive." When the dog disappears, however, she realizes that finding him-and subsequently naming him-is worth the risk of outliving him. Brown's (Boris) hilarious, disproportionate depictions of the cowboy-booted woman and her belongings give this tale much of its bounce. Betsy the car has grinning grillwork and huge fins; Fred the chair has buttons for eyes and a rearing, pompadour-like back cushion. This sweet and silly story has solid kid appeal and the Larsonesque visuals will tickle more than a few grown-ups."  Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Why I Love This Book:
This bittersweet story tugs at the heart strings.  Just imagining an old woman, alone in the world, afraid to love, brings tears to my eyes.  But she is warmed by a stray dog who keeps showing up.  Only when he stops coming does she realize her attachment.  Pets have the power to bring joy, hope, and healing.  I also love the way she names her inanimate possessions, which are personified further through the magical illustrations. 

Writing prompt: Name a favorite piece of furniture or a vehicle.  Give it a personality and write about its likes and dislikes.

Research therapy dogs:

Language Arts Lesson Plan, grades 3-5:

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.