Friday, September 14, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Traces

Author/Illustrator: Paula Fox / Karla Kuskin

Publisher/Date: Front Street / 2008

Genre/Audience: poetry / Age 7+

Themes: poetry, senses, nature, fossils, tracks, discovery, science

Opening: Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it in the lily pond, only bubbles of water and air.  Plump, wattled, warty, croaking... [next page] is the bullfrog that left traces in the lily pond.

Synopsis: From This lyric poem by one of our most revered writers captures those faint glimpses of things that you see but don't quite recognize, sounds you can almost hear, smells, tastes, feelings that can't quite name. Each line of the poem and each picture in the book depicts the sensual essence of a child's day, each of which are totally typical and thoroughly unique.

Why I Love This Book: This book encourages close observation and deductive reasoning.  It would pair nicely with early science units that teach the scientific method, the use of a magnifying glass, and keeping a science notebook.  As a third grade teacher, I would have used this again and again throughout the school year before our trips out on the nature trail.  The repetition of "Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it..." keeps the mystery alive, the curiosity peaked, and it makes for a great science writing prompt! 

Take a notebook out in the woods.  List all the clues you find that suggest certain animals, plants, weather... Hypothesize what could have caused that scratch mark on the tree trunk, that nibbled acorn, that blown-over tree. 

Writing prompt: Use the book's repetitive phrase: "Something, someone was just here.  Now there's barely a trace of it..." after a nature walk.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Take a Trip to the Library!

My boys and I spent a lot of time at the library this summer.  Being able to borrow books is genius and I'm so thankful our public sphere has kept libraries open and funded.  I must grab just as many books as my kids (or more!) as I walk through the stacks with them.  They both love to pick books and then sit at a table and read through ALL of them before we check them out.  I'm so glad they love the library.  And there are many terrific picture books about the library.  Check these out next time you're there...literally!

Library Lion (By Michell Knudsen; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes) - A story-hour-loving lion at the library!  What a treat.  He follows the rule about being quiet in the library.  Until one day he doesn't.  This charming book has all the hallmarks of a classic.  It has a lovable central character, an imaginative and unique plot, characters that change, and a satisfying resolution with a cyclical storyline.  Read this finely crafted book to find out how there are occasionally good reasons to break the rules. 

Please Bury Me in the Library (By J. Patrick Lewis; Illustrated by Kyle M. Stone) - Library poetry!  Metaphors, 'punny' language, lots of bouncy rhyming verse and a variety of poetic forms (acrostic, haiku, free verse) take the reader on a journey through words and books.  I can't resist sharing my favorite in its entirety:

What If Books Had Different Names?

What if books had different names
Like Alice in ... Underland?
Furious George,
Goodnight Noon,
Babar the Beaver, and
A Visit from Saint Tickle Us,
Or Winnie-the-Pooh Pooh-Poohs,
The Walrus and the Carp and Her,
The Emperor Has No Clues,
Or Mary Had a Little Clam,
And how about Green Eggs and Spam?
Well, surely you can think of one.
Oh, what extraordinary, merry
Huckleberry Funn!

Book! Book! Book! (By Deborah Bruss ; Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke) - The farm animals are bored when summer is over and the children go back to school so they head to town to find something to do.  The horse, cow, goat, and pig all try to communicate with the librarian without success.  Finally, it is the chicken who gets her point across in this clever play on words and animal sounds.  And watch the illustrations for the frog.  There is a whole other story there!

The Library Pages (By Carlene Morton; Illustrated by Valeria Docampo) - The Library Pages are not in books, as you would imagine.  They are library helpers who are keeping the library in order while their beloved school librarian is on maternity leave.  At least that's what she thinks.  When she pops in a DVD they sent her, she nearly faints.  The books are rearranged, paint is everywhere, and the kids decided checking out books was a waste of time because kids are honest, right?  The clever illustrations add a great perspective to this story, giving it the feel of a home movie.

The Library Dragon (By Carmen Agra Deedy; Illustrated by Michael P. White) - Full of witty word-play and double meanings, this fun read about a dragon librarian who guards the books and thinks "storytime is simply medieval" is sure to make you "on fire with enthusiasm."  Don't miss the WANTED AD pre-title page for a fitting segue into the story.

No T. Rex in the Library (By Toni Buzzeo; Illustrate by Sachiko Yoshikawa) - Tess is in time-out at the library when she knocks over some books and "Roar!"  Tess is riding a T. Rex through the children's room!  As books tumble to the floor, other characters come to life.  Tess and T. Rex have to escape knights, pirates, and cowboys.  But when T. Rex tries to escape planet Earth altogether, Tess puts him in time-out.  It's back to his book for him!  A rollicking, imaginative adventure!

When the Library Lights Go Out (By Megan McDonald; Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson) - In the tradition of toys coming to life after dark, two storyhour puppets, Rabbit and Lion, go on a library adventure to find their friend Hermit Crab.  The story is driven by the characters' imaginations, preoccupations, and perspectives.  Finally, they fall asleep under the stars (which are nametags hanging from the children's room ceiling).

Library Lily (By Gillian Shields; Illustrated by Francesca Chessa) - I can relate to Lily.  As a child, I loved to read, often to the exclusion of everything else.  I am guilty of sitting on my bed and reading on gorgeous summer days when I should have been outside playing.  Lily is so absorbed in books that she doesn't even notice the seasons changing, until she meets Milly, who hates reading.  Together, they explore the world, both inside books and out in nature.  I love how these two friends complement each other, drawing on each others' strengths and bolstering weaknesses.  The bright, engaging illustrations drew me in and made me believe the adventures and connect with the characters.

Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library! (By Vicki Myron and Bret Witter; Illustrated by Steve James) - A kitten in a library book return?  The librarian takes him and and he becomes Dewey Readmore Books, the Library Cat.  Based on a true story, this endearing picture book is by the same author team that brought us the New York Times Bestseller Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.  Now children can enjoy the story, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Wonderful Words: Poems about Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

Author/Illustrator: Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins/Karen Barbour

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2004

Genre/Audience: Poetry/Ages 6+

Themes: poetry, language arts

This collection begins with an Emily Dickinson poem:


A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Synopsis: From Book Jacket: "Whether we are sharing poems or secrets, acting onstage, or just telling jokes, the words we use are our best friends....  Works by Emily Dickinson, Eve Merriam, and Nikki Grimes make whispers, metaphors, and dreams come alive, while Karen Barbour's illustrations interpret the magic of language in vivid hues.  This is a collection sure to insprie wordsmiths of all ages, over and over.  And just maybe there's a poet who didn't know it in you!"

Why I Love This Book:
Poetry to celebrate words... My kind of book!  I wish I had found this book as a teacher.  It applies to all the English Language Arts standards (for New York State, at least).  And the selected poems are not necessarily children's poetry, but still highly accessible to kids.  This book is inspiring to me as a writer.  A few of these poems are going up on my "Inspiration" bulletin board!

Choose a poet and research his/her work.  Here's a great resource:

Create your own magnetic poetry at:

Visit the website of the poet/poetry selector:

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mercer Mayer and Richard Scarry

Mercer Mayer's Little Critter and Richard Scarry's Lowly Worm were characters I looked forward to meeting again and again during nightly storytime as a child.  And now they are favorites of my children.  If you are not familiar with these classic authors, head to the library!  Their timeless charm, accessibility, and pure silliness will win you over.  Here are a smattering of what these authors have to offer.

Richard Scarry was both author and illustrator, publishing books for children mainly in the 1960s and '70s.  Many of his books are short story collections, which is an unusual format for children's picture books.  Scarry's unique style and repeating characters make his books easy to identify.  Eager hands pluck them off the shelf!  His stories are busy, outrageous, and utterly nonsensical, which kids love.  Even without the story, there is so much to see on every oversized page that children can spend hours naming all the objects and people they see depicted.   Lowly Worm (as an adult I get how funny his name is!) was one of my favorite characters.

“I'm not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten. I am very happy when people have worn out my books, or that they're held together by Scotch tape.”
Richard Scarry

Mercer Mayer began illustrating in 1966.  His first published book, A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog, in 1967, was a wordless picture book.  Mayer is credited with being one of the first to use this format. He created five more books in this series.  The Little Critter and Little Monster books became huge hits and the Little Critter series continues to this day in the form of Early Reader books.  Check out the official Little Critter website for activities and stories read by Mercer Mayer!

There's A Nightmare In My Closet resonates with children, who often fear the dark and shadowy places in their room once the lights are out. Of course, there is a surprise ending!

Little Critter has a vivid imagination and tries to be's just that things don't usually go the way he planned. Very endearing, children and parents can relate to Little Critter's antics! Here are some of the favorites in my house: