Monday, January 28, 2013

Let the Book Club Begin!

On Monday, January 28th, the American Library Association presented their 2013 Youth Media Awards, which include the Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards, among many others.

2013 is a special year for the Randolph Caldecott Medal. It has been awarded for 75 years to "the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children."

What better way to begin a book club for children's literature than to share our favorite Caldecott award winners?

Topic #1: The Caldecott Medal
Post between January 30, 2013 and February 27, 2013

1. Choose a picture book that won a Caldecott Award or Caldecott Honor.
2. Share the title, author/illustrator, publication year, and the reason for your choice on the book club Google Groups page HERE.
3. Feel free to comment/discuss!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday

TitleA River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Author/Illustrator: Jen Bryant/ Melissa Sweet
Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2008
Genre/Audience: Biography/Ages 7+
Themes: poetry, biography, William Carlos Williams

"On his prescription pads, he scribbled a few lines
whenever and wherever he could.
In those precious times,
the rhythm of the river he had rested beside
as a child seemed to guide him. Like the water
that sometimes ran slow, smooth, and steady,
and other times came rushing in a hurried flood,
Willie's lines flowed across the page."

Synopsis: From School Library Journal - Starred Review. Grade 3–6—This stunning picture-book biography combines a lyrical text with wonderfully creative mixed-media illustrations in an impressive and personable homage to an extraordinary and accomplished man. Bryant's poetic writing—"Gurgle, gurgle—swish, swish, swoosh…. The water went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below"—describes beautifully how, as a child, Williams would lie peacefully by the Passaic River, listening to the sounds of the water; he appreciated nature and the ordinary experiences of life. Book pages form a background for some of the illustrations and prescription pads become the paper for the doctor's poetic scribbling. A lovely spread shows a display of constellations while in the foreground, the poet sits framed in the light of an attic window, with one of his poems about a night sky laid out on a book cover. Williams's poems, which appear in the book in a variety of colors and fonts as part of the art, are highlighted in uniform type with standard line breaks on the inside cover pages. A time line of his life juxtaposed with a list of world events, a brief author's note about his significance as a poet, and an illustrator's note that explains how Sweet researched the project are appended.—Kirsten Cutler

Why I Love This Book:
Picture book biographies offer an accessible medium for introducing children to influential people across all disciplines. I picked up this intriguing book because the poetry of William Carlos Williams and his themes of everyday objects and experiences resonates with me. This is apparent in the book and children will also be drawn in by familiar themes, such as poem "The Great Figure" about a fire truck, which inspired a painting by his friend Charles Demuth entitled, "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold." 

I also love the message that Williams' life teaches. He was a doctor who was also a poet. Children need to know that they can have multiple interests and pursue them with equal vigor.


Poems of William Carlos Williams

Audio of Williams reading his poem "This is Just To Say"

Lesson Plan: grades 5-8

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Needs Words?

I love wordless picture books. I am always enthralled by the way that illustrations alone can tell a compelling story. My boys' preschool teacher at Roots and Wings requested a post about this special genre and I am happy to oblige. In fact, one was already in the works! It was a good excuse to move this theme to the top of my list. They are currently exploring color and the visual arts. A perfect pairing for wordless picture books!

Wordless picture books have an important place on the shelf when considering books that support language development. They build an understanding of story structure and encourage "reading" by preschoolers. Wordless picture books can be used in the elementary and middle school classrooms as a springboard for writing lessons, while single pages or whole books can be used as writing prompts. In art class, wordless books can be used to teach visual storytelling. It is important to note that 'wordless' does not mean 'simplistic.' While most are appropriate for preschoolers, there are some that would fit better into an elementary and beyond setting, therefore I have listed my suggestions in two categories. I would love to hear which wordless books your students/children enjoy! 

Preschool and up

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. His series of wordless books is very accessible to a young audience. They are ideal for letting the child tell the story, describe the setting, make inferences, and enjoy the humor apparent in the illustrations.

            •    A Boy, a Dog and a Frog (1967)
            •    Frog, Where Are You? (1969)
            •    A Boy, a Dog, a Frog, and a Friend (1971)
            •    Frog on His Own (1973)
            •    Frog Goes to Dinner (1974)
            •    One Frog Too Many (1975)

Mouse Colors by Jim Arnosky - A mouse begins to paint with the primary colors and, along the way, discovers secondary colors by accident. The color words are printed in the book as they are introduced, but the story is completely visual. My boys love how the mouse artist paints himself an adventure!

Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins - Wooden blocks are versatile toys that encourage imaginative play. Follow a toy couple as they transform their block house into various vehicles to meet their needs in any situation. A satisfying circular story.

The Red Book by Barbara Lehman - A magical book is the doorway to friendship and adventure in this surprising story. Barbara Lehman won a Caldecott Honor for this book.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka - Daisy the dog loves her red ball. What will she do when another dog grabs it at the park? Children will relate to this book's universal themes of losing a favorite toy and accepting responsibility.

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman - A boy makes a discovery on a rainy day that turns his lonely, boring day into an adventure. An exciting and accessible visual romp for the youngest set.

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann - A bird finds its way into a natural history museum, flying among the dinosaur skeletons when it is suddenly transported back to the Jurassic era. The rich illustrations were awarded a Caldecott Honor and will appeal to dinosaur lovers of all ages.

Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day - With only one line of dialogue on the first and last pages, this classic story of a dog babysitter still delights children with the secret and special bond between dog and child.

Elementary School and up

Shadow by Suzy Lee - A little girl explores an attic where a single lightbulb illuminates the odds and ends accumulated there. With the help of her imagination, the shadows morph and grow into creatures and a jungle. Using an innovative book design where the book is read from top to bottom, Lee allows the light and shadow to converge, drawing the reader into the the girl's play.

Flotsam by David Wiesner - Wiesner's astonishing and masterfully layered illustrations burst with color and complexity in this unexpected adventure that spans time and space. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, Flotsam suspends reality and promises surprising rewards to the observant. Watch the book trailer here.

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang - Molly Bang creates a startling wordless story where the Grey Lady is chased by the Strawberry Snatcher, narrowly escaping again and again until her pursuer gives up and discovers a different kind of berry. A Caldecott Honor Book.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into The Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser - There is much to see in this rollicking story when a girl's yellow balloon, which she has entrusted to a museum guard, gets loose and floats around New York City. Many different characters join the guard as they strive to retrieve the balloon. The lively, cartoon-like illustrations are punctuated by reproductions of art found at the museum, which mirror the balloon's story.

Clown by Quentin Blake - Many will recognize Quentin Blake as the artist whose work illustrated Roald Dahl's books. From the back cover: "One day, Clown is thrown into the trash, but he doesn't stay there long. He tries to find someone to take care of his friends, but no one listens. Then Clown finds someone he can take care of, and together, they make a home for everyone."

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg - While technically not a wordless picture book, I had to include The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In the introduction, the origin of the enigmatic illustrations that fill the book is addressed. Then the reader is presented with page after page of fantastical, sometimes disturbing, always surprising illustrations that include a title and a caption. This is an incredible book to use with upper elementary and middle school students as a writing prompt.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday

TitleWhere is Grandpa?
Author/Illustrator: T.A. Barron/ Chris K. Soentpiet
Publisher/Date: Philomel Books/2000
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+
Themes: Death of a Grandparent, grief, memories

Opening: "'Every bird needs a nest, and every kid needs a tree.' That's what Grandpa said before he built my tree house in the old cottonwood. He knew how much I like to climb trees. Especially this tree."

Synopsis: From School Library Journal - "A gentle story of a young boy's grief when his beloved grandfather dies. His family talks about their positive memories of him-adventures shared, a funny Halloween incident, and how easy he was to talk to. However, the narrator cannot verbalize his memories until his father answers such questions as "Where is Grandpa now?" or "Where is heaven?" Struggling with his own grief, his dad tries to answer as truthfully as he can. He explains that "-heaven is any place where people who love each other have shared some time together." The story is set against a backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains. At first, the watercolor paintings seem to glow with a very bright "liquid light" (a phrase of Grandpa's), but that brightness gradually softens to more soothing colors as the family contemplates the man's death. After Dad answers the child's questions, the colors lighten again, suggesting the coming resolution of their grief. A helpful introduction to death and the grieving process."

Why I Love This Book:
Death and grief are truly difficult subjects for young children. I appreciate the practicality, sensitivity, and honesty of this book that shows adults grieving with their children. Fond memories percolate to an understanding that "heaven is any place where people who love each other have shared some time together."

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Day On, Not a Day Off

This Saturday (1/19/13) marks the National Day of Service and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which encourage Americans to make the MLK Federal Holiday a "day on, not a day off." This is a great opportunity to share the act of serving others with your children/students. Use the following books as a springboard for discussions about service, helping others, and making the world a better place. Find a service project that matches their interests or fills a need in your community. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "... anybody can serve."

“Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
— Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther Kind, Jr. (Written by Doreen Rappaport; Illustrated by Bryan Collier) - This picture book is so inviting. The title appears on the back cover to allow King's smiling portrait to welcome readers into the story, just as I imagine he welcomed all those who wanted to work for peaceful change. King's own words are paired with deftly crafted collages, creating a poignant biography that is accessible to young readers and true to the spirit of King's life and the Civil Rights Movement.

Miss Rumphius (Written and Illustrated by Barbara Cooney) - When Miss Rumphius is a little girl, she dreams of following in her grandfather's footsteps: traveling and living by the sea. But her grandfather reminds her that she also has a responsibility "to make the world more beautiful." She finds this to be a difficult task, but when she discovers how she can fulfill her promise, she sets to work. I especially love how this book ends as it began, with the same call to beauty, passing along this important task to the next generation.

We Dream of a World... (Written and Illustrated by the Gifted and Talented Students of Pershing Accelerated School in University City, Missouri) - This book is a winner of Scholastic's "Kids Are Authors" Competition. Each page finishes the phrase "We Dream of a World...", providing facts and suggesting actions that students can take to participate in making the world a better place.  There is even a template at the end of the book for readers to fill in their own dreams for the world.

Each Living Thing (Written by Joanne Ryder; Illustrated by Ashley Wolff) - This lovely poem reminds readers to be gentle with the Earth and all of its creatures. It subtlety leads the reader from a backyard observation of spiders to the sea and the skies and the animals that inhabit the world at night. Wolff's illustrations are like snapshots of a variety of ecosystems, including a bayou, a coral reef, and a desert. Readers are left with this responsibility: "Be watchful. Let them be."

The Quiltmaker's Journey (Written by Jeff Brumbeau; Illustrated by Gail de Marcken) - This story reads like a fairy tale, yet the "happily ever after" is very atypical. A girl grows up in luxury, as do all the people in her community. This is all she knows and she assumes that outside the town walls, every person is as lucky. Even though she has everything, she is not happy and longs to see what lies beyond the gates. When she discovers that there are poor in the world, she takes the risk of leaving her fortune far behind in order to help those in need, and so finds true happiness. Rich quilt-pattern inspired spreads grace the pages of this book, inviting readers to attend to both the text and the illustrations. While this is not a quick read-aloud, it is well worth the time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street
Author/Illustrator: Roni Schotter/Kyrsten Brooker
Publisher/Date: Orchard Books/1997
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4-7+
Themes: Writing, city life, cause and effect

Opening: "Eva unwrapped a cinnamon Danish, opened her notebook, and stared helplessly at the wide, white pages."

SynopsisFrom Booklist - "Eva's homework assignment is to write about what she knows, but she thinks that observing the goings-on in her neighborhood will be boring. At first she's right. One neighbor doesn't smile, several have job problems, one can't get his mousse to taste right. All of them have suggestions for Eva's writing, though. They advise her to stretch the truth, add action as if it were seasoning, and, most of all, when the story bogs down, ask, "What if . . . ?" and try to figure out what happens next. That's just what Eva does, and with the help of her manipulation, neighbors start falling in love, opening restaurants, and adding mocha to mousse. The story meanders at times, but Brooker's snazzy artwork will keep readers and listeners focused. Resembling the pictures of Lane Smith but executed in collage, the stylized art has action and humor enough for children but is visually interesting enough to appeal to adults reading it aloud. An excellent choice to use with older children studying creative writing." Ilene Cooper

Why I Love This Book:
This is a book for writers of all ages. Somehow, Roni Schotter puts a variety of writing lessons into a compelling story. Teachers, writers, and children will all find something to love about this book!

Use each piece of advice given by the characters in the story to drive a writing lesson or a writing prompt.

Here's an Elementary/Intermediate Lesson Plan with printables

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