Friday, April 26, 2013

PPBF: Poetrees

Perfect Picture Book Friday


Author/Illustrator: Douglas Florian
Publisher/Date: Beach Lane Books/2010
Genre/Audience: Poetry/Ages 6+
Themes: trees, poetry

First Poem - "The Seed" (written in a cyclical form as a figure eight)
"Inside this seed you'll find a stem and leaf that grow with rain into a trunk and branch and leaf and seed that starts again."

Synopsis: (From Booklist)

"Starting with the book’s title and ending with a final glossatree, the wordplay in Florian’s latest poetry collection provides plenty of fun. Each of the 18 poems celebrates the wonder of trees, from the giant sequoia (the world’s tallest trees) and the Banyan (an acre in its canopy) to the bristlecone pine, one of the oldest trees on earth (alive for fifty cen-trees). Each poem is printed on a vertical double-page spread illustrated with mixed-media artwork in gouache, watercolor, colored pencil, rubber stamps, oil pastels, and collage on brown paper bags. The dramatic swirling visuals sometimes swamp the words, but the blurry images do leave room for kids to use their imaginations as they interpret the poems. The big pages are well suited for group sharing, as are the playful puns (Lovely leaves / Leave me in awe). The final fascinating notes on each tree, and on leaves, stems, and roots, spell out the call for conservation that is part of the poetry and pictures." Grades 3-6. --Hazel Rochman

Why I Love This Book
Here is another excellent book to pair April's designation as National Poetry Month and the April environmental holidays of Earth Day and Arbor Day, which is today! Florian is a master of wordplay and he uses a variety of poetry forms. In this book, he deals with parts of a tree ("Roots", "Leaves", "Bark") and specific trees ("Oak", "Coconut Palm", "Paper Birch"). This collection is rich in familiar and not-so familiar trees and offers a helpful glossary ("glossatree"!) at the end.

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Three Little Pigs - Post 1 of 2

If you come to my house, you will probably get roped into playing The Three Little Pigs. My 4-year-old will dictate who will be the wolf and who will be the pigs. Or from a different version, who will be the rigs and the big, bad wrecking ball. Or even the aliens and the big, bad robot (read on!). My boys love the repetitive lines that involve huffing and puffing and chinny-chin-chins. There is something about the themes of good vs. evil and outsmarting the villain that captures the imagination.

If you read the original tale, though, only the smartest (brick house) pig survives the wolf's attacks and outsmarts him a number of times before the wolf comes down the chimney and the pig boils him and eats him for supper. Needless to say, most of the retellings I've come across go the route of the first and second pig running to the next sibling for help and the wolf getting away with only a scalding at the end. I prefer this change myself, and it seems that taking the harshness out of the story has opened the door for some fabulous fractured fairy tales. Enjoy!

The Three Little Pigs by Steven Kellogg - In this silly and delightful rendition, the pigs are waffle entrepreneurs who are frightened when the wolf, Tempesto, turns their quiet world upside-down. Sporting a shirt that says, "Say YES to THUGS", the wolf, as expected, has a bad temper and a big appetite. And he hates waffles. Luckily the pigs' mama, Serafina Sow, receives the airmailed request for help (Don't skip the title page or you will miss this part!) and arrives just in the nick of time.

The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel; Illustrated by Valeria Docampo - Three tamales run away from the little restaurant where they are left by the window to cool. They don't want to be eaten! One makes a home of sagebrush, one of cornstalks, and one inside a cactus. When Señor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, comes along, the tamales have to think fast. I really enjoy the rhyming dialogue between Señor Lobo and the tamales in this book. Punctuated with Spanish words, this charming Southwestern version of The Three Little Pigs has a glossary at the beginning. And for those familiar with Kimmel's The Runaway Tortilla, this is an almost sequel.

Three Little Cajun Pigs by Mike Artell; Illustrated by Jim Harris - Here is a fabulous Cajun retelling, written in rhyme and dialect, which transports any read-aloud to a Louisiana bayou.  Check out the opening couplet: "In south Loo-siana, where gators grow big,/ Live t'ree Cajun pigs and an ol' mama pig." And there is a helpful glossary at the beginning for pronunciation and definitions of the French that is included in the story. Also check out Petite Rouge, by the same team, which is a Cajun retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

The Three Horrid Little Pigs by Liz Pichon - So why did the first two pigs build their houses of straw and twigs? Because they are lazy, of course! Hysterical illustrations couple with this topsy-turvy retelling that let the reader see the characters in a new light. The wolf is just a builder who wants to help! But what will he do when the three pigs want to steal his house? "...he got out a great big pot of boiling..." Read the story to find out!

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara; Illustrated by Mark Fearing - This version is certainly unique and even a bit educational. The reader gets a lesson on the solar system as three aliens seek the right place to build a home. (Earth is not considered because it is too crowded.) With updated repetitive phrases to reflect aliens, robots, and space rovers, this story successfully moves the original tale to a place where no pig has gone before. My boys especially liked the robot voice, which they use in their play often.

Friday, April 19, 2013

PPBF: Bag in the Wind

April is National Poetry Month. Share your favorite children's poetry. I hope you'll join the discussion!

Earth Day is April 22nd. 

Celebrate with this tour de force (and first picture book)
 by former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser.

Title: Bag in the Wind
Author/Illustrator: Ted Kooser/Barry Root
Publisher/DateCandlewick Press/2010
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 5+
Themes: recycling, waste, landfills, reuse, interconnectedness, ecology

Opening "One cold, windy morning early in spring, a bulldozer was pushing a big pile of garbage around a landfill when it uncovered an empty plastic bag."

Synopsis: (From Booklist)
"The life of a plastic bag in a landfill is extraordinarily uneventful and long—15,000 years, give or take a few millennia—but in this former U.S. poet laureate’s first picture book, a beige grocery bag serves an array of inventive uses in but a tiny sliver of that life span. Set against a barren plains landscape, Kooser’s circular story follows a plastic bag, “the color of the skin of a yellow onion,” as it travels in a chain of happenstance from landfill, to tree, to stream, and among the various citizens of a nearby town, including a young girl, a homeless man, and a shopkeeper. The muted, dappled colors of Root’s gouache and watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to Kooser’s lengthy, meditative passages, which celebrate not only the virtues of economy and ecology but, moreover, the interconnectedness of all things. An excellent opener for discussions about creative reuse and recycling, the book concludes with an informational author’s note." --Kristen McKulski

Why I Love This Book
Not much is lyrical about trash, but Ted Kooser found a way to make a humble plastic bag the centerpiece of a poetic story with an ecological angle. Not only is it a commentary on recycling, but Kooser also weaves sustainable practices, like gardening, and social issues, like homelessness, into his web. It has a lovely cyclical form and a handy author's note at the end.

Now go and celebrate Earth Day!

Plastic Bag/Film Recycling Poster - Very helpful to see what can and cannot be recycled with your grocery bags
Interactives: Explore Recycle City and play the Dump Town game!

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Piggies Postponed

I was going to post some Three Little Pigs variations today, (Yes, my household is STILL very much into fractured fairy tales) but this is the first day in about a month that I've actually had nothing scheduled so I am going to


Fear not! The Three Little Pigs (and their wolf counterparts) will make an appearance here in the not-so-distant future.

Now go and take some time for YOURSELF!

Friday, April 12, 2013

PPBF: Color Me a Rhyme


Share your favorite children's poetry book during the month of April. Happy National Poetry Month!

TitleColor Me a Rhyme
Author/Illustrator:Jane Yolen/Photographs by Jason Stemple
Publisher/Date: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press/2000
Genre/Audience: Poetry/Ages 9-11 (younger if reading aloud)
Themes: color, nature, poetry

Opening: "A Note from the Author"
"When Jason Stemple and I discussed this book, I said, "Find me colors in nature!" He laughed. He knew as I did that there are colors everywhere. The problem, of course, was not finding the colors, but isolating them."

Poem: "Orange"
I want to take a bite
out of that sunset sky,
letting the orange juices
run down my chin,
spitting out the pulp
onto the rocks below.

Synopsis: (From Booklist)

"There's a lot of good stuff going on in this imaginatively conceived and elegantly executed collection. On one page of each double-page spread is a poem (in one case, two haiku) evoking a color in nature--gray, orange, blue, brown, yellow. Opposite is a photograph, by freelance photographer Jason Stemple (Yolen's son), set like a cabochon jewel on a pale background of related images and words: sloe, sable, and jet for black; plum, orchid, and amethyst for purple. Each word is printed in its own hue. Somewhere on each spread is a sliver of a quotation about the color, from Mother Goose ("Its fleece was white as snow") to Eugene Field ("Any color so long as it's red"). The book is a visual feast, and a verbal one, too, for the poems are striking: in "Green," "poets know / all the secret words, / some of which they make up, / all of which are / green." In "Pink: A Haiku," "A surge of sunlight / Shocks through stem and thistle hairs / A punk pink hairdo." In her author's note, which precedes the text, Yolen urges readers to use the photographs as inspiration for their own poems, and she closes with "Crayons: A Rainbow Poem." GraceAnne DeCandido

Why I Love This Book
This poetry collection was a favorite to use in my classroom. With nature as its theme, it is the perfect choice for April, which is both National Poetry Month and the month in which Earth Day falls. Not only that, but Yolen encourages the reader to write their own color poems by providing a selection of "color" words that frame each photograph, You can teach poetry forms through this text, as well. Yolen uses a variety: free verse, rhyming, haiku; all with rich figurative language, of course.

"You can write poems from his photos, too. And as an added incentive, I have included extra "color" words to help you." -Jane Yolen, from her "A Note from the Author" which precedes the poems in this book.

Take a walk and bring a camera. Capture your own nature images to use as writing prompts.

Kids site which discusses why rainbows form

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Kid Lit Book Club: Have you discovered any great children's poetry lately? I've posted my selections! Come join the discussion.

It's Wednesday! Do you know what time it is? That's right! Time for more
Fractured Fairy Tales! 
This week's feature is The Three Billy Goats Gruff. You know the classic tale: Three goats try to cross the bridge. A troll threatens to eat each one, but let's the two smaller ones pass to save room for the biggest brother. But the troll is no match for the biggest billy goat, who promptly butts him off the bridge. Here are four terrific takes on this story.

The Three Cabritos (Eric A. Kimmel; Stephen Gilpin) - In the Author's Note, Kimmel describes his retelling as "a Texas twist." Instead of a troll, he uses Chupacabra, which is "a legendary creature who attacks farm animals at night." So his retelling involves a night...and the cabritos (young goats) have to cross the bridge over the Rio Grande. This unique tale involves a musical twist that defeats the fearsome Chupacabra. A Spanish glossary is at the end.

The Three Silly Girls Grubb (John and Ann Hassett) - The "troll" in this story is a bully who always skips school. Three girls are the "kids".  Will Ugly-Boy Bobby eat their lunches as they try to get to school? Read this very silly version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff to find out!

The Three Billy Goats Fluff (Rachael Mortimer; Liz Pichon) - After falling for a bad real estate deal, the Troll is grumpy in his new abode under the bridge because it is far too noisy to sleep with all the trip-trapping going on over his head. Luckily, Mother Goat, who has her own knitting business, figures out how to befriend their new neighbor and keep her kids safe (pun intended :).

The Three Silly Billies (Margie Palatini; Barry Moser) - Click the title for a previous post on this very PUNNY book :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

PPBF: Shining


Share your favorite children's poetry book during the month of April. Happy National Poetry Month!

Title: Shining
Author/Illustrator:Julius Lester/John Clapp
Publisher/DateSilver Whistle: Harcourt, Inc./2003
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 6+
Themes: being different, fear, listening, true-to-self, coming-of-age, "variations around the theme of the color black" (from Author's Note), figures of speech

"Once upon a time and long, long ago, in a mountain village far, far away, a girl as black and silent as wonder was born."

Synopsis: (From book jacket)
"As black as wisdom, with a gaze as bottomless as the unknown, Shining is as quiet at the night. Although she is silent, her parents are devoted and steadfast in their love for her. What they cannot know, as she grows, is that the day will come when the mystery will end and they will come to understand her silence. One day, Shining will be the leader of her people. Newbery Honor author Julius Lester has created a tale of individuality - part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story - about the power of listening to the silence within."

Why I Love This Book
The lyrical language is gorgeous and Lester's theme to "create figures of speech in which the color black would be associated with goodness and beauty rather than evil and ugliness" is a noble one. This unique tale of being different, the power of fear, and the importance of listening captured my heart.

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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recommendations from a Soon-to-Be FOUR-Year-Old

I'm going to take a break from fractured fairy tales this week to share some of my oldest's recent favorites.  Trains are his thing. Surprisingly, there are no train books on this list. I think we've gotten every train book ever written out of the library multiple times...but they are perpetual favorites, not recent finds. Since he'll be FOUR this week, consider these preschooler recommendations his gift to you :) Happy Birthday, H!

Another Brother (Matthew Cordell) - This book begins with one of the best opening lines: "For four glorious years, Davy had Mom and Dad all to himself." Talk about a set-up! Combine that with the title and you know there is going to be a big problem. But how big? "12 WHOLE BROTHERS!" big. Cordell takes a fairly common problem (older sibling has a younger sibling who is a copycat) and multiples it by twelve. H's favorite part is the spread smack-dab in the middle of the book with cartoon-like actions and speech-bubbles, depicting all the annoying ways Davy's little brothers copy him.

The Three Little Rigs (David Gordon) - In this big machine version of the Three Little Pigs (okay, so this post is not completely devoid of fractured fairy tales), the Three Little Rigs go off to build their own garages. But watch out for the Big Bad Wrecking Ball! This is not my favorite version of the classic tale. It seems awfully dark and ominous to me. The wrecking ball enlists the help of the Mean Magnet and the Cruel Cutter and their fate is a vat of liquid steel. But for some reason, H has been asking for this again and again. I'm looking forward to returning it to the library.

If I Built a House (Chris Van Dusen) - This incredible book is imagination epitomized. Jack dreams of a house that is not "bland". In vivid 50's-style art, Van Dusen depicts a child's dream house, complete with tower bedroom, racing room, and an aquarium so large you can swim around in it. This is a companion book to If I Built a Car, which has a similar theme.

Stop That Pickle! (Peter Armour; Andrew Shachat) - This is what you would get if you crossed The Gingerbread Man with a New York City Deli. The last pickle in the jar manages to escape from the deli. When the owner runs out of steam, a wide array of edibles, from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to seventeen toasted almonds, take on the chase. The pickle outsmarts them all until he is knocked out when he runs into a boy. Will he finally be eaten? This is a very offbeat, bizarre story with a bit of a macabre ending.  I'm not sure why it is a favorite, although the refrain "Stop That Pickle!" is pretty fun to shout.

B is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC (June Sobel; Melissa Iwai) - While the alphabet mainly highlights construction words, the illustrations tell the rest of the story. This is no ordinary construction site! Join the townspeople as they watch from the other side of the fence through all the seasons of the year in great anticipation of the opening of a ... No, I'm not going to tell you! Get this book out of the library and enjoy it with your preschooler.