Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Clever Jack Takes the Cake
Written By: Candace Fleming
Illustrated By: G. Brian Karas

I have mentioned that great books jump into my library pile all the time while I am there, but I have not perhaps mentioned how often it is me that is helping them jump and not my children, have I?  It's true, my kids gravitate towards Scooby Doo, Avatar, Barbie (ugh) and other books that they seem to enjoy, but I do not!  I admit it, some of these books just seem pretty uninteresting.  How do I handle this?  I am not going to say I am an expert, in fact this is a topic I consider often: how do I teach my kids to find quality books?  (What do you do?) I think that when visiting the library it's important to let them have choice and choose books they are drawn to, in fact I consider this paramount.  Sometimes, with careful choosing, my kids choose books we both consider to be perfect for them (and for me as a read-aloud parent!) but this is not always the case. While it's true that the value of a book is in the heart and mind of a reader, and I dearly believe this to be true, (even if they are about cartoon characters),  I dislike my kids to miss out on these higher-quality books I know they will enjoy as well. There are so many of them! What do you do? My simple conclusion is that I simply allot a number of books I get to choose from the children's section also.  I love this.  In this great age of children's books of great number and high quality, it is a joy.  And do you know what?  My kids typically like these books as much or more than the ones they choose.  (I think you can guess why).  At any rate, Clever Jack Takes the Cake is one of those jumping books because, sometimes, I think I can judge a book by its cover.

Clever Jack gets invited to a birthday party for the princess, who is turning 10.  He is thrilled!  However, his mother points out that they have no present fine enough for a princess!  As it continues throughout the book, Jack is neither put out nor sorry, rather he is resourceful and looks on the bright side of things.  He trades some things he does have for ingredients to make a beautiful and rich cake fit for a princess! On his way to the party the next day, some unfortunate events happen. I love Jack's ability to notice what is still good in the situation each time, and make the best of it, and this he does.  By the time he reaches the castle and the beginning of the line to give his gift he has none left.  Although the princess lacks some qualities, she recognizes the value in Jack's real present immediately and we can hope that in their fast friendship Jack does her some good.  Although I would like to have seen this ending fleshed out a bit, my daughter and I found lots to like about this book.  I noticed things to point out and talk about, but will do so especially on an additional reading.  The illustrations in this book are just to my liking, especially, once again such a lovely choice of colors.  So nice!  Don't miss this fun and sweet story, let it and many more books of quality jump into your library pile as well. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Old Potatoes

Two Old Potatoes and Me

Written by John Coy
Illustrated by:  Carolyn Fisher
What a sweet book! This is another of the books that flew into the library pile because it looked so interesting, and it is. I think we can all relate to the girl and her father in this book because, haven't you found a potato in your cupboard that began growing?  Oh, well I have!  The little girl immediately calls out GROSS and tosses the potatoes into the trash.  Her father rescues them, and together they plant these two old potatoes and watch them grow together into many more than two. Finally, father and daughter enjoy mashed potatoes together--and you can too since there is a recipe at the the end.  Extending the story in this way is a favorite of my children!  Yum!

I love that this book shows a sweet relationship between father and daughter working together for an end product.  The illustrations in this book are very different and quite colorful and fabulous, very fun to look at.  I hope come spring we find two old potatoes of our own.  I would love to give it a try.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Milly and The Macy's Parade

Milly And The Macy's Parade
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Happy November!  Although I'm still picking up Halloween candy wrappers, my holiday-loving daughter is wondering already, "What holiday is next mom?"  Thanksgiving!  I just love Thanksgiving, and despite my daughter's efforts to convince me that it would be fun for her to give gifts that day, this is precisely one of the reasons I love this holiday.  Simple gratitude is all that is required! I love working together to prepare a feast, and the joy of just being together with family.What a great holiday!  In celebration of this upcoming day, I am sharing with you a very sweet  picture book called Milly And The Macy's Parade.

Milly came to America from Poland, and since she became accustomed to her new home, she has grown quite fond of it. She especially loves to wander through Macy's department store--the glamorous and glittery place of her father's employment. Although her mother is learning to find some Polish foods, and appreciating a few new ones, and her father is learning more English words, they are still homesick for Poland, especially near holidays.  Milly gets a great idea and convinces Mr. Macy himself that a parade is in order.  Indeed it is and it warms the hearts of the immigrants and helps them find their new American holidays nearly as comforting as their old ones.

This sweet story is fictional but based on some truths about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the America of 1924.  The text has nice vocabulary and an appealing storyline, and illustrations by Brett Helquist are magnificent. This is a sweet and interesting story. I can't wait to point out this famous parade to my children on Thanksgiving day.  For me, once again, a little bit of history goes a long way.

Make sure you haven't missed Brett Helquist's beautiful illustrations in another of his delightful books:  Roger, the Jolly Pirate!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

M is for Mischief

Written by: Linda Ashman
Illustrated by: Nancy Carpenter

So you think your kids are naughty sometimes?  Well, trust me, they are not! The poems in this book, one for each letter, are about the most mischievous kids you can imagine.  Even your own kids won't believe it!  This book is a fun anthology of poems arranged by letter and with vocabulary emphasized by letter as well, each with very very unbelievably horrifically mischievous naughty children! (So naughty mostly I think your kids wouldn't dare to copy them!) :)  A fun book obviously with letter value, high interest factor for kids, and rich and different vocabulary.   Mischievous!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Sings from The Treetops: A Year in Colors

Red Sings From The Treetops: A Year in Colors

Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

 Poetry can be such a sweet but elusive thing to me. I am not a well-read when it comes to poetry, but each time I read it, I love it! As a reader, I am accustomed to reading quickly; understanding.  Poetry makes me slow down, and think a little more; sometimes a lot more.  That is what makes it so refreshing and worthwhile.   I know this about myself and poetry, and I see the same thing with my children, and so Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colorssat waiting in my book pile for a bit before I was ready to slow down enough to read it.  When I did--I loved it!  LOVE!

The book is what it claims to be: a year in colors.  Starting with Spring and ending with Winter you travel through the seasons with colors, and you see them all the while through words as well as pictures.  Oh, the art!  The art is so amazing, the colors (so fittingly) are so right on, that it makes my heart sing!  I adore the colors in this book.  The paintings are indeed what caught my daughter on her first run through, she found much to point out and much to talk about, and loved to guess which color was about to be explained in the season through the next poem. We loved this book.  As is typical for me, I also love that this book has a lot of rereading potential--more to learn each time, and more for my children to discover as they mature.

Poetry can be an interesting thing for children--my children.  All readers are different, inlcuding young ones, and I see this when we are reading poetry as well.  Poetry  is wide-ranging and so there are types to suit each taste.  My children all love funny poems.  My children especially love poems with accompanying amazing pictures.  But then, my children are also different.  The five year-old daughter I read this with is busy, she chatters and moves a lot.  Perhaps she is most still typically, when she is reading!  But this book's pictures found reason for her to say things, lots of things, while we read.  Because of this she missed a lot of words, but she didn't miss an experience.  With more readings she will catch more words, more meanings, will ask more questions, and find still more to talk about in the illustrations.  When I think of another child of mine, a son, I think at this same age he would have listened and caught more language, as language is his love, maybe missing more of the pictures.  All kids are different, all people are different, and there are books and poems to suit us all.  Sometimes one may suit most of us, but in different ways.  Oh, the joy of reading, and sharing a book with another!

We loved this book, the 2010 Caldecott Winner (I have not mentioned this yet, have I?) I am grateful for the award, because the popularitiy if it made the cover familiar to me.  What if I would have missed it?  Oh thank goodness I didn't, because we so enjoyed the red singing from the treetops! I hope you do too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Orange Splot

The Big Orange Splot
Written and illustrated by: Daniel Manus Pinkwater

You know that unusual house in your town?  The one that has more colors than all the rest, or unusually bright colors, some yard art, maybe even a picture or two?  The Big Orange Splot is about a house like that. A house that is different, that stands out in the crowd.  That house in your town might be considered anything from interesting to an artist's abode, to an eyesore...and it seems every town has at least one.  Does yours?  I hope so! 

Well, Mr Plumbean initially accidentally ends up with one of those unusual houses. You see, a bird accidentally drops a can of orange paint on his roof (no one knows why).  And before he gets around to getting rid of that spot, he seems to kind of get used to the idea...and then he expands on it.  The people on his street are not amused.  But then he gets them one by one to listen to his dreams, and then he listens to theirs...and then suddenly his street is not quite as tidy as it used to be.  And they all like it that way.

I love the way this book invites you to be bold,  think out of the box, and perhaps most of all dream.  It makes a great read aloud, and talk aloud.  It is a children's classic. Don't forget to paint a picture of your own house of dreams!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trout are Made of Trees

Trout are Made of Trees
Written by: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrated by: Kate Endle

Did you know trout are made of trees?  Really?  This title intrigued me from the beginning as I stumbled upon this book at the library. As I read it to my five year old I  found out it was an amazing concept for her as well!  So amazing in fact, that more reads are necessary to fully comprehend this unbelievable idea of the life cycle!    The simplicity the author uses really lends this book to become a read aloud so that much (simple) discussion can ensue.  I am a huge fan of basic science books for young kids to build background and introduce what can be complex ideas.  Beautiful basic colorful illustrations match this text perfectly. This is a great one!