Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Octopus' Den

Octopus' Den (Smithsonian Oceanic Collection)
Written by Deirdre Langeland
Illustrated by Steven James Petruccio

During a trip to the tide pools in California my family and I were lucky enough to see our first octopus, and we were all quite enchanted by the experience. So when I noticed this book at the library I decided to take a chance, afterall there had to be something useful in it. There is! This book is unlike other books I have read in that the author manages to weave a realistic but interesting story about an octopus with useful details and information so relevant to the story you can't miss them. I think children learn well this way, and well, so do I! I appreciate the fact that the octopus in the book is simply an octopus and not humanized any more than any octopus should be. He isn't named Fred or Joe, but suitably: Octopus. While reading this book I found myself intrigued with octopus life, and so were my children. The text in this book amazed me because although the storyline is quite simple the author uses awesome descriptive language as well as relevant oceanic vocabulary. My children found this book so interesting that they wanted to act out some octopus adventures of their own after reading it.

It is tempting to think that this book is more special to us because of our personal recent experience with an octopus. But I don't think that this would be fair. I am confident I would love this book nearly as much had I never seen an octopus and only wished I had. I am anxious to find out if my library has any more books from the Smithsonian Institution's Oceanic Collection, the collection this book belongs too. I have high expectations for the other books, and plan to use them with my children this summer in some of our own learning endeavors. This is the kind of book that is so well done that I am motivated to search out other great ones and pay the (gasp!) one dollar to get them via interlibrary loan! I am also seriously considering purchasing a few more as gifts for my children's birthdays because I liked this one so much. Stories are important to children, but so are facts and learning about our world. That is important to everyone. When the two can intertwine so gracefully it is a good thing!

If your children have enjoyed reading the Magic Treehouse Series, this book would be a great companion to #39 Dark Day in the Deep Sea.We love the Magic Treehouse series at our house, but with the magic and fantasy the author often uses, it doesn't hurt to add a little interesting reality at the same time. I think this book would be great for that purpose.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fancy Nancy

Fancy Nancy
Written by Jane O'Conner
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Perhaps you have a little girl who likes pink and purple, or better yet fuschia. Perhaps your little girl likes dressing up, or doing all things with a little bit of flair. Sometimes I take it for granted that everyone knows and loves certain books. Fancy Nancy is one of these books.My goodness, what if you have one of these chic little girls and you haven't yet met Fancy Nancy?! Well, you simply must (darling)!

Although Nancy likes all things fancy, she otherwise comes from a very plain family. One day she decides to place an add on the fridge to see if she can spice things up a little with Fancy Lessons (by Nancy of course). Fortunately, her family signs up for lessons! Nancy can hardly wait to get started, and with a little bit here and a little bit there, her family shows some real potential. They really can be fancy! In celebration, Nancy's Dad takes them all to The Kings Crown (a not so fancy hamburger joint). After a little mishap, Fancy Nancy learns that some things are truly best just the way they are. The illustrations in this book are charming, and the fancy vocabulary is sure to be enjoyed and absorbed. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elizabeti's Doll

Written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Illustrated by Christy Hale

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen has created a story about a little girl with a brand new brother. Elizabeti watches her mother care for her new baby, and then, since she has no doll of her own, she finds a rock instead. She names her rock Eva, and cares for it just as her mother cares for her son.

This short picture book is one that clearly relates a way of life different from my own, without ever purposefully contrasting to it. The author of Elizabeti's Doll, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, spent time in Tanzania in the Peace Corps, where she met the little girl who is Elizabeti's inspiration. Elizabeti and Eva, and their way of life, are worth getting to know in this sweet book.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Magician's Nephew

Written by C.S. Lewis

My five and six year old boys and I just finished reading The Magician's Nephew for the first time, but I have a feeling it won't be our last. This book, written by C.S. Lewis, is nothing short of amazing to me! My children were captivated by the adventure in this tale and I was captivated by the author's well-written words, cleverness, humor, and layers of meaning. I so appreciate that Lewis knows a little about children, which you can see in his writing. This book was enjoyable from the first page to the last. Our family agrees its a keeper. Although Lewis wrote The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe before The Magician's Nephew, the latter tells the history and background for the first. We look forward to reading all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia together and I won't be surprised if they are all read again independently as well. My husband has commented that he doesn't remember seeing my boys quite this excited about any book in the past. These books are truly remarkable!

As our kids have started into school and gotten busier, quiet family times at our house have gotten a little more difficult to find. Having a good book and motivated readers and listeners helps this happen, and all the while I hope we are building memories, bonds, and a life-long love of reading. Reading aloud allows us to read above our children's personal reading level, continuing to build background knowledge and vocabulary, with the the reader there as a reference for the listener. A few chapter books my kids and I have enjoyed include: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,Charlotte's Web, and The Chocolate Touch. I would love some chapter book recommendation from you for my young crowd. I am always seeking them out (and wishing we could read them more frequently)! Happy reading!