Category Archives: Children's Literature

Read Across America

Happy Read Across America Day – and Dr. Seuss’s Birthday!

Check out Live-Brary’s info on this celebration here.

Also, Seussville has a great online collection of materials for educators to use in their classrooms to celebrate with kids.

 

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Book Review: “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Written in free verse, this book tells a semi-autobiographical story of a ten-year-old Vietnamese girl in 1975. Her family must decide what to do with the impending coming of the Communists to their home in Saigon. Their lives change forever, and the reader gets to see the emotional impact of these real events through the eyes of the young girl. I highly recommend this book which treats the serious subjects of war and refugees in an relatable way. It is a quick read too; it took me only about ninety minutes to get through. The author notes at the end of the book that the situation of the family, as well as many specific anecdotes, were straight from her own life.

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Book Review: “Waiting for the Magic” by Patricia MacLachlan

Waiting for the MagicWaiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan

This novel, written by Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah, Plain & Tall), I recommend highly for children who are beginning chapter book reading, as well as adults. MacLachlan does an excellent job of treating serious family concerns(absentee fatherhood, pregnancy) through children’s [and pets’] eyes. William and Elinor’s father leaves his family (again) and their mother decides to take corrective action by adopting four dogs and a cat. The family readjusts, and the reader sees, through William’s perspective, the conflicted emotions of being a child in a broken family. MacLachlan not only writes with poignancy, but with a sense of whimsy as well, when the children find out that their new pets can speak to them (Elinor hears first, since all four-year-olds can hear magic, according to the littlest dog). “Waiting for the Magic” is a sweet story that grapples with serious issues with a tone that isn’t ominous, and offers an uplifting message about the endurance of the family. Amy June Bates’ occasional black-and-white sketch illustrations support the text and help the reader to visualize each individual member of the family, human and otherwise.

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Book Review: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Image from Jim Trelease's Website

The Handbook begins with a rationale for the importance of reading aloud to children, and cites statistics and case studies that show the benefits it offers to literacy, family togetherness, child development, and more.  Then, Trelease walks the reader through some practical techniques as well as beginning reading suggestions for every age and interest.

Based on his experience as a father and grandfather, and his familiarity with many anecdotes from other parents, Trelease tells us (p. 4) that there are some major advantages derived from reading aloud to [your] child:

  • Associating reading with pleasure in the child’s brain
  • Establishing background knowledge (ie, what animals live on farms, what a bulldozer looks like, what a fiddle is).
  • Building vocabulary (Children’s picture books are meant to be read to a child not by a child because their vocabulary and structure are too sophisticated.)
  • Provide a positive reading role model (YOU!)

Although I’m only about halfway done reading The Handbook, I’ve skimmed the final sections that contain a plethora of reading recommendations of every sort.  I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook to parents, teachers, librarians, and any other professional that works with children.

Here’s a link to the author Jim Trelease’s home page that contains book lists, lecture downloads, and excerpts/major points from every chapter of his book.

How to Give a Cat a Bath, and other dangerous advice

After decompressing from a semester of MLS studies, I’m finally getting back to Mr. Blog.  I’ve been reading a bit here and there, and have even been putting my VCR to good use.

Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I discovered this delightful little series of picture books and illustrated children’s chapter books that center around the life of a very, very bad, bad kitty.

In the original picture book, Bad Kitty, the kitty is loathe to find out that he’s been temporarily restricted to a vegetable diet.  Fortunately, his hazardous protests throughout the house won him back his omnivorous cat food.  The book, and its sequel, Poor Puppy (in which the kitty is introduced to an over-friendly new housemate), incorporate the alphabet and counting, and are devilishly funny and random in their choice of vocabulary.

Additionally, Bruel wrote illustrated chapter books about specific aspects of the kitty’s life, including Bad Kitty Gets a Bath. In this hilarious volume, the kitty’s owner explains the dangers involved in attempting to clean a cat, including injury, death, and pants-wetting.  The book even gives a detailed illustration and explanation of the escalating levels of cat anger as expressed through different hisses.  Any cat-lover (or cat-hater, even) will recognize the high-strung attitude of kitty, something common to many of our feline friends.  I highly recommend these books, to adults and childen.  The picture books are a longer read than most, so keep that in mind when reading with those with shorter attention spans (adults and children included).

Here’s a link to Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty series: click here.

Knuffle Bunny Free – My First Storytime

In honor of the recent publication of the third (and final) installment of the Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems, I decided to do a Knuffle-centric storytime for my October program at the library.  The program was advertised for 4 to 7 year olds, but some toddler siblings tagged along with their moms.

Here’s a rundown of the activities:

  • Knuffle Bunny – A Cautionary Tale – DVD narrated by the author & his daughter
  • Teddy bear toss with music & dance (kids brought their teddies)
  • Knuffle Bunny Too – A Tale of Mistaken Identity – read aloud
  • A look at the map – where does Knuffle Bunny travel to?
  • Knuffle Bunny Free – An Unexpected Diversion – read aloud
  • Craft – Make a Mo Willems-style picture of your family

It was my first storytime at the library, and I was nervous.  The storytime was a bit hectic, as the toddlers-in-tow made a lot of noise, but the moms kept tabs on them, luckily.  The children enjoyed the stories, it seemed.  The craft took about 5 minutes longer than I expected, and the glue was much more messy than it was when I made a sample craft (my glue stick skills are more fine-tuned I guess).  Another children’s librarian stayed in the room to observe me, and she said that the program went well and that I did a good job, especially considering the whiny toddlers.

I had a good, but nervous time, and I hope the kids enjoyed themselves.  After all, it’s all about the kids’ enjoyment and developing love of reading.

My next program will be an “Honor Our Veterans” storytime, followed by children creating thank-you cards for local hospitalized veterans.  Wish me good luck!

Animals Going to School – Picture Books

For this first week back to school, here are two picture books about reluctant four-legged school-goers:

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
It’s Splat’s first day at school, and he’ll use any excuse not to go.  His mother finally drags him through the door, and he begins to enjoy himself.  The artwork in Splat the Cat is excellent, featuring the realistically-furry leading kitty in this humorous picture book.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to leave behind his mother, his toys, his books, and his fellow forest friends and go to school.  He’d rather stay home and live like he always has.  But his mother knows a wise old secret, that he can take her love with him wherever he goes.  This picture book features tender illustrations of a teary eyed Chester and is very heartwarming.
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What other animals-go-back-to-school books can you recommend? I’m sure there are tons out there.  Thanks!