Monday, May 31, 2010

1st June

I have been doing this every day for four months now, one third of the year. I find it hard to believe. And all of that time I have been waiting to write about my new favourite book, Sebastian Meschenmoser's Waiting for Winter. Now that it is the first day of winter and there are no birthdays I can write about it. This book is perfect in every way! It is almost wordless, it is funny, very entertaining and it has delightful minimally coloured, pencil illustrations which show the animals to have very human expressions.

The characters, a squirrel, a hedgehog and a bear are waiting for snow and none of them has any experience of snow. All they know is that it is white, wet, cold and soft so each of them has visualised something very different from each other. They wait, they are tired and scruffy, but finally it comes and on the double-page spread where the first snowflake drops the illustration of the bear is mindblowing. How did Meschenmoser make the bear look like that? What talent!

The story begins on the front endpages and finishes on the back endpages thus demanding the reader's attention from the very beginning to the very end. The layout of this book, the font size, the framing or lack of it, and the anthropomorphism also demand analysis. You must 'read' this evocative picture book, then show it to your friends. We need more of this talented German illustrator's work to be translated into English.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

31st May Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893 - 1986) Tohby Riddle (1965) Will Hillenbrand (1960)

Busy day with so many birthdays, but I wrote about Elizabeth Coatsworth yesterday and
the other two, Australian illustrator, Tohby Riddle and American illustrator, Will Hillenbrand each have a very comprehensive website that gives biographical details, annotated lists of their books and information about their work philosophies. I cannot tell you anything that is not there.

Both do picture books that cater for a very wide age range of reader. Tohby Riddle has a lovely set of preschool books about a dog and a bird. The first was issued in a soft cover and was popular in the library. The subsequent titles have been issued as board books which limits their appeal in a library such as a school library. Similarly, Will Hillenbrand has a number of books for preschoolers. See The Book Box; Down by the Station and Margery Cuyler's penguin stories, Please Play Safe and Please Say Please.

At the other end of his repertoire, Tohby has picture books that demand very creative thinking by their readers. My favourite of these is Escape From City Zoo. He has also illustrated The Word Spy and The Return of The Word Spy, two rivetting reads about words and their origins by Ursula Dubosarsky.

My favourites of Will Hillenbrand's illustrated books are Phyllis Root's Kiss the Cow, and Rebecca Hickox's Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

30th May

Tomorrow is Elizabeth Coatsworth's birthday (1893 - 1986) and as there are three birthdays I thought I would do her today. She is the American author of the 1931 Newbery Medal winning story The Cat Who Went to Heaven, a short novel set in Japan that reminds its readers that animals can change lives. In this case a cat, and as someone who lives with two cats I have no trouble believing in this possibility. None of her other books are still in print, but for me she is much better known for her poetry anyway. You will find her poems in nearly every children's poetry anthology there is. She manages to include great descriptions, similes, rhythm and good rhyme in succinct verse. Two of my favourites that I have used over and over again, especially on rainy days are:

Rain Poem

The rain was like a little mouse,
Quiet, small, and gray,
It pattered all around the house
And then it went away.
It did not come, I understand,
Indoors at all, until,
It found an open window and
Left tracks across the sill.

- Elizabeth Coatsworth

I Like To See A Thunderstorm

I like to see a thunderstorm,
A dunder storm,
A blunder storm,
I like to see it, black and slow,
Come tumbling down the hills.
A plunder storm,
A wonder storm,
Roar loudly at out little house
And shake the window sills!

- Elizabeth Coatsworth

Friday, May 28, 2010

29th May Tenzing Norgay (1914 - 1986)

Tenzing Norgay was born late in May in 1914 but after his ascent of Mount Everest with Edmund Hilary on 29th May, 1953 he decided to celebrate his birthday on the 29th. So today is the anniversary of the first successful ascent on Everest. Norgay was the sherpa who accompanied New Zealander Hilary to the summit and subsequently became famous in his own right.

In the library there is a beautiful picture book biography of Tenzing called Tiger of the Snows by Robert Burleigh. It is written in poetry and tells of the climb and Tenzing's childhood in a very laudatory manner. It is accompanied by blue and purple pastel illustrations which are done on black backgrounds. These atmospheric illustrations by Ed Young capture the grandeur of the mountains and the wonder of what the men achieved. If you do not have this book in your library perhaps you have I Wish I'd Stood on Everest by Leonie Young. This picture book is part of the Been There Done That series where Leonie Young writes about famous people and how they achieved their dreams.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

29th May Eleanor Coerr (1922 ) Andrew McLean (1946)

Eleanor Coerr was born in Canada and began her working life as a journalist. She visited Japan in 1949 to interview Japanese people about their after war experiences for the Ottawa Journal. She had trouble finding people who spoke English so she decided to learn Japanese. She spent three years in Japan travelling and writing. In 1963 she returned to Japan and while visiting Peace Park in reconstructed Hiroshima she saw a statue of Sadako Sasaki. This inspired her well-known book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes which so many school children all over the world have read, discussed, been angered by and then been inspired by to fold paper cranes and take part in peace activities. While the original novel is short and compelling, the story was made even more powerful for younger children when it was illustrated in 1985 by Ed Young.

Andrew McLean is a well-known Australian illustrator of children's books. He is quite prolific and most years he would have at least one book on the shortlist for a Children's Book Council of Australia Award. He won the Book of the Year: Early Childhood in the first year that it was awarded in 2001 for You'll Wake the Baby (written by Catherine Jinks) and then he won it again in 2003 for A Year on Our Farm (written by Penny Matthews).

That he is so successful at producing beautiful picture books is probably not surprising when you read that he has said, "I like drawing for young children. I am attracted to
the simplicity, honesty and directness of the picture book."

Andrew began his illustrating career illustrating stories written by his Kindergarten teacher wife Janet McLean. Their first book The Riverboat Crew was
published in 1978. Now he also illustrates books written by other authors. His newest, coincidentally both poetry books, A Goat in a Coat for Rosemary Milne, the author of the Play School jingle There's a Bear in There and an illustrated version of Dorothea Mackellar's poem My Country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

28th May Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964)

I know what you are thinking, Ian fleming was not a children's author. That is true, if you are thinking James Bond, but he is also the author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a story he wrote for his son, Caspar in 1964, and if you read the John Burningham illustrated version of this book it is definitely a book for children. This book is in my library and it is borrowed by parents who serialise it over several nights and the illustrations keep the children interested. If you can't come at reading the book, revisit the 1968 movie which has a script written by Roald Dahl. I remember going to a theatre as a child to see it. A rare treat then!

27th May Rachel Carson (1907 - 1964)

Rachel Carson was an American ecologist, a marine biologist and nature writer whose writings are credited with beginning the global environmental movement. I have included her birthday because in the library we have a beautiful picture book - Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson by Amy Ehrlich and Wendell Minor. Year 2 use it when they look at biographies and again when doing an environmental unit of work. It highlights Rachel's childhood and how she was an inquisitive child who liked to be outside exploring the natural world. An epilogue fills in the other details of her life.

While searching to see whether there were other children's books about Rachel Carson I learned that there is Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder by Joseph Bruchac and Thomas Locker. I would like to see it as Thomas Locker's illustrations always interest me. Viewing his illustrations always makes me feel as if I am at an exhibition of paintings in a gallery. I also found a very interesting interview with Amy and Wendell about the making of the book about Rachel Carson.

26th May Lisbeth Zwerger (1954)

Lisbeth Zwerger is an Austrian born and educated illustrator of children's books. Her illustrations are reminiscent of 19th Century illustrations in that they are very artistic and detailed. She was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal in 1990 for her contribution to children's literature. She does not write her own stories and prefers to impress with illustration rather than words and as this is her emphasis she is not prolific and only does about one book per year.

She illustrates traditional literature such as fairytales, fables and bible stories, as well as modern classics such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Selfish Giant, Swan Lake and Rudyard Kipling's How the Camel Got his Hump.

Like so many other authors and illustrators of children's literature, her partner is also an illustrator - John A. Rowe of Moondog fame.

25th May Martha Alexander (1920 - 2006)

Martha Alexander is the author/illustrator of the delightful Blackboard Bear series of books. In these five gentle stories, Anthony has adventures with Blackboard Bear who steps off a chalkboard when needed. The idea of a blackboard and many of the things they do together are now dated, but the soft pencil and watercolour illustrations, the simple texts and the humour combine to make the Bear so endearing and his emotions so readable.

Monday, May 24, 2010

24th May Australian Library and Information Week

This is a week when librarians can shamelessly push the value of libraries and teacher librarians can jump up and down about what they have to offer their staff, children and parents. Each year there is a theme, this year, Access All Areas, which is to remind users that libraries do much more than provide books!

While the library I work in does that too, offer more than books, I use this week with my prep children to revisit and display many of the wonderful books which are about libraries, set in a library or which stress the value of reading. There are so many good books that do this. These are just a few that I think are worthwhile additions to any library:

ABC Letters in the Library by Bonnie Farmer and Chum McLeod
This is an alphabet book that I have used to make posters.
Examples are:
I Information flows freely in and out of the internet.
L A librarian's friendship leaves lasting impressions.

The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
This book is based on the true life of a librarian in Iraq who went to great lengths to save the books in her library during the invasion of Iraq.

Miss Smith and the Haunted Library by Michael Garland
There are now three books about Miss Smith, the sort of teacher every child deserves. She really (literally) brings books to life.

Little Red Fish by Taeeun Yoo
This beautiful book is set in a library. JeJe goes to work with his grandfather who is a librarian and amazing things happen. This book leaves you feeling totally awestruck both by its beauty and ideas.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

24th May Diane de Groat (1947)

American Diane de Groat writes and illustrates books about celebrations. They feature Gilbert and I was never quite sure what kind of animal he is meant to be. Research on Diane's website reveals that Gilbert is an opossum, something Australians know nothing about. Gilbert does not look like our possum, but he is cute and energetic like our possums. We have some of these books because they fit in with Year 1's unit of enquiry on celebrations and if you can find them in paperback they will be read.

While on the website I saw a non-Gilbert book called Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth and I had a good giggle while watching the video about the making of it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

23rd May World Turtle Day

It is World Turtle Day! The purpose of this day is to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for turtles and tortoises, and to encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society has organised activities for the day in the very North of Australia, but is encouraging all Australians to do what they can.

What a great excuse to read books about turtles and there are so many really good ones beside E.L.Konigburg's A View From Saturday which is written for children much older than my clientele. My good Year 2 readers really like Chelonia Green, Champion of Turtles though, a novel about rescuing turtles that is written by Australian author Christobel Mattingley. Reading this then encourages them to read factual texts about turtles and to research turtles further.

There are so many really good picture books to explore as well. These are just some that we have in the library. About turtles:
The Smallest Turtle by Lynley Dodd
One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Turtle Taxi by Guundie Kuchling
Turtle Bay by Saviour Pirotta
Follow the Moon by Sarah Weeks
Journey of the Sea Turtle by Mark Wilson
Old Turtle by Douglas Wood

About tortoises:
Galapagos Means Tortoises by Ruth Heller
Yakkin the Swamp Tortoise by Guundie Kuchling
A Mummy for Owen by Marion Dane Bauer and all the
Owen and Mzee titles by Isabella Hatkoff et al.

Do you need an excuse to read Esio Trot by Roald Dahl?

23rd May Margaret Wise Brown (1910 - 1952)

American author, Margaret Wise Brown would be 100 today! Quite a feat, if she was still alive, but her books have certainly lasted the distance. Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny would probably be her most well-known books and certainly they are the most borrowed in my library, but so many of her titles that were published as Little Golden Books are still in print as well. This year's kindergarten has a large contingency of train-mad boys so Two Little Trains has also been rediscovered. This website is a good source of information and You Tube has a film version of Goodnight Moon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

22nd May Max Velthuijs (1923 - 2005) Arnold Lobel (1933 - 1987)

Today should be known as Frog Day. Both of these author/illustrators are best known for their series of books about a frog. Both write fables that give the children that read their books messages for how they should be living theirs. Both are thoroughly loved by children, so it is sad that there will never be any more.

Max Velthuijs is probably the best known Dutch children's book creator besides Dick Bruna. He won the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 2004 for his contribution to Children's Literature. Initially he illustrated other author's books, but with Frog in Love started a series of books about Frog and his friends that he wrote as well as illustrated. The books have cheerful, colourful illustrations, the stories always end with Frog and his friends solving their problems in a very positive way. Each of the animal characters has very specific traits and is easily identified behaviourly. There are about twelve titles about Frog. If you need to know what they are, look here.

American author/ illustrator Arnold Lobel won the Caldecott Award for Fables but he is best known for his books about Frog and Toad. These two characters also have very definite personality traits and readers expect them to behave in certain ways. The illustrations in these books, while not as bright, in fact they are rather green are also distinctive.

My favourite poster and verse about reading is by Arnold Lobel. Every library needs one!
You can see the poster at .These are the words:
Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

≈ Arnold Lobel

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

21st May Virginia Haviland (1911 - 1988) Beverley Naidoo (1943)

Beverley Naidoo is a South African -born author who now lives in Britain. She left South Africa because of the political situation and she still works tirelessly for refugees and the poorly treated in our world. She wrote Journey to Jo'Burg, a novel about a black South African housekeeper who was living a long way from her own children and having to deal with the traumas this creates.

I remember reading this book when I was a very naive, unworldly new teacher and being so shocked that people lived like this. I embarked then on reading other books set in South Africa like Toeckey Jones' Go Well Stay Well. I serialised Journey to Jo'burg for the class I was teaching and that began my quest for making sure that the children I teach read widely about children from cultures other than their own.

When Journey to Jo'burg was published in 1985 it was banned in South Africa. Naidoo's nieces and nephews could not read it. This year it will celebrate its 25th anniversary and thankfully things have changed somewhat in South Africa. This however does not take away the power of this short novel.

While borrowing Journey to Jo'burg from your library search out The Great Tug of War and Baba's Gift which are also by Beverley Naidoo.

I was doing postgraduate study in Children's Literature when I was first introduced to Virginia Haviland's The Fairy Tale Treasury that is illustrated by Raymond Briggs. I loved
this book. Her tales are the perfect length, they maintain the tale's authenticity and yet they have a 'modern' feel. It sent me off in search of more fairytales, and ultimately to writing essays on lesser known tales such as Tom Tit Tot and Rose White and Rose Red.

Our lecturer admired Haviland and her contribution to children's literature and library services and now I know why. She was a trail blazer. She had degrees in economics and mathematics, but started her working career at the Boston Public Library. She devoted her working life to youth services, writing and reviewing children's literature and scholarly research within the field of library science. She was an outspoken advocate for children's literature and therefore people in libraries and schools, like me need to thank her.

20th May Mary Pope Osborne (1949)

Mary Pope Osborne is very popular in my library because she is the author of the Magic Treehouse Books. Years ago when they were new there were several expat American families at school who introduced them to me and their friends. The problem was we couldn't buy them here in Australia so I had to wait till someone went home to America and bought some for the library. Now the early titles are readily available here and the books have built up quite a cult following. Initially I thought that Australian children wouldn't be interested in stories about the Civil War, Thanksgiving or the Wild Wild West, but the dedicated followers will read them all. The later books from Number 30 onwards which form the Merlin Series interest the children even more than the first 29. There are also Research guides accompanying the stories which are written by Mary's husband, Will or sister, Nancy. These are less popular with my children but some, such as the one on the Olympics are borrowed more frequently.

Mary Pope Osborne does write other books. In the library we have her Tales From the Odyssey, a set of six books which starts with The One-eyed Giant. They are well read because Year 2 do a unit of work where they study Greek Mythology. Year 1 look closely at Fairy Tales and in that unit's bulk loan I include her modern fairy tales Kate and the Beanstalk; The Brave Little Seamstress and Sleeping Bobby.

19th May

Yesterday was International Museum Day, a day to celebrate museums and what they offer their community of users. The 2010 theme is 'Museums for Social Harmony'. Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, co-operation and peace among peoples. The website offers information, activities and posters and outlines the aims of the day.

Many museums and art galleries, which are really art museums publish books for children. The New York and London galleries (see the MOMA and TATE publications) have been doing this for a long time, but now there are others including the National Museum of Australia, the art galleries of NSW and Victoria who are also publishing exemplary resources.

If you want to put together a display in the library you could also include books such as:
* Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman
* Maisy Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins
* Visiting an Exhibition by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
* My Visit to the Dinosaurs by Aliki
* What Happens at a Museum by Lisa M. Guidone
* Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums by
Lee Bennett Hopkins
* Make Your Own Museum by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom

18th May Lillian Hoban (1925 - 1998) International Museum Day

Lillian Hoban was an American illustrator. She illustrated books that she also authored such as the series of I Can Read books about a chimpanzee named Arthur and his little sister, Violet. She illustrated other authors, such as Miriam Cohen and James Howe's books but she is probably best known for her illustrations of Frances the badger in a series of books written by her then-husband Russell Hoban. While both Lillian and Russell individually were prolific, it is probably this series that they are both best remembered for and these books are considered 'classics' by many. Lillian's original illustrations have had colour added to them in the more recent editions of the stories that started life with minimal colours, such as pink, orange and green. The Frances books deal with specific early childhood issues such as sibling rivalry, fears and friendship. And even though they look old-fashioned in the children's eyes, once I share one or two they are all borrowed.

I will write about International Museum Day tomorrow.