Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3rd July Elfrida Vipont (1902 - 1992)

Elfrida Vipont is the author of the classic The Elephant and the Bad Baby. I love this book! It has never 'flopped' with any Kindergarten class I have read it to. It does everything an early childhood book should do. It has rhyme, rhythm and repetition. It has a plot, improbable main characters and it finishes with everyone having tea, as all good children's books should! (Well they often did, when this one was written.) It is easy to plan response activities for (see class mural) and it always makes for good discussion too, about manners and stealing, two things 5 year olds definitely have an opinion on. And it has the added bonus of Raymond Briggs' illustrations.

Other than this book, I knew nothing about Elfrida Vipont, but with what I have just said in mind, I was not surprised to read that she was a teacher and a Quaker.

2nd July Jean Craighead George (1919 - 2012)

Jean Craighead George is the author of the well-known award-winning novels My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves, but the children I teach know her for her picture books that also deal with the natural environment. On her website she says, " I write for children. Children are still in love with the wonders of nature, and I am too. So I tell stories about a boy and a falcon, a girl and an elegant wolf pack, about owls, weasels, foxes, prairie dogs, the alpine tundra, the tropical rainforest. And when the telling is done, I hope they will want to protect all the beautiful creatures and places."

The picture books that Jean has done with the illustrator Wendell Minor give children a beautiful insight into nature and they allow Australian children to visit environments that they may never visit as they are so far away. She seems particularly fond of the northern tundra and the animals that share their living spaces with the Inuit people.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

1st July Emily Arnold McCully (1939)

The only book of Emily Arnold McCully that I know is Mirette on the High Wire , the 1993 Caldecott Medal winner. It is set in 19th century Paris and tells the story of ten year old Mirette and Bellini, a famous, but jaded tightrope walker who comes to board at Mirette's mother's house. Mirette is eager to try walking on a rope as well. This story explores the themes of fear and bravery, and would make a good Circle Time book. It is also particularly good for the Mosaic of Thought comprehension strategies.
Text to Self connections- have you ever done a daredevil thing? What? Were you scared? Brave?
Text to Text connections - this story is similar to... It reminds me of the book... (eg. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein which also has a French tightrope walker)
Text to the World connections - look at the French setting ... does the story need to be set in France? in the 19th century?

Monday, June 28, 2010

30th June David McPhail (1940) Malachy Doyle (1954) Petr Horacek (1967)

David McPhail is an American author /illustrator who has a long list of books to his name. I especially like the way he illustrates bears so I seem to be drawn to his many titles that include bears. Drawing Lessons From a Bear is one of his books in our library that the children really enjoy.

The author Malachy Doyle was born in Northern Ireland, but now lives in Wales. His books appear to be very different from each other because of the different illustrators that have been chosen to illustrate his books. Cow and Horse which are illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi are striking looking books that you cannot fail to be drawn to. Look also for The Bold Boy which is illustrated by Jane Ray and Sleepy Pendoodle, a book about a gorgeous puppy which is illustrated by Australian Julie Vivas.

And thirdly, Petr Horacek who was born in Czechoslavakia, but now lives in England is the author/illustrator of many beautiful books. Suzy Goose got me hooked on his books and then I have eagerly purchased his subsequent titles. His most recent Fly, has shaped pages internally, bright colours and a story told from the fly's point of view. It makes you smile!

29th June Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 - 1944) Lydia Pender (1907 - 2005)

Antoine de Saint-Exupery is the writer responsible for the biggest-selling French language book, The Little Prince. He was an aviator as well as an author whose short life ended on a flight that he did not return from. His novella, written while in America is interesting because of the way in which the narrator changes from third to first person, it combines plot details from his life such as being in the Sahara Desert, he illustrated it himself and despite having stereotyped characters, it has very profound messages for life and worthy themes.

Lydia Pender is an Australian author who wrote poetry and picture books, most of which are out of print. But, a library may have some. We have The Useless Donkeys, a story set on a farm owned by the Quigley family. Mr Quigley wants to get rid of the family donkeys because they are useless, but the children don't. The farm is flooded and the donkeys are useful. The illustrations by Judy Cowell do a wonderful job of convincing the reader of just how wet it is. Another book we have by this duo is Barnaby and the Rocket. This story is set on Cracker Night, Australia's name for a night when children used to have bonfires and fireworks. This is no longer allowed in private homes and so this book serves as an example of what children did in the past, perfect for a unit of enquiry such as history detectives.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

28th June Dennis Haseley (1950)

There is only one book by Dennis Haseley in my library, A Story For Bear illustrated by Jim LaMarche. It is a fanciful, yet enjoyable story about a bear who is curious about a woman he sees reading by a house in the forest. He befriends her and listens attentively as she reads to him every day while she holidays in the house. The bear looks so happy and the story reads aloud in such a way that you can imagine the power of story to engross. For this reason I have used it at parent nights, reading it to the parents to show them the power of story and why they need to read aloud to their children. Just as the bear and the woman part, going their independent ways, stronger for having known each other and having had that close relationship, so will a parent and child who have had the pleasure of shared reading.

Friday, June 25, 2010

27th June Fiona French (1944)

Each of Fiona French's picture books seems to explore adifferent style of art. They are so detailed and meticulous that they look like labours of love. I first met her work with Snow White in New York, a Kate Greenaway Medal winner, which sets the Snow White story in New York in the Jazz Age of the 1920s. The characters are less familiar than the plot. Snow White is a jazz singer who is protected by seven jazz musicians from her enemy, the Queen of the Underworld. This is somewhat too sophisticated for my clientele, but I love it.

She has other picture books which are much more accessible to the children I teach, and still just as beautiful and amazing. In the library we have Bethlehem, a nativity story, using the words from the bible and illustrated as if done in stained glass. We have The Smallest Samurai a Japanese version of the Tom Thumb story and Pepi and the Secret Names which is written by Jill Paton Walsh and illustrated by Fiona French in beautiful Egyptian-influenced art.

And to finish Refugee Week, The Whispering Cloth by Pegi Deitz Shea which tells the story of a young girl who remembers painful events in her life in a Thai refugee camp by sewing them into a pa'ndau or traditional story cloth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

26th June Pearl S. Buck (1892 - 1973) Charlotte Zolotow (1915)

So much to talk about today, so each bit will be brief. Firstly, congratulations to Australian illustrator Freya Blackwood. Her illustrations for Margaret Wild's Harry and Hopper has won her the 2010 Kate Greenaway Medal. I know she isn't the first Australian to do so. Gregory Rogers won in 1995 and Bob Graham won in 2002, but she is the first Australian female illustrator and we have had a week of first Australian women with the new prime minister also being a woman.

I have included Pearl S. Buck because although she usually writes for adults her short novel, The Big Wave has provided me with some very memorable teaching experiences. I have never read it to a class without it being a huge hit. It has brought tears to tough ten year old boys' eyes. I have even read it to children as young as eight and now that there has been a tsunami in their lifetime it has taken on new meaning. There are other books around now to support it too, such as Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young's Tsunami!

Charlotte Zolotow is one of the veterans that I wrote about when I was writing about Eric Carle's birthday. Amazingly, she is 95. While she has written a multitude of memorable books, my favourite is still Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present. I read it any excuse I can, Mother's Day, birthdays, when I want children to be kinder to each other, more thoughtful...whatever!

Lastly, a book on the refugee theme - Rainbow Bird by Czenya Cavouras. This book was created by a fourteen year old Adelaide girl who had many discussions with her grandfather about his trips to Port Augusta. Czenya says in the afterword that she wanted to challenge her readers to imagine themselves in a similar situation and then ask themselves how they would respond. Would they be as hopeful?

25th June Ursula Dubosarsky (1961)

Ursula Dubosarsky is an Australian author with a wide audience. She writes novels for secondary students, primary students and even for the children I teach as she has authored many Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites. She has two very informative non- fiction books about words that every teacher of spelling will learn amazing things from, The Word Spy (The Word Snoop in the USA) and The Return of the Word Spy.

In the Prep Library she is known for her picture books especially Rex, and her new Early Childhood Award shortlisted book The Terrible Plop. These two have the children riveted at storytime. On Ursula's website there is an e-book of The Terrible Plop that is well worth listening to and watching. You even get to choose the reader and the language it is read in. If it is the Book of the Year it will be a very worthy winner. The rollicking rhyme and rhythm of the text together with the cheeky illustrations make it such fun.

And today's refugee title is Ali the Bold Heart by Jane Jolly and Elise Hurst. This story is based on the life of an Iranian refugee who performed as a magician in Iran before escaping to a to a life that he expected would be safe and free, only to find himself 'locked up behind wire as sharp as tiger's teeth.' There are teacher's notes for this book at Jane Jolly's website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

25th June Eric Carle (1929)

Eric Carle is 81 today! I think it is wonderful that there are so many older respected authors still contributing to the world of children's books. You know that they are still committed to something they thought was worthwhile a long time ago when their first book was published and with Eric Carle it is obvious that the passion of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear Brown Bear is still there too. The colour, the paper engineering, the special effects and the plots make each of his books memorable and so different from other picture books published at the same time. Last year when he celebrated his 80th and The Very Hungry Caterpillar its 40th we had big birthday celebrations in the library. We did collage, I did an author study with Kindergarten and we had lunchtime activities based on his myriad of books. I was so inspired that I used some of my long service leave to go to the USA and to the Eric Carle Museum.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

24th June John Ciardi (1916 - 1986) Kathryn Lasky (1944)

John Ciardi was an American poet who published over forty volumes of poetry. He is known to teachers and children because many of his poems were written for children. The best known of them, such as Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast; The Reason for the Pelican; and About the Teeth of Sharks are humorous, often absurd and depend heavily on wordplay. Ciardi believed in poetry for the masses and not only for the scholarly. He began writing children's poetry in order to get his own children interested in reading. He inherently knew that children respond to rhythm, rhyme, humour and everyday themes. Many children's poetry anthologies include poems by Ciardi, but a good starting point is For Laughing Out Loud: poems to tickle your funnybone an anthology of poems selected by Jack Prelutsky.

Kathryn Lasky is an American author who has a wide repertoire, writing novels, series and picture books. Two picture books in my library that I particularly like are Humphrey, Albert and the Flying Machine and The Librarian Who Measured the Earth. The first is a fractured fairytale which includes brothers Humphrey and Albert, a princess, Briar Rose, a hundred year sleep, kissing to break a curse and the inventor Daniel Bernoulli (of the Bernoulli Effect). Science meets fairytale! The second combines history, geography and librarianship as it is about the Greek philosopher and scientist, Eratosthenes who becomes the chief librarian of Alexandria.

A True Person by Gabiann Marin and Jacqui Grantford is the title for Refugee Week. It is the story of Zallah, a young girl who arrives in Australia by boat and finds herself, with her mother, in a detention centre. The story is told from Zallah's point of view, which enables young readers to empathise with her and to imagine being in her position. Reading this story with a class enables you to introduce the concept of detention centres and their history for child refugees in Australia. It also allows for meaningful discussion about what constitutes a 'true person'.

Monday, June 21, 2010

23rd June

I haven't got a birthday listed for today so instead I need to tell you about a book that I shared with my Year 1 classes today. What a huge success it was! The book was Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini and Barry Moser. I don't have either of their birthdays so I can't feature it at another time. As well as its predictable plot this wonderful story which supports the sour grape fable is humorous, has very rich language and vocabulary, has characters with distinct voices and personalities, expressive dialogue, onomatopoeia, repetition and illustrations that show the characters personalities and mannerisms so acutely. Yes, a perfect book. The children laughed as I hammed up the fox's dialogue, joined in with the 'voila' with exaggerated hand gestures, giggled as the beaver said 'indeedy', commented upon the number of different words used for 'friend', asked about 'tantalizing' and 'scooch' and just loved the facial expressions on the porcupine and bear in particular. This book would make a wonderful reader's theatre script. I have a Folkmanis fox puppet and the children had fun giving fox monologues about his plan and how it was going to work. This is a 'must buy' book if you haven't got it.

Now on a much more serious note, the refugee story that I want to highlight today is The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman and Karin Littlewood. This is the story of Hassan, a small boy from Somalia who starts a new school in a new language in England. The school environment is so different from his outdoor classes in hot, sunny Somalia. Hassan does a painting that leads his teacher to worry about Hassan and thus find a way to learn more about Hassan's experiences in Somalia and his trip to England. This story has a positive message about resettlement and being cared for in a new home.

22nd June Jan Mark (1943 - 2006)

Jan Mark was a British secondary school teacher who gave up teaching in order to write full-time and she has written a large number of wonderful books. As well as novels for older children for which she won many awards, Jan wrote books for children who were newly independent fluent readers. In my library there is Snow Maze; The Dead Letter Box; The Cat's Way Home and The Twig Thing, all of which are now looking well-read and somewhat shabby, but are nevertheless good reads. Hopefully like many other short novels they will be reimaged and published again.

We also have some memorable picture books. Among them Fur a lovely cat story that is illustrated by Charlotte Voake, Strat and Chatto another cat story, but including a rat as well this time and with quirky illustrations by David Hughes, and The Museum Book which looks at the concept of a museum and collections with illustrations by Richard Holland.

Now for a third picture book on the refugee theme. Four Feet, Two Sandals (Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed and Doug Chayka) is the moving story of Lina and Feroza, two young girls who are living in a refugee camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border waiting to hear when they will be resettled. The girls become friends because they each find one sandal from a matching pair, and rather than fight over who should have both they share them, taking turns to wear the pair. Khadra Mohammed is one of the authors of this story and it is based on her experiences in Peshawar. There is a short authors' note at the back of the book which explains in simple language about how the people in Afghanistan became refugees and are resettled in places such as America. There are teaching notes for this book at
Karen Lynn Williams website. If you do not have access to this book there is a visual analysis of the book on YouTube.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

21st June Robert Kraus (1925 - 2001) Janet McLean (1946)

American Robert Kraus is the author of Leo the Late Bloomer, the reassuring story that tells children that not everyone does everything at the same time or pace, but in their own time. Leo, a small tiger cannot read, write or draw. He even eats sloppily, but he 'blooms' in his own time and does achieve at things that his peers have already done.This story provides great discussion starters for Circle Time and allows children who achieve easily to empathise with those who don't. The flower metaphor can also be explored further with a class after a reading session.

Australian Janet McLean is a kindergarten teacher who started her writing career writing stories with her husband, Andrew McLean (see 29th May) for him to
illustrate. She says that 'working with young children over the past thirty years has been an inspiration to me as a writer.' This is very obvious in her book Make it I'm the Mother.

And thirdly, a picture book on the refugee theme. Petar's Song by Pratima Mitchell and Caroline Binch tells the story of a mother and her three children who escape from their village when war breaks out by walking over the mountains and across the border. One of the sons, Petar plays the violin well, but cannot bring himself to play it again, despite taking it with him, once he leaves his father and village until Christmas comes and a song of peace plays in his head. This story does not see the family reunited, but it is hopeful.

Friday, June 18, 2010

20th June David Cox (1933) World Refugee Day

David Cox is an Australian illustrator who also writes occasionally. Among his long list of books are the three Aussie Nibbles written by Patricia Wrightson that I wrote about yesterday. Among his picture books that are probably in your library are Shock Monday by Gillian Bradshaw , The Slumber Party by Margaret Wild, MillieStarts School by Jane Godwin and an old favourite Bossyboots set in Australia in the days of stagecoaches where a very bossy girl named Abigail saves the day.

Today is World Refugee Day and the whole week is Refugee Week so each day this
week I plan to highlight a book that deals with the topic of refugees. Firstly, Refugees by David Miller. This story tells the story of two ducks who become refugees when their home, a swamp is drained by heavy earth-moving machinery. They set off to find a new home and along the way meet with danger and resistance before they are captured and taken to a new home. This metaphor is beautifully illustrated with amazingly detailed paper sculptures. You need to see the fur on the dog illustration towards the end of the book. I cannot imagine how long it took to cut that paper. Very young children may not make the leap from ducks to people, but the concepts of fear, rejection, homelessness and 'caring interference' are recognised by them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

19th June Patricia Wrightson (1921 - 2010)

Patricia Wrightson was one of Australia's most distinguished writers for children. She won many prestigious awards. She was awarded an OBE in 1977, The Dromkeen Medal in 1984 and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1986. She also won the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award four times. The New South Wales Premier's Literary Prize for Children's Literature is named in her honour.

The books she won awards for are written for children much older than the ones I currently teach, but recently my son was working in Glebe and I felt the need to reread I Own the Racecourse, a book that is set near Harold Park that I had read and enjoyed when it was new.

The fluent readers at school do get to enjoy Patricia Wrightson's writing though because she authored three of the popular Aussie Bite series. I have even read them aloud to classes because they are short, but well-written and deal with themes very pertinent to this age group: Rattler's Place is about moving house; The Sugar-Gum Tree looks at what can happen when good friends have a disagreement; and The Water Dragons has an environmental dilemma.

18th June Chris Van Allsburg (1949)

Chris Van Allsburg is as prolific as Pat Hutchins, but very different in his approach to picture books. Well-known for his books that have been
made into movies, such as Polar Express and Jumanji, his stories are much more sophisticated, more complex and for many children quite puzzling. This is a good thing though because they ask the reader to think, to talk and to question and when a class discusses his books they are usually very animated. I love 'booktalking' The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and discussing time and whether there was magic or not. As with the discussion of time in Where the Wild Things Are the audience is usually quite divided in their view but convinced they can support their view by returning to the text. The Sweetest Fig and The Widow's Broom are also good for eliciting heated discussion. Each of these three books has brown and white or black and white illustrations and this always fascinates children in this time of flashing bright colours.

Fritz, the dog in Van Allsburg's first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi features in all of his books and an interesting explanation as to why he did this can be found on his website.

18th June Pat Hutchins (1942)

Pat Hutchins' books have been on the bookshelves of children's libraries for forty years now. Rosie's Walk turned 40 last year and it is still a favourite. Children love the fact that Rosie is oblivious to the fox and all that happens around her. They love watching what happens to the fox each time he is about to pounce on Rosie. The humour, the brevity (only 32 words) and the elaborate pen and ink drawings made a perfect first book. Pat went on to make a lot of other picture books and novels and each has humour, patterns in either or both language and illustration and yet these never overpower the plot. Because of these patterns many of her books can be used as part of the maths program as well. The Doorbell Rang and Changes Changes are especially good for their maths concepts. Her series about Titch and Billy, The Very Worst Monster are excellent for any unit of work that looks at the family and point of view.

If you are looking for a read aloud to serialise for young children Follow that Bus has never failed me. It is about a class excursion to a farm that is hijacked by some bankrobbers. The classes I have read it to think it is hilarious.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

17th June Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922) Marie-Louise Gay (1952)

Marie-Louise Gay is the Canadian author illustrator responsible for creating the Stella and Sam series of books and illustrating James Howe's series about Houndsley and Catina. There is a Stella book for each season. Stella is the older sister and guide for Sam, the younger more timid brother. They have a lovely sibling relationship, unlike Rosemary Wells' Ruby and Max. Sam is very inquisitive and asks lots of questions which Stella endeavours to answer. These humorous stories show the siblings to be playful and trusting and show the environment in a very positive light.