Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1st September Richard Tulloch (1949)

Richard Tulloch is an Australian author who has had a presence in Australian school libraries for quite some time now because of the large number of books he has written and a presence in every Australian television-watching child's life because of Bananas in Pyjamas. I particularly enjoy reading Barry the Burglar with Year 2 and I have had many great class discussions as a result of reading Mr Biffy's Battle and The Strongest Man in Gundiwallanup. His more recent books are easier to locate and they too, are humorous and well worth reading.

1st September Indigenous Literacy Day; Wattle Day

Today is a day for Australians to stop and consider what it would be like to not be literate. Indigenous Literacy Day aims to help raise funds in order to raise literacy levels and improve the lives of Indigenous Australians living in remote and isolated regions. Events are held to raise money and some bookshops donate a percentage of their sales to the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP). These funds are spent providing books and literacy resources to these remote communities and on raising awareness of Indigenous literacy issues. Books are provided in both English and Aboriginal languages.

The Book Buzz project, a special part of the ILP, recognises the need for early experience and contact with books and as such aims to put books in toddlers hands, in the hope that the interest in books and reading will continue and thus reduce statistics such as those in the quote below. Each Book Buzz bag has twelve books, some of which are pictured above.

In the Northern Territory, only one in five children living in very remote Indigenous communities can read at the accepted minimum standard. By Year 7, just 15% achieved this benchmark, 47 percentage points behind their urban Indigenous peers and 74 percent less than non-Indigenous students. (DEET NT 2006)

The first day of September and Spring has also been deemed to be Wattle Day in Australia. It is the centenary of it this year. Wattle is what Australians call the acacia plants. To combine Indigenous Literacy Day and Wattle Day revisit indigenous illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft's energetically colourful Possum and Wattle which celebrates Australian flora and fauna.

31st August (part 2)

These are some of the books that were used to initiate the Storybridge week:
* Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge by John Nicholson
* Lennie's Ride by Mary Small
* Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting
* Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing by April JonesPrince
* Fergus at the Fireworks by J.W. Noble
* The Willow Pattern Story by Allan Drummond

31st August

No birthdays so a chance to share our Book Week. Each of the nine classes explored something in their classroom during the week that connected with the theme of 'Across the Storybridge'. They tried to start with a book focus. Some explored actual physical bridges and their stories, some chose bridges in art and their inspiration, others looked at metaphorical bridges where one idea was connected to another. Three picture books that proved very inspirational were Pop's Bridge, a story about two boys whose fathers worked on the Golden Gate Bridge; Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing, a story based on fact about the building and opening of the Brooklyn Bridge; and Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, John Nicholson's beautifully illustrated chronicle of the dramas and details of this icon. Two classes explored bridges in the art of Monet, Van Gogh and Hosukai. There were many books to help with this. Another class took all the factual books about bridges from the library and researched six famous bridges in small groups. A class that had spent this term exploring myths and legends looked at the Willow Pattern Story. One of the kindergarten classes had fun exploring the bridges of Sydney with Fergus the Ferry books and website, and another used Sam Lloyd's Whoops-a-Daisy World books to create their own emergency on a bridge for the characters. At the end of the week we had a classroom expo. The children thoroughly enjoyed visiting the other classrooms, seeing the displays, listening to recorded stories, viewing Smartboard presentations and learning from each other. See other entry for 31st August for books used.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

30th August Virginia Lee Burton (1909 - 1968) Donald Crews (1938) Ariane Dewey

Virginia Lee Burton is the author of classics such as Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and Katy and the Big Snow, two stories written for her own boys who loved machines and The Little House which won the 1943 Caldecott Medal. Her books which have all had their 60th anniversary depict friendship, loyalty and hard work at the same time as a sense of nostalgia. For children today they may appear unexciting visually when compared to what they are used to, but when read they are more enamoured and they do have a place in the history of picture books which students can be fascinated by if the teacher is well-informed and passionate about the topic.

Donald Crews books are almost the antithesis of Virginia Lee Burton's. They are bold, colourful, often textless or have minimal text and include significant paper engineering. They are concept or information books for the very young. I knew little about Donald Crews but having done some quick research, I am pleased to see that he is married to illustrator Ann Jonas and is the father of Nina Crews. What a children's book family that is! His Freight Train won the 1979 Caldecott Medal and he went on then to do other books about modes of transport. I particularly like Ten Black Dots.

Ariane Dewey is an illustrator with Jose Aruego of many children's books. She says that Jose draws the lines and then she is the 'colour expert'. She has written and illustrated books on her own, but she is best known for books that she has worked on with others. The collection of poems about penguins called Antarctic Antics is well read in my library and many of the preschool parents borrow Milton the Early Riser. Like The Littlest Wolf which features on her website, many of her books feature animals as the main characters and use bright colours.

29th August Gillian Rubinstein (1942) Karen Hesse (1952)

Australian Gillian Rubinstein and American Karen Hesse are not best-known for their books for very young children. They generally write novels for older children and both have won awards for these. However both have published picture books. Karen Hesse's books are not easy to find in Australia. Perhaps because many deal with history and America, but The Cats in Krasinski Square and Come On, Rain! are both beautifully executed picture books. The second is illustrated exquisitely by Jon J Muth.

Gillian Rubinstein has several picture books, two of which I have used with great success with prep classes. Dog In, Cat Out which is illustrated by Ann James is great with preschoolers who are eager to read. You can read the pictures and get the minimal text correct. It only has four words and the pictures tell you what they will be. It is also good for children learning to tell the time using analog clocks. Mr Plunkett's Pool which is illustrated by Terry Denton is very different from Dog In, Cat Out. It looks at sharing and the whole concept of community. There is plenty here for heated class discussions. Gillian Rubinstein has also published many beginner novels, three about Troy and Tania; The Giant's Tooth; The Fairy's Wings; and The Pirate's Ship and a series of four books about two 'kitkids' Jake and Pete.

Friday, August 27, 2010

28th August Roger Duvoisin (1904 - 1980) Tasha Tudor (1915 - 2008) Phyllis Krasilovsky (1926) Allen Say (1937) Kevin Hawkes (1959)

Five birthdays...too many to contemplate especially as the last two really deserve to have an entry to themselves. Following will be only a little on each.

Swiss-born American Roger Duvoisin is best known for his humorous book about Petunia, a goose who carries round a book in the hope that she will become wise.

American illustrator Tasha Tudor has more than ninety books, none of which have become well-known in Australia. An American ex-pat mother introduced her books to me about ten years ago. She was concerned that we had no halloween titles in the school library, despite the number of American families at the school, so she donated some to us. Among them was Halloween Moonshine which clearly shows Tasha Tudor's love of gardens, nature and the joy of home and small things.

I cannot find out much about Phyllis Krasilovsky. I wondered if she is Dutch, given the Dutch content in some of her books. My favourite of her books is the Peter Spier illustrated The Cow Who Fell in the Canal. Kindergarten have revisited it this week as part of a unit of work on Van Gogh's bridges for the Book Week Expo.

Allen Say was born in Japan to a Korean father and a Japanese-American mother. He moved to America when he was sixteen and came to the notice of the children's literature fraternity when he won the Caldecott Medal for Grandfather's Journey, a partly autobiographical picture book about his grandfather's journey from Japan to America. Many of his illustrations have a photographic quality complete with white borders. His books demand discussion and rereadings.

American illustrator, Kevin Hawkes, is so versatile. Every one of his books stands alone. You don't pick his books up and immediately say, 'oh that is a Kevin Hawkes' book'. Three of my favourite books, Weslandia written by Paul Fleischman; Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen; and The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky are all illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and in very different styles of illustration. He can be serious or he can show his dry sense of humour. How did he come up with so many animal bottoms for Michael Ian Black's Chicken Cheeks?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

27th August Arlene Mosel (1921 - 1996) Sarah Stewart

American professor of library science, Arlene Mosel wrote two picture books in the 1970s which are still read by children and librarians. They are written as folktales, but whether or not they were actually based on Chinese or Japanese folktales is now debatable. This aside the well known Tikki Tikki Tembo and Caldecott Medal winning The Funny Little Woman, both illustrated by Blair Lent, are still in libraries and early childhood classrooms and children enjoy their improbability and dramatic plots. The long name of the older brother, Tikki Tikki Tembo rolls off the tongue and has children parroting it very quickly. Kindergarten are fascinated by a name that long!

The debate surrounding Tikki Tikki Tembo centres on the fact that people of Chinese heritage worry that readers may see this story as being fact or being representative of Chinese culture. Rather than not read it at all, I feel it is better to be very clear to present the story as a dramatic family story that is not factually correct and one that was written in a different time when travel and knowledge of other cultures was not what it is in our culturally diverse communities.

It is also American author Sarah Stewart's birthday. I don't know when she was born, just that it was on this day. It is fitting too, that one of her books that is well known is The Library, a story about Elizabeth Brown who just loves books. A fitting tribute to librarian Arlene Mosel! I love the illustration from the cover of it, done by her husband David Small that has been turned into a book mark. It is also a fitting end to Book Week! We had a wonderful Book Week at school, finishing this morning with a Book Week Expo where each class went to all the other classrooms to see what that class had done for Book Week. I have photos and hope to write more about it soon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

26th August Hearing Awareness Week

As well as being Book Week, it is Hearing Awareness Week in Australia, so it is a good time to go to the library shelves, find and read Christobel Mattingley and Anne Spudvilas' The Race. This wonderful book was Anne Spudvilas' first, and for it she won the Crichton Award for new illustrators. Since then her books have won many awards. in this story, the main character, Greg is desperate to be included at school and to not always be last. He can run very fast, but even comes last in running races. A new teacher arrives at the school and after observing Greg run, she realises that he has difficulty hearing the starting command. When a visual command is used Greg wins the race and his world is changed!

If your library doesn't have this out-of-print book, you might have some of the titles from two series of books which also feature a deaf main character. Isaac Millman has three books about Moses who goes to school with other deaf children. In Moses Goes to a Concert his class goes to an orchestral concert. This book is particularly good as it allows hearing children to see how deaf children can feel the beat of the music and enjoy a concert in the same way that they do. Elizabeth Levy has written a series of books called Invisible Inc, where a group of children which includes a boy who is invisible, Justin who is deaf and others, have adventures, solve mysteries and have fun at school.

Monday, August 23, 2010

25th August Ian Falconer (1959)

American, Ian Falconer is the illustrator responsible for the Olivia books. Olivia is a precocious, hyperactive piglet who tests her mother's patience to its absolute limits. Ian was drawing for The New Yorker and designing sets when his niece, Olivia was born. He was smitten, and decided he wanted to make a little present for her, so started working on a book. It was not published immediately but after some work it was published and became the first of a series of books about Olivia. Ian has based all of the piglet's family on members of his sister's family. The illustrations are particularly uncluttered and they use black and white with splashes of red. The subsequent titles have another colour introduced as well. Olivia has been so successful that she now has a television show and television spin-off book titles. These are not illustrated by Ian Falconer or in his style, but nevertheless keep my young clientele interested in Olivia until Ian's next title comes out. In fact the next title Olivia Goes to Venice is due out at the end of September. It looks somewhat different in its amount of detail and the amount of colour in the illustrations, so I cannot wait to see it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

24th August Alexander McCall Smith (1948) Matt Ottley (1962)

Alexander McCall Smith is a Zimbabwean-born Scottish writer who writes prolifically for adults and children. He is well known for several series of books for adults, in particular The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, but he also has two series of books for children; one about Akimbo, the son of the manager of a game reserve, who has adventures with a different African animal in each title; the other about Harriet Bean, a nine year old detective who has some decidedly weird aunts and an eccentric inventor father. He has also written a children's book about Precious Ramotswe, the detective in his Ladies' Detective Agency books which is available now in Scottish, but will not be published in English until next year. It is called Precious and the Puggies and in it Precious is at school in Botswana, is eight years old and solves her first case.

In contrast, Matt Ottley is a New Guinea-born Australian illustrator who went to secondary school in Sydney. When he visits schools he tells children that he is colour blind and they are fascinated that this can be the case when Matt makes his living from art. He does books for adults and children and has won the Australian Picture Book of the Year Award for his amazing graphic novel/picture book/musical combination, Requiem for a Beast, but it is not for my young clientele. His series of three books about a dog called Faust is though. Faust is a dog with an extraordinary group of friends and to whom unusual things happen. I particularly like Ottley's picture book Mrs Millie's Painting and his illustrations for Nadia Wheatley's Luke's Way of Looking.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

23rd August Dick Bruna (1927)

Dick Bruna is a phenomenal Dutch author and illustrator. He is responsible for over one hundred picture books and even more book covers and posters for adults. His children's books have sold over 85 million copies and been translated into 50 languages. He is best known for Miffy a small white rabbit that he invented while on holiday in 1953. The first Miffy book was published in 1955. He has a very distinct and recognisable style. His books are usually small and square in shape, they feature heavy black lines, simple shapes, a limited number of primary colours, and they are planed back to the bare essentials. Bruna has said, "When I make a book, I make it for the child and not the parent - no jokes in it for the parents." I guess that's why I always found them hard to read night after night! There is a very short, but interesting documentary about him on Youtube and a whole website devoted to Miffy. It is particularly good as there is a part that reads the stories to the child while they follow the text.

22nd August Children's Book Week

It is Children's Book Week in Australia! Time to celebrate Australian books and all they have to offer children. At school I have been having fun sharing the shortlisted Picture Books and Early Childhood books with classes. We have discussed them, voted for ourselves and argued about why one is better than another. Of course, although we did have voting criteria, it seems inevitable that the children nearly always seem to choose different titles from the adult judges. I think that their main criteria this year was 'humour' as the most popular titles were Bear and Chook By the Sea; The Terrible Plop and Mr Chicken Goes to Paris.

Bear and Chook by the Sea was the winner in the Early Childhood category so the children will be pleased tomorrow when I tell them. Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay's first book about the unusual twosome of Bear and Chook, Bear and Chook was also popular when it was published so we revisited it too. The children love that the characters are so different in every respect, yet are such good friends. They drew comparisons between them and Minton and Turtle in the Minton books where one character is also adventurous and the other extremely wary and negative. I love it when young children make connections such as this. They also noticed how the characters reversed roles later in the story, both in this book and with the rabbit and bear in Ursula Dubosarsky's The Terrible Plop.

Dubosarsky's rollicking rhyme and rhythm in The Terrible Plop together with Andrew Joyner's illustration's fluid lines give this story a pace and drama that sustains children's interest, intrigue and surprise right to the fitting end where the rabbit is almost heroic. The children will also be pleased to hear that this book won The Crichton Award for new illustration for Andrew Joyner and hopefully this means we will get to see more picture books with his name on the cover.

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers won the Picture Book of the Year. This is a beautiful book also with an exciting, fast moving story, but it is textless and therefore very difficult to share en masse with a class. It needs concentrated attention, many readings and time to savour its cleverness. It definitely deserved to win. It is the third book in a series of books about a boy which began with The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard.

In contrast Mr Chicken Goes to Paris seems lightweight, but in a school where French is the language taught in Early Childhood classes and Leigh Hobbs is a favourite because of Old Tom and Horrible Harriet, it is not surprising that humour won out when the children voted. I love Narelle Oliver's books and last term we looked at foxes in children's books and character stereotypes, so Fox and Fine Feathers was voted in second place, possibly by those eager to please me!