Friday, December 31, 2010

2nd January Jean Little (1932)

Jean Little is a Canadian author. I first met her work while reading her novel Mama's Going to Buy You a Mockingbird. I enjoyed it so much I went looking for more of her books and then read her autobiography Little By Little and Stars Come Out Within and came to appreciate why she writes family stories and stories about fear and or disability so well. Jean Little is only partially sighted and suffered terribly at school, so she uses her real-life experiences in her books. Her characters often have physical disabilities disabilities or confront psychological difficulties. Most of her better known books are novels for older readers but she has done picture books. There are three picture books in the library. The Revenge of the Small Small is a family story where the youngest member of the family, Patsy, constantly feels unappreciated, but finally has her revenge. Jess Was the Brave One is also a family story where Claire the older of the siblings is scared of everything and cannot understand why her younger sister Jess is not. Both of these books are illustrated by Janet Wilson. A third, Once Upon a Golden Apple is a very funny fractured fairy tale where everything is wrong. For instance Goldilocks lives with the seven dwarves, the Wicked Witch of the West needs rescuing and princesses kiss dragons. This is very different from Jean's usual stories, maybe because she wrote it with her niece, Maggie deVries who also acted as her assistant for a while, but who is now an author in her own right. It is illustrated by the other Canadian stalwart Phoebe Gilman.

1st January Olivier Dunrea (1953)

Happy New Year!

Olivier Dunrea is the author illustrator responsible for the wonderful preschool series about Gossie and friends. Gossie is a gosling who wears red boots even when asleep. She has friends BooBoo, Ollie, Peedie and Gertie. These farmyard animals, drawn very endearingly on expansive white backgrounds partake in simple stories created very satisfyingly with minimal text. The books and toy Gossie are popular in my library and I am always on the lookout for a new one.

In the library we also have Bear Noel a beautiful story about a bear at Christmas and with such different illustrations from those in the Gossie books that at first I did not realise they were by the same illustrator. Looking at his website, I see that Olivier Dunrea has a new book also about a bear, Old Bear and his Cub that I need to look for.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

31st December Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)

Henri Matisse was a French artist who was known for his use of colour and fluid lines. Just like the artists Monet and Picasso there are so many picture book resources on Matisse that are suitable for very young children.
In my library there are three board books:• Matisse for Kids by Margaret Hyde
A Magical Day With Matisse by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober
Matisse: Dance For Joy by Susan Goldman Rubin
There are books that introduce his techniques and give biographical details such as:
Henri Matisse: Drawing With Scissors by Jane O'Connor and Jessie Hartland
Matisse: The King of Colour by Laurence Anholt
Matisse: Cut-Out Fun With Matisse by Nina Hollein (Adventures in Art)
And there are fun stories such as :
A Bird or Two: A Story About Matisse by Bijou LeTord
When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden

30th December Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) Mercer Mayer (1943)

Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, novelist and creator of enduring children's books, Jungle Book; Rikki Tikki Tavi and The Just So Stories. He was born in India, went back to England at 5, was educated there and then in 1882 he went back to India as a journalist. While older children will still read Jungle Book in an edition such as Nicola Bayley's, Kipling has been beyond the reach of very young children. But now, because of the amount of time his stories have been around, and because he died so long ago, many of his stories have been retold for younger audiences and with modern illustrations. English author, Shoo Rayner has written the Just So Stories as beginning chapter books, perfect for young readers. They are one of the most popular reading series with my Year 1 students. The boys like to read the whole set and then will move onto other Shoo Rayner books, such as Viking Vik, Little Horrors, Ricky Rocket and Scaredy Cats. Illustrators such as Jerry Pinkney have also taken Kipling's stories and made them 'dance'. And of course if you don't read anything else it is time to dig out Kipling's poem, If and be reminded what sound advice it is.

Mercer Mayer is an American author illustrator, very well known for his series of books about Little Critter, but long before these there were other books worth searching for. His first book, A Boy, a Dog and a Frog is a wordless book with so much to offer, plot-wise, characterisation-wise and pictorially. He did others such as this and then his There's a Nightmare in my Cupboard and There's an Alligator Under My Bed.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

29th December Molly Bang (1943)

Molly Bang is an American illustrator. I first met her work in The Paper Crane, a story based on a folk tale, but with so much to talk about. Aidan Chamber's Tell Me Framework questions work well with it and the children always have lots of puzzles. More recently though, I have discovered her picture books about science concepts and have incorporated some of them into class units of work. Molly says on her website that "In the past 10 or 15 years, I have become more concerned about American children's lack of knowledge about even the most basic scientific principles, and I've written four books about science in an attempt to help change this." She goes on to say that sales of these books have been dismal. Such a shame as they are cheap, have beautifully bright illustrations on glossy paper and just the right amount of text. In my library we have My Light and Living Sunlight, but there are others too.We also have a set of beginning readers about a rat that are written by Molly's daughter, Monika Bang-Campbell and illustrated by Molly. There are three, Little Rat Sets Sail; Little Rat Rides and Little Makes Music.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

28th December

American Diane Stanley writes in a variety of genre, many I have not seen. In Australia I have seen her biographies and fairytales, but from her magnificent website I now know there is more for me to explore. Her biographies of Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare are well-read in my library, but there are others, such as those about Michaelangelo and Cleopatra. Her fairytale spinoffs are humorous and thought-provoking for children who have begun to question stereotypes.

Australian author, David Metzenthen writes novels which are often adventure stories in a rural setting. Many of them are for readers older than my clientele, but because he has titles in the Aussie Bites and Aussie Nibbles my students have read him, recognise his name and will go on to read him in primary school. His Fort Island which is one of the Aussie Nibbles series is particularly good for a reader's circle discussion about risktaking. He also has a picture book The Rainbirds .

27th December Jill Tomlinson (1931 - 1976) Diane Stanley (1943) David Metzenthen (1958)

British author, Jill Tomlinson is one of my favourite authors for serial-reading in the library. Each chapter of her animal stories stands alone and the humour and the characterisation (really anthropomorphism) sustains the story until the next week and the next lesson. For me it is hard to reconcile Jill's multiple sclerosis pain with her humour, but I am sure it is the fact that she could not physically do the writing herself, that makes The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and Penguin's Progress (renamed The Penguin Who Wanted to Find Out) read aloud so well. These two stories never let me down. I read the first to Year 1 and the second to Year 2 every year and then they read the rest of her books themselves. Paul Howard who illustrated the new editions of the chapter books has also published some of the titles in picture book formats, and while they are beautiful, the text has been abridged and much of the humour has been lost. Therefore your library really needs to have both the chapter books and the picture books.

See tomorrow's entry for Diane Stanley and David Metzenthen.

26th December Maurice Saxby (1924)

Maurice Saxby, the doyen of Australian children's literature is celebrating his birthday today! He has taught and influenced a myriad of Australian teachers and written at length about children's literature for many years. In fact he is the reason I am so passionate about it. If Maurice Saxby writes a positive review or waxes lyrical about a book you know to go and buy it.

He has written the History of Australian Children's Literature, a multivolume tome which charts Australian children's books from their beginning to recent times. He has written for teachers, books such as Give Them Wings, exhorting teachers to read and teach using children's literature and he has written for children as well, books such the picture book, Russell and the Star Shell and the collections of myths and legends from Western civilisation, The Great Deeds of Superheroes and its partner, The Great Deeds of Heroic Women. These two books are illustrated by Robert Ingpen to make them doubly inspiring.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

25th December Christmas Day

Christmas Day and no authors, so I get to write about my all-time favourite Christmas books! Some I have mentioned before, such as Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly and Ivy, Gloria Houston and Barbara Cooney's The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and Tomie de Paola's The Legend of the Poinsettia, but there are others that shouldn't be missed.

These are, in no particular order:
* Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman. This works well if you are looking for a traditional nativity story, but it is told from a cat's point of view and Foreman's colour and perspective is breathtaking.
* Fair's Fair by Leon Garfield and Margaret Chamberlain. This picture book version of the story is out of print and the current versions look more like small chapter books. I read this Scrooge-type story to Year 2 and they sit transfixed by the language, the setting and the child-protagonists who have experiences so far removed from their own.
* The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P.J.Lynch. Like Fair's Fair this story is also set in a time before cars when craftsmanship was considered a great talent and death was commonplace. It is sad and uplifting at the same time.
* The Little Crooked Christmas Tree by Michael Cutting and Ron Broda. This story looks at exclusion, perfection, and other qualities that people think important at Christmas through the eyes of a less-than-perfect Christmas tree who is left standing alone on the tree farm.
* The Other Goose by Judith Kerr. This story about Katerina, a goose who thinks her reflection is another goose is a bit corny, but it is action-packed and Christmas is only the background setting and almost incidental to the plot.

And two more recent titles:
* Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn by Kate and M. Sarah Klise. I like this because their is such a loving relationship between the mother rabbit and her child, I like knitting and the Klise sisters have imbued the book with such warmth.
* Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. I think everyone needs to chuckle and smile at Christmas and this rollicking rhyme is fun. The children at school love it.

And, if you need a serial:
* The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson will keep you laughing right to the end.

24th December Noel Streatfield (1895 - 1986)

Now I know why Noel Streatfield was named Noel. Her sisters had more traditional names. When I was a child and in love with Ballet Shoes and her other books I thought she was a male and Noel was a boy's name. I did wonder why he wrote about ballet. I didn't have access to anything like the web or books that would give me any biographical details about authors. I think that was one of the reasons I was so fascinated by authors and then illustrators and chose to research them more when studying children's literature at uni. While Noel Streatfield's stories may have had a focus such as ballet or tennis, they were always family stories and the reader got involved in the characters' lives. The clientele of my library are not ready to read Ballet Shoes, but as a topic ballet is extremely popular as a reading focus. Books such as Patricia Lee Gauch's series about Tanya, Amy Young's series about Belinda, Jan Ormerod's Ballet Sisters about Sylvie and Bonnie and Adele Geras' books about Tilly will certainly ready my readers to tackle Noel Streatfield's books later in primary school.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

23rd December Carol Ann Duffy (1965)

Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish poet who is currently the British Poet Laureate. She writes for all ages, but has a large number of children's poems and stories that are presented in picture book format that are well-worth searching for in a library or book shop. These are in my library and are good starting points.

Monday, December 20, 2010

22nd December Jerry Pinkney (1939) Phil Cummings (1957) Jarrett J. Krosoczka (1977)

Jerry Pinkney is the American author illustrator who won the Caldecott Medal last year for his amazingly beautiful rendition of the fable The Lion and the Mouse. It is almost wordless and even if you didn't know the story the pictures are enough. He has won many awards and the opening words on his website tell you why. "I am a storyteller at heart. So each project begins with the question, 'Is this story worth telling? Is the manuscript an interesting read? Is it surprising and challenging? Will I, in the process of making pictures, learn something new?'" Looking at the detail in his illustrations and the amount of time spent even on the endpages (see Noah's Ark) you know that Jerry Pinkney loves his job and takes it very seriously.

Australian author, Phil Cummings on the other hand does not take his writing so seriously. Most of his books, especially his bridging novels are humorous and his picture book Boom Bah! with illustrations by Nina Rycroft is lots of fun (and noise) when shared with very young readers. I particularly like using his picture books Midge, Mum and the Neighbours and Marty and Mei-Ling (both out of print) with classes during units of work that require a community, school, families, multicultural-type focus or which deal with prejudice, identity or social interaction.

American author illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka is new to me, but I cannot wait to read Baghead with a class next year and make them! It may well be a one-hit wonder because books like this don't sustain many readings once you know the reason, but I can see librarians and teachers having fun with it.

21st December

Given the unpredictability of the weather in Australia at the moment and all the stories of hardship it has caused I can't help but think of Rick and Bronwyn Searle's Follow Me. This book is probably out of print but if you can find it in a library, and it is in our school library, it is a good book to start a discussion about weather and the damage it causes, but it also looks at how life goes on and at how renewal can come from disaster. This picture book charts the story of a fig seedling that a small boy finds growing on a building in Darwin. He plants it and it lives through Cyclone Tracy which occurred on Christmas Eve in 1974. It becomes a symbol for renewal, strength and remembrance during a time of great turbulence.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

20th December

No birthdays, but last week on the 16th when it was Quentin Blake's birthday it was also Beethoven's and I couldn't write about him then. So today a couple of children's books about Beethoven that are worth reading to celebrate this remarkable musician who was born Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn, Germany in 1770. There is a very comprehensive website about him so together with the books listed below you will be able to have fun with a class.
* Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a book in my library by Barbara Nichol and Scott Cameron. It tells the story of Christophe, a young boy who has Beethoven as a boarder/tenant in his house and how he comes to appreciate beethoven's genius given his deafness. It also comes in audio and video formats and with teacher's notes.
* Beethoven by Yann Walker. This book is one of a series on famous composers and it includes a CD of music to accompany the story of the composer's life.