Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Reading Happy Birthday Author blog today I learned that on the 23rd, it was Keiko Kasza's birthday. She is an illustrator that I only have a couple of books by so I was pleased to learn about her and that she has more books for me to search out. She was born in Japan, but lives in the USA and while studying there she learned about Leo Lionni. What a wonderful introduction to children's book illustrating he would have been! On her website there is also a particularly good teacher's guide for many of her picture books.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Happy Christmas. It has been a very happy family Christmas here and instead of going to the country, the country cousins have come to us for the first time. Despite dire long-term predictions, the weather was warm and we ate our hot lunch outside. But it was not a scorcher, there were no bushfires and we did not swim. In fact the only words from C.J. Dennis' A Bush Christmas that applied were
Ah, well," says Dad. "I got to say I never spent a lazier day."This poem first published in the Herald on Christmas Eve in 1931 tells the story of an outback family who invite a lonely neighbour to join them for Christmas. Although it is a hot day, and the family struggles with heat and the hardships of rural life they enjoy the neighbour's tales of Christmas in the colder climate of the Northern hemisphere. This poem has been made accessible to young children through Dee Huxley's illustrated picture book. It depicts a Christmas that is far removed from the urban, multicultured Christmas most of us enjoy, but it is good to be reminded of rural Australia and what it was like for early settlers.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Terrible news. Russell Hoban has died aged 86. Together with Dick King Smith this means two greats of the Children's Literature world have gone this year, one at the beginning of the year (January 5) and the other at the end.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Yesterday while writing and thinking about nativity stories, I realised how many there were where the narrator was an onlooker at the birth of Jesus and how often this was an animal. This is an interesting way to add some new interest to a well-known story. It allows the reader to look anew, to move their focus and to see different perspectives of an event.
An Australian Christmas Part 2.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
For many schools in Australia this is the last full week of school before the summer holidays. Most classes will be reading about Christmas in other parts of the world where there is snow, it is green and probably cold. It is wet here at the moment and for the first time in many years it is green, there are not water restrictions, there is not the threat of bushfires and there isn't drought. Usually Rain for Christmas by Richard Tulloch and Wayne Harris is what I get out to share with classes each Christmas, but this year it is time for a change.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Tomi Ungerer is 80 today! He has joined those other wonderful octogenerians of the children's lit world, Russell Hoban, Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle, Brian Wildsmith, Judith Kerr and Shirley Hughes. It is so good that they are still having plenty to say and either doing new books or having old ones reissued. Tomi has just had three of his books reissued in time for Christmas presents. They are the adventures of the Mellop brothers. These pigs are back to excite a new generation of children and the new covers are much more inspiring than the old. Now all I need is for his wonderful version of Red Riding Hood to be reissued. When I first started teaching I read it to a Year 5 class and they were still getting over the fact that RRH married the wolf, weeks later. They were shocked. It just was not meant to happen. Many see his books as being subversive. He says on his interview (that is for you and not children) here "Children have to be faced with the absurd because the world is absurd."
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I have just come back from the shops where I picked up a copy of Bear's First Christmas by Robert Kinerk and Jim LaMarche for half price. What a good way to be reminded that it is Jim LaMarche's birthday. I love the illustration of the moose, the bear and the crow seen from above scratching at the iced bog. The bear in this book is so adorable looking, very huggable looking, and it makes it hard for children here in Australia who have never seen a bear to perceive of them as wild animals to be feared. LaMarche has given the animals human-like personalities and made the snowy environment look very inviting.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
It is Gloria Houston's birthday and she is the author responsible for one of my all time favourite children's books with a Christmas setting and it is that time of year again when I can enjoy reading it to and discussing it with classes. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is set in Appalachia during World War I, a time and place that is quite foreign to my children in Australia but the task Ruthie performs leaves them awestruck and inspired. I have never had this story fail.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Today is the 39th annual World Hello Day. Anyone can participate simply by greeting ten people. This demonstrates that you think personal communication is important for preserving peace. World Hello Day began in 1973 in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel. The day is observed now in 180 countries as an opportunity for people to express their concern for world peace. Your simple greeting sends a message to leaders encouraging them to use communication rather than force to settle conflicts.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Today is the birthday of American author Marion Dane Bauer. My favourite and the children's favourite of her books in the library is If You Were Born a Kitten. Whenever it is on display it doesn't stay there long. It has a partner book Sleep Little One, Sleep which has a very endearing basset hound on its cover. Marion's more recent book about Owen, the hippopotamus who was rescued after the tsunami off India and sent to animal refuge where he befriended tortoise, Mzee, is also well borrowed.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Miska Miles, a pseudonym for Patricia Miles Martin, is the author of that classic, Annie and the Old One. This story was a Newbery Honor Book in 1972 and then made into a film. She began her working life as an elementary school teacher but after accidentally taking part in a creative writing course became a published author. She particularly liked animals and wrote many novels about horses. She was also inspired to write about things that happened to her while living on a farm in Kansas and a Navajo reservation.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I have just found out that today is Gloria Rand's birthday! She is the author of my son's all-time-favourite picture book...Salty Dog. I bought it at a jumble sale because it was about boats and my son loved boats (still does). It had no dust jacket and a plain cover. It was published in the year he was born and he was already seven so it wasn't new and I had never seen it in Australia before. Recently I tried to give it back to the charity shop and my now adult son said, 'You can't give my favourite book away! I still need it.' Given that he struggled with learning to read and knew the whole story off by heart I guess it really was a special book. In the story Salty is a puppy who very much wants to go to work each day with his master, Zack. Eventually he gets himself out of home and off on the ferry to find Zack building a boat. It is beautifully and realistically illustrated by Gloria's husband Ted.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Grandparents have always played a valuable role in our society by offering care, love and guidance to their children and grandchildren.
There's a myriad of books out there about how special grandparents are, that it is hard to decide what to highlight. Perhaps I should only recommend Australian ones!Three newer ones by Rosemary Mastnak make being a grandchild seem like fun:
Monday, October 24, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
In 2001,the very first iPod was unveiled, and then went on sale on November 10th of the same year for $399.00 USD. iPod Day commemorates this launch, and recognises just how big a contribution the iPod has made to the accessibility and portability of music. To celebrate this day you must see the dolphin page in A Filth of Starlings. This amazing book by Patrick George illustrates collective nouns in a very novel manner and here is a pod of dolphins wearing iPods. The whole book is bright, clever, different and laden with teaching possibilities. It has a companion as well A Drove of Bullocks and together they warrant serious browsing!
Friday, October 21, 2011
When I was a child my mother had a jar full of buttons that she used when she made us dresses, waggas (what she called bed quilts), jumpers etc. She collected them. She even cut them off worn out clothes. Then when it was a rainy day and we were inside we would pull out the bottle and sort them, by colour, by size, by texture, make patterns with them, sew them on to things and count them! It was a fun activity. I can't imagine the children I teach, being interested in counting buttons too often, but recently when we decorated cardboard birds as a follow up activity to Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot (Anna Brandford & Sarah Davis) a large number of children chose to decorate theirs with coloured buttons of varying sizes that I had put out with the other collage materials. And I was surprised to see some choose to give a red button the pride of place on their bird ... no doubt as a result of the story where Violet finds a red button in the dirt at the Saturday markets.