Tuesday, March 29, 2011

30th March Pencil Day

30th March marks the day when a patent was taken out by Hymen Lipman in 1858 on the first pencil with a rubber (eraser) attached and thus it has become known as Pencil Day.

Pencils, crayons, pens, all sorts of drawing implements feature in many books and usually they have a degree of magic where whatever they draw becomes reality. Anthony Browne realised the magic pencil's potential many years ago when he created the bear with the magic pencil. He appeared in Bear Hunt; Bear Goes to Town; Little Bear Book and A Bear-y Tale and when I began teaching these books created a lot of fun on rainy lunchtimes when my class would make their own bear and magic pencil adventures. Except for the first title these books seem to be out of print so you will need to hunt in a library. Recently Anthony Browne resurrected bear and turned the concept into a competition in Britain. The result of this is a new book called The Bear With the Magic Pencil. Maybe it will mean the older titles can be reissued.

Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman also explore the concept of a pencil that can draw and create new objects in The Pencil. Everything goes well in this story until the pencil draws an eraser.

And, if you are looking for a longer book, but one that still has that sense of mischief, read Andy Griffiths' Pencil of Doom.

Of course the day could just be enjoyed by drawing with pencils, special pencils like aquarelles or metallic ones or by exploring how pencils are made. Angela Royston's book How is a Pencil Made? will help with this.

30th March Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)

While I did include van Gogh in last year's blog entries, I have purchased a new picture book since then that I want to mention. It is called Vincent van Gogh and the Colors of the Wind and it is certainly a good looking book and it is a large portrait-shaped book so easy to share with a group. The story written by Chiara Lossani and illustrated by Octavia Monaco was originally published in Italy.

The story follows van Gogh's life from childhood, through the tumultuous years to his untimely death. It explores his relationship with his younger brother Theo and the letters he wrote to him. It includes reproductions of some of his paintings and integrates them into the illustrations which themselves 'splash' colour in a similar manner to van Gogh.

I read a review and ordered the book from a catalogue sight unseen. The review recommended the book for 4 - 8 year olds, but the text is very long, probably overlong for a picture book, written in stanzas, and is hard to read on the painted backgrounds, so I think that this makes it for older children.

Monday, March 28, 2011

28th March Doreen Cronin

I read today that it is American author Doreen Cronin's birthday. I don't know when she was born, but I will still celebrate her birthday in the future in the library. She is the author of that wonderful book about cows that type, Click Clack Moo and all the subsequent farmyard spin offs illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type always creates great discussion when compared with Martin Waddell's Farmer Duck.

Doreen Cronin is also the author of the series of diaries about minibeasts, The Diary of a Spider; The Diary of a Worm and The Diary of a Fly. These are illustrated by Harry Bliss.

I had already planned to use Doreen's books Wiggle; Stretch and Bounce having fun with my preschool class tomorrow, so it will be an added bonus to tell them about her birthday! These three books are illustrated by Scott Menchin. No matter who is chosen to illustrate Doreen's books they seem bound to succeed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

21st March World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day was marked on the 21st March. This date was chosen because (21/3) represents the 3 copies of chromosome 21 which is unique to people with Down Syndrome. Along with Harmony Day and World Poetry Day, on this date there are too many worthwhile events for a school to deal with all on one day. Although we did not do anything specific at school to commemorate it there are many good books worth reading to children that will raise their awareness of Down Syndrome and the value of inclusion of children with Down Syndrome to a school community.

My favourite picture book is When Smudge Came, a picture book by Canadian author Nan Gregory and illustrated by Ron Lightburn. This is the story of Cindy, who finds a puppy and desperately wants to keep it. The fact that Cindy has Down Syndrome is revealed through the pictures and not explicitly stated in the text. The story is told from her viewpoint, something else that is not common, and it is her voice we hear, clipped, direct and focussed on one thing, keeping the puppy. Usually stories about disability are told from the viewpoint of a sibling or friend. As the reader your empathy is focussed too, right on Cindy and her needs and abilities.

Other books in my library are the three little chapter books in the Jets series, which are about Jessy, a girl with Down Syndrome and her family which are written by Rachel Anderson who is an English author who has written many books featuring characters with special needs. The three are:
Jessy Runs Away
• Jessy and the Bridesmaid's Dress and
• Best Friends
Another series of short novels which feature a family with a Down Syndrome child, Bobby, is the Bobby and Charlton stories by English author, Sophie Smiley. There are six stories about this football (soccer) mad family whose mum hands out yellow cards and an added bonus is that they are all illustrated by Michael Foreman. Number 2 Man of the Match is a particularly good introduction for child readers who need to see that children with Down Syndrome have similar needs and desires as them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

22nd March Karen Lynn Williams (1952)

Yesterday at school we celebrated Harmony Day with a visit from a wonderful group of people from the Torres Straits. Harmony Day is celebrated around Australia on 21 March each year. It's a day where all Australians celebrate our cultural diversity. The day is also the United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The message for Harmony Day in 2011 is that Everyone Belongs, which means all Australians are a welcome part of our country, regardless of their background. Our school has extended this message to become Harmony Week. This is extremely fitting given that the school community is quite homogenous and needs to be made more aware of cultural diversity.

Today is American author Karen Lynn Williams' birthday. She is the perfect author for this week as she has lived and worked in developing countries and worked tirelessly with refugees in her own country. She has written widely based on her experience and her books certainly help in the quest to eliminate racial discrimination. We have three of her books (pictured) in our library perfect for discussion on a variety of topics from racism, sexism, inclusion to family similarities if it is with very young children. You can read blurbs, reviews and teaching suggestions for the books on her website.

Friday, March 18, 2011

19th March National Quilting Day

National Quilting Day is celebrated on the th
ird Saturday in March in America. I'm not sure we have an equivalent here in Australia, but as there is a keen quilter working in the library with me, we have a wonderful collection of books that feature quilts and we often use her quilts as part of our displays. The stories that accompany the quilt books usually celebrate themes such as community, family, memories, sharing, kindness and giving so they make ideal discussion starters and often lead to a myriad of craft activities. Among the 'quilt' books in our library are the following picture books:
The Quiltmaker's Gift and The Quiltmaker's Journey by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail DeMarcken
The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy and Jerry Pinkney
Granny's Quilt by Penny Ives
The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola
The Quilt by Ann Jonas
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
The Patchwork Path by Bettye Stroud and Erin Susanne Bennett
The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
And of course there are all those beautiful books of poems where the illustrations are quilts made by author/ illustrator Anna Grossnickle Hines. Her newest is poetry about peace called Peaceful Pieces.

18th March

Now for the rest of yesterday's birthdays.

Wendell Minor is an American illustrator whose style of illustration is often larger than life, but so realistic that you also feel as if you are there having the experience depicted. In his new book where the illustrations accompany the words of the Gordon Titcomb song, The Last Train, you feel as if you are on the train or watching it across a field. His books that accompany Jean Craighead George's closely observed nature texts also bring you up close to the animals. See The Last Polar Bear; Snow Bear and The Wolves Are Back. Other books where Wendell has brought experience to life are Buzz Aldrin's Reach For the Sky and Look to the Stars.

Patrick McDonnell is an American cartoonist with a very successful comic strip about a dog called Mutts, but I first met his work when I bought his picture book Art and was enamoured of both the text and art. It too is cartoony, but it has Pollock-type artwork and Harold of purple crayon fame type imagination and makes a fun book about a small boy named Art. Recently I read about Patrick's new book to be released in April. Called Me...Jane, it is a biography of Jane Goodall and her gorillas. I can't wait to see it.

And lastly, Keith Baker who is also an American illustrator. I do not know his birth date, but I do know I love his illustrations and cannot wait to have fun with L M N O Peas and Potato Joe when Kindergarten are doing food. His other books are just as special and lend themselves to maths activities, units of enquiry or simply literature response. The Magic Fan has a text, art and paper engineering to elicit extensive discussion and given the recent tsunami in Japan it is extremely pertinent.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17th March Lilian Moore (1909 - 2004) Wendell Minor (1944) Patrick McDonnell (1956) Keith Baker

How did I miss all of these St Patrick's Day birthdays last year?


I left my head
Put it down for
a minute.
Under the
On a chair?
Wish I were
to say
Everything I need
in it!

Lilian Moore is an American poet and author. She began her working life as an elementary school teacher, became the first editor for Scholastic's Arrow Book Club and went on to become a poet and writer for very young children. Her poems are perfect for children. It is so hard to decide which is my favourite. I love I Left My Head, something I seem to have done a lot lately! I never cease to be struck when I read the last line of Beach Stones...Why did we bring them home? I did exactly that yesterday. I brought home three very smooth, very flat shiny stones and I looked at them on the bench this morning and could recite Lilian's poem in my head. Similarly when walking on the beach collecting those stones I thought of that very clear image of the wrinkling water in Until I Saw the Sea. Tomorrow I will take Lilian and Jill McElmurry's I'm Small and Other Verses off the shelf and share those wonderful, everyday experiences of peanut butter, fingerpainting and playing with friends with my Kindergarten class.

The other three wonderful illustrators will need to wait till tomorrow!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

9th March Harry Bliss (1964)

Coincidentally, a Year 1 teacher came into the library today looking for tooth fairy books and I had Mrs Watson Wants Your Teeth out on display. She didn't know it was Harry's birthday, but it planted the seed for me to write up his birthday.

Harry Bliss grew up in New York and became an illustrator and cartoonist. He does cartoons for The New Yorker magazine. On initial perusal many adults make comments about the covers of his books, saying things such as 'it looks as if it will be scary', but if they do pick up the book and read them with a child they change their mind. Don't Forget to Come Back!; Mrs Watson Wants Your Teeth and A Very Brave Witch may illicit comments like this, but his better known illustrations for Kate DiCamillo's Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken, Doreen Cronin's diary books, Diary of a Worm; Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly certainly won't.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

3rd March Erik Blegvad (1923)

Erik Blegvad is the Danish illustrator responsible for a large number of books many of which are still in print today. As well as the many books he illustrated for his author wife, Lenore he illustrated Mary Norton's Bed-Knob and Broomstick, Judith Viorst's classic, the iconic book about the death of a pet, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and many of Charlotte Zolotow's books about childhood. A good example of this is I Like To Be Little.