Saturday, April 30, 2011

30th April Children's Day/Book Day

Today is my daughter's birthday and she is visiting America. I hope she visits a bookshop or library and gets involved in activities designed to celebrate Children's Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día). It is an American celebration of children, families, and reading held annually on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This is in America, but there is no reason why we could not adopt aims such as these in multicultural Australia and have an annual, special celebration linking children to books, home languages and cultures around the country in schools, libraries, and bookstores. Days such as Día provide a wonderful opportunity for parents to promote the power of books by reading to their own children. Every day of the year can be “Día,” a day for linking all children and books!

The number of bilingual and foreign language books in my library is small, but growing. Of course we have more French and Spanish books because they are the foreign languages taught at the school, but we also have some books written in indigenous Aboriginal languages as well as in English.

Having a day such as this, especially if we celebrated it alongside or together with World Mother Tongue Day/ International Mother Language Day (21st February) would mean that schools would put more effort into the parent/child/reading relationship and themes such as this year's Book Week one, One World, Many Stories would be easier to make meaningful at a school where these ideas can become quite tokenistic.

Friday, April 29, 2011

29th April Ron Roy (1940) Save the Frogs Day

Frog lovers and environmentalists are gearing up for the 3rd Annual Save The Frogs Day. The annual celebration of amphibians is expected to be the largest day of amphibian education and conservation action in the planet’s history. The goal is to raise awareness of the rapid disappearance of frog species worldwide.

To highlight this important day in the library, collect together posters, toys and books that will make children think about frogs and how they can make sure they remain part of their environment. Non fiction titles will probably work best, but I don't need much of an excuse to get out some anthropomorphised frogs as well such as Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad series, Max Velthuijs' Frog series and Mercer Mayer's A Boy, a Dog and a Frog series. Some good expository texts for my age group are:

Little Green Frogs by Frances Barry

Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney (National Geographic Kids)

Red Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley and Nick Bishop

Growing Frogs by Vivian french and Alison Bartlett

Tadpoles and Frogs by Anna Milbourne (Usborne Beginners)

Face to face With Frogs by Mark W. Moffett (National Geographic)

Australian Frogs, Amazing Amphibians by Jill Morris and Lynne Tracey

Amazing Frogs by Steve Parish

It is also American author Wallace Ronald Roy (known as Ron Roy)'s birthday. He is known in my library for the 26 mystery stories, one for each letter of the alphabet, known as the A to Z Mysteries.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

27th April Nancy Shaw (1946) Betty G. Birney (1947) International Guide Dog Day

A day for animals! American author Nancy Shaw has a series of picture books about sheep which began with Sheep in a Jeep and which arose from a dull car trip with her young children. 'I tinkered with animal rhymes' to amuse my children. Very different from the watching of movies and the playing of computer games of the car trips that have occurred here during the Easter school break!

Also American, author Betty G. Birney is responsible for the series of novels about Humphrey, a hamster. These books are particularly popular with my good Year 2 readers who own a guinea pig, as we do not have hamsters in Australia. The series that started with The World According to Humphrey follows the experiences of a class hamster through a full year of school. Humphrey is an exceptional hamster who knows how to write and helps solve the problems of his fellow classmates. The books have stand alone chapters which is particularly good for students who are taking the step towards longer books, but still like to read the whole book in one sitting. In Australia we get the English versions of these stories and so far there are seven books in the series.

And thirdly it is International Guide Dog Day, a day designed to make us think about the mobility and independence that a guide dog can bring to vision-impaired people around the world. This year's theme, “Guide Dogs Can Go Anywhere” not only offers the community an opportunity to learn more about the role of Guide Dogs, but also access issues facing Guide Dog users.

There are many non-fiction expository texts for young children which give students information about guide dogs. My library has:
Guide Dogs; from puppies to partners by Diana Lawrenson.
Guide Dog by Jill Coleman
A good story to read which shows the relationship between the dog and owner is the wonderful Dan and Diesel by Charlotte Hudson and Lindsey Gardiner.

While on the subject of blindness, although there isn't a guide dog, you really need to search out Jeanne Willis and Sarah Fox-Davies' wonderful new book Mole's Sunrise. Mole is blind and his friends come up with a plan to help Mole 'see' the sunrise. On youtube you can see how the pictures in this book were made into reliefs for blind children.

Monday, April 25, 2011

25th April Anzac Day, Stuart J. Murphy (1942)

It is Anzac Day in Australia and we have a holiday. Most schools commemorate it in some way though, either before or as is the case this year, after. I wrote about books to share for it last year here.

Today is Stuart J. Murphy's birthday. I know little about him except that he is the author of the Lois Ehlert illustrated book, A Pair of Socks. I know this book because I love Lois Ehlert, but reading about Stuart I see that he has many more books in his Math Start series and another series of books for Early Childhood called I See I Learn which I would also like to see more of.

Back to socks. Last year I was surprised to see how many 'sock' books we had in the library. A Year 1 class had made yellow socks when their teacher had shared Lucky Socks by Carrie Weston and Charlotte Middleton with her class. She gave them to me and I decided to put together a display. Everyone has the problem of odd socks and the washing machine eating them, so these books could lead to matching games, counting in pairs, wordbanks for footwear and words that rhyme with socks, making sock puppets or sock monkeys. So many options!

As well as the two books mentioned a display could include:
Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss
Fox's Socks by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
One Blue Sock by Emily Ballou & Stephen Michael King
Where's My Sock by Joyce Dunbar & Sanja Rescek
The Sock Fairy by Bobbie Hinman
Ducks Don't Wear Socks by John Nedwidek & Lee White
10 Little Sock Monkeys by William B. Winburn
My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven
and any of the three Sir Charlie Stinky Socks titles by Kristina Stephenson.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

24th April Bert Kitchen (1940)

Last year on this date I celebrated three birthdays, Evaline Ness, Dorothy Butler and Margaret Wild, but subsequently I have learned that today is also English illustrator Bert Kitchen's birthday and I have to tell you about one of my all time favourite books, Tenrec's Twigs. This story set in Madagascar is about a tenrec, a real animal, but one I had never heard of, who builds these amazing structures from twigs. Along the way he chats to other animals, native to Madagascar, such as a pangolin, a giraffe and a sloth. The animal illustrations are meticulous, accurate and so appealing that I want to linger on each. The story has interesting themes, in creativity and purposefulness and allows for plenty of discussion and debate as well as introducing readers to animals, their habitat and distinctive characteristics. Bert Kitchen seems to specialise in animal illustrations and even the books in my library that are not factual, such as his Ugly Duckling and The Lion and the Mouse and Other Aesop Fables are still predominantly illustrated with animals.

Friday, April 22, 2011

22nd April Kathy Stinson

Happy birthday to another Canadian author, Kathy Stinson. She is the author of some of the most perfect books for preschoolers. I particularly like Red is Best which has now been in print for over twenty five years and still encapsulates life for a child between three and five. Maybe things haven't changed as much as we sometimes like to think they have. My three year old daughter would only wear purple, in a similar way that Kelly, the child in this book, would only wear red, because red is best! Her red stockings make Kelly jump higher, her red pyjamas keep monsters away and her red boots take bigger steps. And fellow Canadian Robin Baird Lewis' illustrations are a lovely bonus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

18th April Barbara Reid (1957)

I have just read that it is Canadian author illustrator Barbara Reid's birthday and I didn't include her yesterday. Her plasticine art deserves an entry of its own! How she does it or has the patience is beyond me. When I try it with children they manage to make a brown gooey mess because they cannot keep the colours separated, but I do teach young children. When I have done it with adults the results are better, but still nowhere near what Barbara manages to achieve. You can watch Barbara at work making a plasticine picture in this video. There are easy projects to use plasticine with children on her website too. And if your library is an established one you may have her out of print book, Playing With Plasticine which also gives lots of tips. Even without the how-to book, her illustrations have plenty to marvel at.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

18th April Leigh Hobbs (1953) Melissa Sweet (1956)

Leigh Hobbs is an Australian author, artist, cartoonist and the creator of the Old Tom series of books and yes, I did write about him last year, but since then he has brought out a new series of books and they are such a hit in the library with Year 2 that I need to tell you about them. They are about Mr Badger who is the Special Events Manager at the Boubles Grand Hotel in London. He is in charge of parties, weddings, balls and special guests. He solves mysteries and so far there are four books in the series.

It is also the American illustrator, Melissa Sweet's birthday. Her style is very different from the cartoons of Hobbs. Her illustrations in the series about Baby Bear written by Jane Yolen (see Baby Bear's Books; Baby Bear's Big Dreams and Baby Bear's Chairs) are sweet, warm and comforting, but she has other styles such as the one used to illustrate the Charlotte books by Joan Knight. See Charlotte in Giverny; Charlotte in Paris; Charlotte in New York and Charlotte in London and the beautiful biography about John James Audubon, The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies. And to follow up on yesterday's celebration of bats, you can dig out Bat Jamboree and Bats Around the Clock both written by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Melissa!

17th April Bat Appreciation Day

What a good excuse to get out all the books in the library that feature bats and put together a display! I'd start with Stellaluna by Janell Cannon and Bats at the Library (and its sequels) by Brian Lies because I have puppets to go with these. Then my favourite story to share with classes, Boris the Bat by Robert Dickins because the underlying themes in this book allow for the best discussions about what is appropriate behaviour and what is not. Of course there should be some non-fiction and the Usborne Beginners' Bats by Megan Cullis and the National Geographic Reader Bats by Elizabeth Carney are both excellent. Then to complete the display I would add:
Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
Goodnight Baby Bat by Debi Gliori
Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies and Sarah Fox-Davies
The Bat and the Crocodile by Jack Dolumyu and Pamela Lofts
Oscar and the Bat by Geoff Waring

Thursday, April 14, 2011

15th April Jacqueline Briggs Martin (1945) Nick Butterworth (1946) Cressida Cowell (1966)

Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the author of the beautiful, Caldecott Award winning picture book Snowflake Bentley. To be honest I think of it as Mary Azarian's book, probably because I just love the illustrations and she is the illustrator, but I do know it wouldn't exist if there hadn't been an author. Having checked out Jacqueline's website I now know she has written many other things and I need to search them out and read further.

Nick Butterworth is an English author illustrator with a long list of picture books to his credit. His series about Percy the Park Keeper, although very English has some dedicated followers in the library and then he has other characters such as the cats Jasper and Tiger, the martian, Q Pootle 5, and polar bear Albert Le Blanc who appear in more than one book each. I heard Nick Butterworth speak in Sydney about his career and as a result my interest was sparked enough to follow his work more closely. I like the crispness of his illustrations with their white backgrounds and the warmth of the stories. If you do not know his Percy books, see One Snowy Night, the original story. There is a good version here.

And thirdly, it is author Cressida Cowell's birthday. She is best known for her series of novels, dragon stories that began with How to Train Your Dragon and now has enough books in the series to keep all avid dragon story readers going for quite some time. A few of my Year 2 readers start this adventure because they have seen the movie, but for most the reading is just beyond them. However Cressida has a number of picture books to keep my clientele busy, including the three about Emily Brown. I particularly like the way Cressida started out illustrating her own books and only as she has become busier has she relinquished her picture books to other illustrators. Go to her website and read about her. I'd love to swap places with her for a while!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

14th April Salley Mavor (1955)

It is American illustrator Salley Mavor's birthday. I wrote about her last year on Dec 13th when it was Ann Turner's birthday because Salley had illustrated one of her books. At the time Salley had just released her most recent book A Pocketful of Posies and I couldn't wait to see it. Well now I have and the appliqued illustrations or fabric relief sculptures as she calls them are divine. They look so tactile and if only they were ... the originals must be so special. I would love to go to an exhibition of her work, like we have here for Jeannie Baker's work when she releases a new book. I need another trip to the US. I want to see original Salley Mavor's, Anna Grossnickle Hines' quilts from her new book Peaceful Pieces and some Julie Paschkis original art. Dream on, but it certainly would make a good long service leave adventure. Guess what I have just looked at Salley's website and there are exhibitions!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

12th April Beverly Cleary (1916)

Wow! Today Beverly Cleary is 95! She is a real hero to me. When I first started teaching I had huge success serialising her novels with my classes. We laughed together at Ramona, Beezus and Henry's antics and then the children were hooked and kept reading any book written by Beverly Cleary that I added to the classroom library. Then later when I was an English consultant, one of my jobs was to help schools instigate Drop Everything and Read programs in their schools. This was such a success that in the end I was doing it by remote control with a written package and phone calls to interstate and even secondary schools. So when I found out that America celebrates Drop Everything and Read Day on Beverly Cleary's birthday I think that is a very fitting tribute to a deserving author. Even later still when my daughter was learning to read, one of the first books she read independently and subsequently loved was a copy of Socks that we had bought at a jumble sale. So began her love affair with cats and babies!

On a less happy note. Today the shortlists for the Australian Children's Book of the Year awards were announced. The Early Childhood list is such a disappointment! Every year I make my own short list and every year I am disappointed. I spend my whole working week with children aged between 3 and 8 who are supposed to be the intended audience of this category - under the list the blurb says these books are 'intended for children in the pre-reading to early reading stages' and I think the judges sell them very short. Two of my picks would have been Jane Godwin and Anna Walker's All Through the Year and Bob Graham's April Underhill, Tooth Fairy, but they aren't there. How can Bob Graham's book make the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist, but not the Australian list? Is this going to be Harry and Hopper all over again? The Transition class (ie 4 year olds) have had All Through the Year in their room and one of the Kindergarten classes (ie 5 year olds) have had Jeannie Baker's Mirror in their classroom all term and when I suggested they go to other rooms the children were very quick to say 'we haven't finished with it yet!' Too often this category is won by a 'baby' book that has rhyme and rhythm and not much else. The books most borrowed from the library have humour, outstanding illustrations and a story that demands multiple readings. When school goes back I will have my chance to read all of the shortlist with children and gauge their responses. I hope I am wrong and get to write a retraction.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

11th April April Pulley Sayre

I really like the girl's name April, but as my birthday is in April, I was pleased that my mother didn't choose it for my name. Then my daughter was born in April too so I didn't use it either. Because of this I was very surprised to see that author, April Pulley Sayre was born in April. Her mother was braver than me! I first took notice of April as an author when I purchased Vulture View. I bought it because I am a great fan of Steve Jenkins and feel a strong need to read all of his books and drool over his collages. Having read April's text and been impressed, I then started to look for other books by her and quickly realised that there were many more of her books in the library. They all seemed to be about nature or animals, even if they had narrative rather than expository text, so when I visited her website and researched her I was not surprised to read that April aims to 'share nature and word joy through playful and educational children's books'. Many of her books are non-fiction information books, done as part of a series such as Scholastic's Science Readers. Unusual counting book One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab which she wrote with her husband, Jeff Sayre would be the library's most borrowed of her titles. Kindergarten classes seem to always be borrowing it and given that Easter is coming up, her new book, If You're Hoppy is highly appropriate to read now!

10th April Eric Knight (1897 - 1943)

Author Eric Knight was born in Yorkshire, England but moved to the United States when he was fifteen as his mother had married an American. Although he wrote many novels in his short life, he is probably best remembered for Lassie Come Home, a story that made Lassie and collies famous and movie stars. He raised collies and other dogs with his wife on a property in Pennsylvania and wrote his Lassie story here in 1938. Unfortunately he was killed in an aircrash while working as a major in the U S Army.

Two stalwarts of children's literature, Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers have taken the original story of a Yorkshire boy and his collie, Lassie who is taken away but manages to find his way back to the boy hundreds of miles away, and turned it into a magnificent picture book. Noone my age can read it without a tear or fond memories of rerun after rerun of the movies on television, but for children who like adventure stories or dog stories it is still worth a read.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

3rd April Sandra Boynton (1953)

Recently I found a new copy of A is for Angry. It has been reissued. Of course I bought it. It is such a fun way to teach children about what an adjective is and does. And then it was her birthday, so a good excuse to write about her. The books of Sandra's that work the best for me and the children I teach are the ones that feature farm animals, noise and fun. Moo, Baa, La La La! is a perfect example of this! Check out Sandra Boynton's website to see how many amazing projects she has been involved in besides books.

2nd April Hans Christian Andersen (1805 - 1875) International Children's Book Day Amy Schwartz World Autism Day

Today is International Children's Book Day in honour of Hans Christian Andersen's birthday and as usual IBBY has produced a poster. This year's theme is The Book Remembers and it is by Estonian illustrator Juri Mildeberg.

It is also Amy Schwartz's birthday. She is an American author illustrator whose work I know very little about as
I have only seen a couple of her books. The library has What James Likes Best, which won the 2004 Charlotte Zolotow Award. This is a great honour, given that it is awarded to the author of the best picture book text published in the USA in the
preceding year. It seems as if we should have more of her books!

Thirdly, it is World Autism Day, also known as World Autism Awareness Day. The aim of this day is to increase people's awareness about people, especially children with autism. This is becoming easier to do using children's books because of titles such as Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Cynthia Lord's Rules. Although many of the books for younger children are still overly didactic anything by Kathy Hoopman who writes about Asperger's Syndrome is worth exploring and the picture book Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely and Polly Dunbar is especially good for looking at the consequences of mainstreaming children with autism and thus increasing tolerance of difference. This story is told from the point of view of a girl who sits next to Louis, an autistic boy who is a loner, repeats things he hears, mimicks adults and gets away with behaviour that wouldn't be tolerated from the other children. This book should help initiate good discussion. Another picture book worth searching out is My Brother Sammy by Becky Edwards and David Armitage. In this story Sammy does not go to a mainstream class and he is constantly ruining his brother's things. His brother just wants Sammy to be a 'normal' brother.