Monday, November 28, 2011

28th November Tomi Ungerer (1931)

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

25th November Shirley Climo (1928) Mordicai Gerstein (1935) Jim LaMarche

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.

I thought it was Mordicai Gerstein's birthday yesterday, but Anita Silvey's almanac website says it is today and she is such an authority on American children's literature that I will write about him today. He is an American author/illustrator who has a large number of books to his credit, but here in Australia, he is really only known because of his 2004 Caldecott Medal winning book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. This book tells of the amazing feat performed by French high-wire trapeze artist Philippe Petit who walked between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York in 1974.

American author, Shirley Climo's stories are often based on folklore. She has said that her love of folklore began in her childhood and she has taken these stories and retold them for new audiences. She has written several versions of the Cinderella story. In the library we have
* The Egyptian Cinderella illustrated by Ruth Heller
* The Persian Cinderella illustrated by Robert Florczak
* The Korean Cinderella illustrated by Ruth Heller
* The Irish Cinderlad illustrated by Loretta Krupinski

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

24th November Gloria Houston

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.

While on the topic of must-read Christmas books, here are other long picture books that I enjoy reading and the children sit transfixed for:
Fair's Fair by Leon Garfield and Margaret Chamberlain (this edition is out of print but worth looking for in a library because its illustrations capture the time and mood of the story perfectly, in a way that later editions that look like small chapter books do not)
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

Monday, November 21, 2011

21st November World Hello Day

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.

There are several picture books which you can use to start the idea of greetings as a means of communication. Choose from:
Two suitable for very young children
Hello, Goodbye by David Lloyd and Louise Voce
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka
Two which expose children to 'hello' in many languages
Hello World! by Manya Stojic
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora
and a poignant story about a boy who feels left out and alone while other children play together which has an underlying message about how it doesn't take much to just say 'hello'
Say Hello by Jack and Michael Foreman.

Friday, November 18, 2011

20th November Marion Dane Bauer (1938)

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

14th November Miska Miles (1899 - 1986)

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.

While the illustrations by Peter Parnell inaccurately depict many aspects of the Navajo Indians life, the sentiments expressed in the story and the relationship between Annie and her grandmother provide much that is realistic and well worth discussing. Annie refuses to believe that her grandmother, the Old One will die, but she learns that she cannot change the course of life and in doing so grows in understanding and empathy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8th November Gloria Rand

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.