Friday, November 23, 2012

26th November National Cake Day

It’s National Cake Day!  On this day, Americans celebrate one of the world’s favorite desserts—the cake. The cake we know and love today evolved from early leavened breads, which were sweetened with honey, fruit, and nuts. Did you know that the word “cake” comes from the Old Norse word, “kaka,” meaning a baked flour confection?

Whether you prefer vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, or even the pineapple-upside-down variety, grab a slice of your favorite cake to celebrate this delicious day! Happy National Cake Day!

Well even though it isn't Cake Day here in Australia, I certainly thought of cake this week as I was shelving the hundreds of books that are coming back from classrooms at the end of the school year. I needed a treat on Friday afternoon, so splurged on a piece of honey roll. My favourite looking cakes in books though are these two. I don't know why because both have copious amounts of cream and strawberries, two things I am not overly fond of, but they do look very decadent and delicious. 

The first is 'made' by Kerry Argent in her illustrations for Gail Jorgensen's Gotcha!   I can't find any pictures of it on the web so you'll have to find the book and read it. Here a group of bears are having a birthday picnic and are just about to cut the cake when the party is rudely interrupted by a "big, black, beastly fly." A pursuit of this fly then ensues and there is a wild romp all over the countryside before coming back to the cake.

The second is 'made' by Janet Stevens in the book Cook-a-doodle doo!  This too is a story where animals get to cook and eat the cake, but at least the cake is on the cover and you can see what you are missing. Both of these books are great read- alouds for sharing with very young children.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

17th November World Peace Day

I struggle to see exactly what the difference is between this day and International Day of Peace which is held on 21st September, but I guess it really doesn't matter how many Peace Days there are, it is something we should be thinking about on a daily basis. World Peace Day requests that each person take a moment to fold a couple of paper cranes and mail them to a world leader or hang them in a place that is visible to the public. One of the Kindergarten classes at school did this just this week. One of the students had learned to make origami cranes and she taught her peers to do it. The teacher took the opportunity to send to the library for the picture book version of Sadako by Eleanorr Coerr and Ed Young She read it to the class and of course it is a lot for six year olds to take on board, but there were plenty of questions and because of the paper folding they will remember the story.

When I read the poemPeaceguy's Prayer by Don Morris that is posted on websites about World Peace Day I can't help but think about how powerful these lines from the beginning of the poem are.

May the people on this planet be changed
Changed from hatred to love,
Changed from greed to giving,
Changed from selfishness to selflessness,
Changed from apathy to action,
Changed from jealousy to joy over someone's accomplishments,
Changed from intolerance to acceptance,
Changed from being destructive to being constructive,
Changed from fighting to peace,
Changed from killing to protecting life,
Changed form censorship to freedom,
Changed from ignorance to education,
Changed from fearing our differences to rejoicing our variety.

Of course there are many picture books that you could choose to illustrate the ideas presented here, but immediately I thought of these. They may not be easy to buy, but search them out in the library because you will not be disappointed. Lessons planned with these and class discussions on these are always rewarding.

* Feathers and Fools  by Mem Fox. This wonderful book about a fight among birds allows children to step back initially because the protagonists are not people, but they are quick to draw parallels after the story is finished. (Please note if you are in Australia this book may have a different illustrator. It has a blue cover.)

* Milo and the Mysterious Island by Marcus Pfister. This story is the sequel to Milo and the Magical Stones, but this time the cliff mice sail off on a raft  to explore a tropical island. Here they meet a tribe of striped mice. Like its predecessor this book also has two endings offering two resolutions to the  conflict between the mice.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

16th November World Button Day

Today is World Button Day. Imagine what our life would be like without buttons. How different our clothes would be. It seems to me that they have a higher profile than ever. Now they are used for decorative purposes as much as for utilitarian purposes. So many greeting cards, artworks, book illustrations incorporate them as part of the collage, and yet now I am at home sitting at my computer I am having trouble thinking of some. I know I covered a book this week with a big button on the cover! What was it?

After cooking dinner and scanning back through the week, I've remembered. Thumbelina by Lucy M George. The story has nothing to do with buttons, but right there on the cover are buttons, enough to send you looking for buttons to do collage with children or sewing buttons onto things.

Since writing about buttons last year, I have also added these two 'button' books to the collection.
Pete the Cat and his Groovy Buttons like all the other Pete the Cat titles has become a favourite with my preschoolers and who wouldn't like to have a pocket full of magic buttons like the witch in Witchety Sticks and the Magic Buttons?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

7th November Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Kite Day

The Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Kite Day is a NSW Department of Education and Training event that brings 1000 Illawarra primary school students together at Stanwell Park to celebrate the achievements of Australian aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave.  On the 12th of November , 1894, Lawrence Hargrave became the first man in the world to achieve vertical lift off while tethered to four box-kites on Stanwell Park beach. Hargrave's achievement was one of the most significant milestones in the development of manned flight.

Lawrence Hargrave, an aeronautical pioneer and inventor was born in England in 1850, but came to Australia in 1865 where he lived until he died in 1915. In 1893 he moved to Stanwell Park and began working on his second great invention, the box kite. He wanted to lift himself into the air. After a number of attempts on 12th November 1894 he lifted himself from the beach at Stanwell Park in a four kite construction attached to the ground by piano wire. This invention then inspired inventors and flight enthusiasts in Europe and America, in particular the Wright Brothers. Australia commemorates his achievements with his appearance on our $20 note.

While there aren't any children's books specifically about Lawrence Hargraves, there are many nonfiction books about flight, the history of flight, the Wright brothers and kites.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

3rd November National Non-fiction Day

It is National Non-Fiction Day in Britain. This is not a day we celebrate in Australia, but perhaps we should. As more and more information is being sought via the internet and online sources, teachers and librarians are spending less time using non-fiction books for research purposes.

I still use books to teach my under eights the parts of a good-for- research non-fiction book. The Usborne Beginners series of books is perfect for teaching  Year 1 about headings, contents, glossaries and indexes. I have enough of these for each child to have their own book to look at. The photographs are good, the contents page well set out, there are fact boxes, labels, large font and just the right amount of information for them to read. Pebble Plus is another series of non-fiction books that you could also use to do the same sort of activities with young students.

In the library we always have Non-fiction Monday. This means that if you come to the library for your take-home readers, that on Monday you must take a non-fiction text. Some of the most popular 'readers' are the National Geographic titles and any of those  authored by Seymour Simon.

The other thing that has happened to non-fiction books is that many of them have become 'works of art' and just like fiction picture books they are hard to resist. Illustrators like Steve Jenkins and Ed Young have shown readers that illustrations can certainly enhance the factual text.

Friday, November 2, 2012

2nd November Halloween aftermath

Just wanted to share two classroom success stories that started with a children's picture book.

Firstly a library activity with a preschool class of four and five year olds.  We read a very short picture book called Say Boo! by Lynda Graham-Barber and Barbara Lehman. It is about a little ghost called Ben who is having trouble saying 'boo' and therefore isn't able to frighten anyone on Halloween. He practises and learns to say other words, all of which rhyme with 'boo'. He learns 'moo', 'coo' and 'whoo' from animals he meets until finally when crying, he realises that he is really saying 'boo hoo' which contains the word 'boo'. The children loved that Ben was struggling with something that they found easy, which I found a bit off putting, but they were equally pleased when he succeeded. We made a list of the rhyming words and then made a white paperbag puppet of a ghost. The children had to name their ghost a name that rhymed with 'boo'. They came up with really good names such as Lou, Sue, Spew, Stu, Choo, Woo, Floo and Prue. When we had made the puppets we 'floated' and 'rustled' round the library and then came back to re-enact the story and the rhyme I borrowed from here. Good fun was had by all.

Secondly, I lent the book, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas to a Year 1 teacher at school and suggested she read it and do as Mr Tiffin, the teacher in the book does with his class. She was very excited about it as it fitted in with her unit of work on celebrations and involved a lot of maths. In the book the teacher buys three pumpkins, a big one, a middle-sized one and a smaller one. The children in the class have to predict which will have the most seeds and then in three groups they clean out the insides of the pumpkin and estimate how many seeds they have. They also need to come up with a plan as to how to count them. The next day after the seeds have dried each group gets their seeds back to count. The Year 1 teacher did this with her class and the children are still talking about putting their hands in the pumpkin and what it felt like. They were involved in estimation, skip counting, hypothesising and testing and they had a lot of fun doing it.  If only I could put photos of children on my blog you would see this fun!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

1st November All Saints Day

Year 1 is doing a unit of study on Celebrations and I've had to do a bit of reading this week. Why do teachers think that the librarian knows everything?   T: Why is it called Halloween?  L: Well it comes from the the Eve of All Hallow's.
T: But what is All Hallows? L: Isn't it another name for All Saints Day. 
T: Well what is All Saints Day? L: I think it is the day before All Soul's Day.
So went one conversation I had before I thought I had better do some reading. I found it easy to find books and information about Halloween and its history. The others were harder.

I found this website about All Saints Day helpful and here I read that  it is a day when many Christians remember and honour the saints. Now although I teach at a Christian school it is not a Catholic school and therefore not a lot of emphasis is placed on saints in a religious context. However in a historical context there are many picture books depicting the life of saints. Many of these tell amazing stories and have brilliant illustrations.
Look for these by Demi:
The Legend of St Nicholas describes the pivotal events in the history and life of the saint who inspired the legend of Santa Claus.
Mother Teresa  of is a biography of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, known as Mother Teresa for all her time spent helping the poor in Calcutta, India.
Joan of Arc
These two by Joyce Denham
Patrick: Saint of Ireland
Saint Francis of Assisi
And two by Tomie dePaola
The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica 
 Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland

Then I looked up All Soul's Day and learned that this is a day for  Christian communities to remember deceased family members and friends. This is more like the idea behind the Mexican/ Latin American Day of the Dead. There are also picture books about this day. Among them are:
Felipa and the Day of the Dead by Birte Muller
Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead by Kathleen Krull
Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston & Jeanette Winter
Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet  Book by Jeanette Winter
 Ghost Wings by Barbara Joose & Giselle Potter

So this week I have learned quite a bit about Christian celebrations and some of the pagan connections with them.