Friday, August 30, 2013

30th August Julie Paschkis (1957)

I was so happy to find out that it was Julie Paschkis's birthday as she is up there in my top ten favourite illustrators and she wasn't on my birthday calendar. With my Year 2 Book Club we have been reading picture book biographies and four of the books have illustrations by Julie Paschkis. Of course she illustrates other genres as well but these four books are wonderful examples of her art. On her website you can see her other talents such as papercuts, fabric and paintings. Hopefully, like me you will be amazed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

20th August David Walliams (1971)

The children at school today were excited because it is David Walliams' birthday. Adults know him best as a British comedian, actor and television presenter, but the children I teach who are under 8 years old know him as an author. 'He wrote Gangsta Granny  and I love that book.' Coincidentally it was Grandparents Day at school too. My favourite is The Boy in the Dress, but there are also Billionaire Boy, Mr Stink and Ratburger. 'Mr Stink is even better than The Twits'. It is interesting that the children are making connections between David Walliams and Roald Dahl. The parents at my school are obviously enjoying serialising Walliams' books.

10th - 18th National Science Week.

Last week it was National Science Week here in Australia and compared to so many other weeks, this one is so well advertised. There are events at museums, in parks and on television. We put together a display of books in the library. What's the Matter in Mr Whiskers' Room? as usual was popular.  I think every child secretly wishes Mr Whiskers was their teacher. The books full of experiments were the most popular for browsing and borrowing.

20th August Judy Schachner (1951)

Today the copy of Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice that I had ordered arrived and I thought Judy Schachner's birthday is one we haven't celebrated at school, I wonder when it is. On searching I found out it is today! What a coincidence. Skippyjon Jones is newly discovered by the children quite regularly and he was again recently. We didn't have Lost in Spice  and it fits in well with my Book Week display of aliens, reading and space to accompany the Book Week theme Read Across the Universe, so I ordered it. I got the one with a CD because I am not good at the Spanish accent and the kids love it on CD. Judy Schachner is so clever being able to combine writing and illustrating and at the same time as extending readers' horizons. She even does the reading for the CD. The wordplay is an added bonus in her stories too. We will be celebrating tomorrow and I will look out for other titles of Judy's. We have none of her non-Skippyjon Jones titles.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

11th August Play in the Sand Day

I am sure Play in the Sand Day is in August to cater for the northern hemisphere where it is summer, but given that the temperature was 24 degrees here in Sydney today there were plenty of people at the beach playing in the sand. The winter weather here has been glorious. The children I teach are lucky enough to live near the beach, but the large sandpit at school is well used, and some of it turns up each day on the carpet in the library courtesy of their shoes. Use this day to explore the possibilities of sand building-wise, find out how sand happens to be, go to the beach to play or read about all three.

5th - 11th August Biography Week

It is Biography Week at the State Library of NSW. I think this is a week that should be celebrated more widely, especially as there is now so many wonderful picture book biographies for young children. My Year 2 Book Club are having a wonderful term reading one a week and coming to literature circles with lots to discuss. They are ideal for discussions that make connections between self and text and the world and text and then when a whole term of reading is nearing the end text to text connections too.

The library now has an enviable resource of bigraphies. See here for those that the school has.
As Random House says:

There is no better way to connect young people with history than by reading the life stories of intriguing people.
A well-written biography has the same elements as any great story: characters
that face challenges and difficulties, situations that excite and inspire, and
narratives that urge the reader to keep turning the pages until the story’s conclusion.
What young person doesn’t love being armed with an arsenal of fun facts
about artists, sports figures, famous folks, and ordinary people?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

9th August International Art Appreciation Day

Today is International Art Appreciation Day. When I was a child I knew nothing about art until high school. I didn't go to an art gallery till then either and there wasn't the abundance of beautifully illustrated picture books for children that there is today. I started my art education very late.

Luckily the children I teach have it very differently. They start their art education very young. In fact research shows that preschoolers are the ready foundation for art appreciation and that it should start then. Courses such as  Art Appreciation 101 for Young Children are flourishing and they teach that learning about art helps children improve their ability to observe things around them.  Using paintings, sculptures and pieces of architecture as prompts for thinking routines such as See Think Wonder help children to express creative ideas, communicate and develop language skills, use problem solving and reasoning skills.

If you don't use the Harvard Thinking routines it is as simple as asking children What do you see? What do you think of when you see this piece of art? How does it make you feel? What part of the story is this painting? Do you like it?

There are a myriad of ways to celebrate art that involves appreciation of it.
1. Visit a gallery or exhibition. I made a point of visiting my local gallery today. Last week I went to an exhibition put on by local printmakers.

2. Share picture books, especially those that feature the works of artists eg. Willy's Pictures by Anthony Browne,  Dan's Angel by Alexander Sturgis and Lauren Child or any of the Anholt's artists series by Laurence Anholt.

3. Look at books designed specifically for children which have large reproductions of famous paintings like those by Lucy Micklethwait. Her I Spy series also makes the art appreciation fun. Gillian Wolfe has a series that all have Look! in the title and similarly Gladys Blizzard has  a series Come Look With Me.

4. Look at books that go with a gallery and do things to draw you into a close study of their paintings. The Queensland Art Gallery does this in 21st Century Art for Kids.  Roy and Matilda: the Gallery Mice books by Susan Venn do this for the NSW Art Gallery, the Victorian Gallery and the Queensland Gallery. The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra has books it has published for themselves that introduce very young children to art that is in their gallery. Further afield the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York  is an expert at this.

5. If you have never experienced a book published by Prestel for children you must. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

7th August Play Day

In the UK 7th August is Play Day. It seems amazing that we need to encourage children to play, but we do.

The campaign recognises that:
  • Children should feel welcomed where they live and feel part of their communities.
  • Parents want their children to be able to play outside.
  • Public space should be designed and managed with children's play in mind.
  • Children and young people need to be involved in planning the places and spaces where they play.

Each year the campaign has a theme and this year it is Playful Places. With these aims in mind and because Kindergarten at school are currently doing a unit on 'building', I thought it would be good to collect together books that would help the students plan their own playgrounds.  Starting with the Oxfam book  Come and Play With Us which looks at children playing all over the world, students could list some of the things they think are important for play.

Next compare the type of play in Noella Young's  Keep Out or Tess Brady's Nobody's Granny and that in Playground Day by Jennifer Merz to look at how play has changed for children today from impromptu child-constructed outdoor games and cubby building to organised playgrounds. 

Lastly share books such as Let's Build a Playground by Michael J. Rosen or  My Dream Playgound by Kate Becker and Jed Henry to encourage some student designing of their own. Perhaps part of this could also include an evaluation of an existing playground they use!

5th -11th August Dental Health Week; Shark Week

There are so MANY weeks to celebrate at the moment. It is Dental Health Week  and coincidentally Shark Week as well. Someone had a sense of humour combining sharks and teeth! Many mothers who visit my library ask about 'teeth cleaning' books and I always try to give them ones which are fun as well as discussion starters. The Discovery Channel is having a whole week of shark documentaries, many which my students would love but may give them nightmares. Here I've just put some of the popular, but lighthearted stories with sharks. If you want to combine the two topics look for Never Take a Shark to the Dentist  by Judith Barrett and John Nickle.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

5th August Fibonacci Day

Today is August, 5th 2013 which will be written on many school notebooks today as 5-8-13. This sequence of numbers is part of the Fibonacci sequence where the sum of the first two numbers adds to make the third number. The next Fibonacci Day would not occur till 8-13-21 and as we do not have thirteen months in a year it will not occur. How special then is today?

The 23rd November is often used to celebrate Fibonacci Day, but today is more special. Who was Fibonacci?  He was Leonardo da Pisa, born in Pisa in 1175AD, the son of a merchant who travelled widely as a customs officer in North Africa. He used the knowledge he gained on his travels to write and he introduced the Latin-speaking world to the decimal number system, and thus we too now use the  numbers 0 to 9 to make every other number we need.

I love patterns and have enjoyed teaching children to constantly be on the lookout for patterns both in maths and writing as well as in nature. My father was a maths teacher who also revelled in them and I have a daughter who uses them every day in her chosen career. My library has quite a collection of books that introduce students to the wonders of Fibonacci, so that they can then be inspired to count the petals on flowers, peas in pea pods, apply their new knowledge to the art of Leonardo da Vinci Here are just a few:

Blockhead the Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D' Agnese and John O'Brien is a biography of Leonardo. It includes his childhood and how his peers treated him at school when he didn't think in the same was they did.

Wild Fibonacci: Nature's Secret Code Revealed  by Joy N. Hulme and Carol Schwartz  looks at the places the Fibonacci sequence appears in nature.

Growing Patterns  by Sarah C. Campbell does a similar thing but is perhaps simpler.

Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale  by Ann McCallum and Gideon Kendall embeds how quickly rabbits breed into a fun story and relates this to the Fibonacci sequence. You could read this alongside Emily Gravett's wonderful The Rabbit Problem.

Fibonacci's Cows by Ray Galvin. This New Zealand title is a high interest easy read short novel, ideal for students who have an interest in maths.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

5th - 11th August Homeless Person's Week

Homeless Persons' Week (HPW) is an annual themed week coordinated by Homelessness Australia.  It is used to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues. It is held in the first full week of August each year. And while it is not a topic I would usually embrace explicitly with the young children I teach there are books that I might read to and discuss with them that highlight how important it is to have a home. While talking I might also touch upon how important it is to have a private place, a space that you can call your own, and how for many people, children included this is difficult because of the home they live in. It may be overcrowded, under-resourced, lacking in adult supervision or just too temporary.

These books do some of these things:
Way Home  by Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rogers. This classic prize-winner was published after Margaret Wild and Gregory Rogers' Space Travellers which also dealt with homelessness, but this time the 'aura' of the book was much more convincing. A young boy Shane appears to be wandering the city streets at night. He finds a cat and takes it home with him. Home, as you find out at the end of the story is a makeshift cubbyhole. The tenderness Shane shows to the cat highlights what being 'human' is about and gives the reader hope. The illustrations are rich visually and choosing one of the double page spreads would make a good stimulus for a See Think Wonder routine or the Making Thinking Visible routine that looks at what comes before and after this picture.

Flyaway Home  by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler tells the story of a young boy and his father who live in an airport and have to keep moving from terminal to terminal to avoid being noticed. The boy observes a trapped bird who finally finds freedom and this gives the boy hope for the future. So just like Shane who reaches out to the cat, this boy empathises with the bird.

Broken Beaks  by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Robert Ingpen. This is the story of friendship between a sparrow and a homeless man who suffers from a mental illness. It uses the metaphor of broken beaks to explain disabilities.
It is interesting that like the two stories above that need for love and being with other living things is also highlighted through friendship with an animal.

--Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE; Founder the Jane Goodall Institute; UN Messenger of Peace
"Enchanting, moving, and beautifully written. Broken Beaks is a brilliant way to help young children begin to understand the tragedy of the homeless."

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed and Doug Chayka. This story is set in a refugee camp in Pakistan where families are waiting to be resettled. When some clothing is delivered two young girls find one sandal each and would like to find its partner. In the process Lina and Feroza meet and begin to understand the meaning of sacrifice and friendship. 

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway and Eugenie Fernandes. In this story of a young Ghanian boy, named Kojo, he is not homeless, but extremely poor. With a small loan he buys a chicken and then sells his eggs and thus becomes able to sustain himself and eventually others. This inspiring story shows children what can happen with hard work, the desire to change and help given for the right things. It is also based on a true story and the real-life story of Kojo is at the back of the book.

Scrawny Cat by Phyllis Root and Alison Friend. This story is much more lightweight than the others, but very suitable for a discussion about home and being homeless with very young children. Here a lost, scrawny, and hungry cat finds himself alone in the world after having once been loved by someone who scratched behind his ears and used his name. Now he is lonely and everyone just tells him to 'get out of here'. Finally he finds someone who takes him in.

Friday, August 2, 2013

4th August Louis Armstrong (1901 - 1971)

Louis Armstrong was a famous jazz musician. There is a considerable number of expository texts written about his life, but This Jazz Man is a tribute to nine well-known jazz musicians in a format very accessible to very young children. The song 'This Old Man' gets a toe-tapping makeover and it features nine of the best jazz musicians. Satchmo (Louis Armstrong's nickname) plays one, Bojangles plays two and so on until the ninth featured musician. As well as counting, dancing and swaying to the song the book includes a brief biography on each musician. Our library's copy has an accompanying CD to make it even easier to sing and dance along with.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1st August Horse's Birthday

There is Cow Day and I decided to do books to support a Sheep Day, but it appears as if there is no National Horse Day, so I am making the 1st August, when every horse in Australia has a birthday, Horse Day.

All thoroughbred horses have the same birthday so as to standardise their ages for racing. In the Northern hemisphere all horses have their birthday on 1st January, but here it is 1st August.

This appears odd when a horse born at the end of July is already considered a yearling in August and then a 2 year old after its second August 1 even though it is really only one year and a few days.

Horses are very popular in children's literature, especially in novels for young readers. There are many horse-mad young girls visiting my library.

This collage shows some of the books that are popular. Except for Princess Evie's Ponies and the Bonny and Sam books these are not series. Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites both have several titles which feature horses.

In Australia, Alison Lester's books show her great love of horses and illustrator Patricia Mullins is often called upon when the title features horses because she too has a strong affinity with horses. Lightning Jack, her most recent title illustrated for author Glenda Millard is on the Picture Book of the Year shortlist. There are teacher's notes to accompany it here. Look for horse stories by American illustrator, Susan Jeffers as well because she too draws beautiful horses. See her picture book version of Black Beauty.