Thursday, May 29, 2014

28th May Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014)

Maya Angelou ' a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace'. The African-American author, poet and human rights activist has died. I heard about this sad event on the news tonight and then thought how strange, yet serendipitous, that today I had shared her children's book My Painted House My Friendly Chicken and Me with students at school. She is not known particularly for her children's books, but this beautiful photo journal tells the story of a young Ndebele girl who lives in South Africa. It is very colourful and designed in a way that invites close perusal.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

23rd May Walk Safely to School Day

Walk Safely to School Day (WSTSD) is an annual, national event when all Primary School children are encouraged to walk and commute safely to school. It is a Community Event seeking to promote Road Safety, Health, Public Transport and the Environment.
As I teach at an independent school, not a local school many of the children I teach come quite long distances to school and would never walk to school. However, yesterday we encouraged parents to park a walkable distance from school so they could join in this national initiative that many of their neighbours experience each day as they walk to their local school.
Well it certainly had novelty value for many of the children who did it. They liked the sticker they received if they did walk. They talked about doing it with friends and how that had been good. The comments reminded me so much of Gillian Bradshaw and David Cox's picture book Shock Monday where the children are initially angry with their mother about having to walk to school, but find themselves enjoying themselves as they undertake what turns out to be quite an adventure. This book is just perfect to share and discuss on such a day. We had fun deciding what Tom and his friend could be saying to each other in the illustration on the cover.
I feel somewhat sorry for children who live in cities and busy towns today. The news today was full of statistics about how sedentary children are and how few were undertaking even an hour of activity per day.
I look back on my idyllic childhood in Bowral, a town in the Southern Highlands, where I walked to school or rode my bike alone or with friends right from Kindergarten to Year 6. On the way home I stopped at the Children's Library and bothered the librarians or at Bradman Oval and played with the neighbourhood children...just as long as I was home before dark. How things have changed!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

17th May Grace Lin (1974)

I have written about author/illustrator Grace Lin before, but not on her birthday. She lives in America but her parents were Taiwanese and her books reflect her ethnicity. Her picture books both those she has witten for herself and the ones illustrated for other authors such as Roseanne Thong are perfect for the early childhood aged children that I teach. Her books are small, have short texts and bright colours and are the perfect size for small hands. With the new emphasis in our curriculum on Asian perspectives her books  are a welcome addition to classroom libraries.

She has also written  bridging novels such as her stories about twins Ling and Ting, novels for middle school-aged children such as the wonderful Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky  and now Abby Colich and Jill Wheeler have both written biographies about her for school students who enjoy her books. What a versatile person Grace Lin is!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

11th May Hairy-Nosed Day

It is Hairy-Nosed Day, a day when we think about the plight of the Hairy-nosed wombat.

This week as I wandered past a remainder book store I saw Hairy Nose Itchy Butt for five dollars and thought I must get the library's copy off the shelf and give it to one of the Kinder teachers because they are studying Australian animals at the moment, and then I walked into my local bookshop and found a new book - The Hairy-Nosed Wombats Find a New Home by the wombat-loving Jackie French and Sue deGennaro. In the foreword and the notes at the back of this book Jacqui Mills the Director of the Wombat Foundation tells the reader that the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat is 'one of the world's rarest species - it is rarer than the Giant Panda.'

The story then is a charming picture book for young children about the endangered hairy nosed wombat and their search for a new home.  Once upon a time, deep underground, there was a colony of wonderfully whiskery wombats who all had hairy noses. They lived in the only home for Hairy-nosed wombats in the world. Could there ever be another home for Hairy-noses?  The story is based on the reality of how finding a happy new home for Hairy-nosed wombats helped one of the world's most endangered species to breed and thrive again. All the author royalties are being donated towards wombat research and care.

Author Jill Morris has also written at length about these wombats in her three picture books about the Hairy- nosed wombat, Harry the Hairy-nosed Wombat; Wombat Down Below! and  The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars.

This certainly is enough books to share with young children in order to convince them that these rare animals are worth saving and celebrating.

The background information and teaching resources to go with the plight of the Northern Hairy-nosed wombat can be found here and although this article is about Southern Hairy-nosed wombats, it has some wonderful photos and is worth discussing with a class.

Friday, May 9, 2014

10th May Oliver Jeffers (1977)

I love the fact that Oliver Jeffers was born in Australia (in Port Headland WA) even if we can't claim him as Australian. He grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in the USA and his books are fabulous. His book The Incredible Book Eating Boy  was dramatised at the Sydney Opera House in the Easter holidays and the children at school are buzzing about how good it was. Because of this since school has been back there has been great demand for his other books as well. There is a short film about him on his website which shows the children that he is young and 'cool'..."ooh, he has long hair... he can ride a skateboard...". Many of his books have films or trailers which are perfect for use at school, but the books don't need these to sell them. They sell themselves! Go to the library and see how many books he has produced in the ten years since his first book How to Catch a Star.

Monday, May 5, 2014

6th - 13th May Donkey Week

Donkeys don't feature in picture books as much as many other animals, except at Christmas when they often become the narrator or a first-hand witness at the birth of Jesus in books such as The Christmas Story as Told by Assellus the Christmas Donkey  by Janet Duggan and The Donkey's First Christmas by Susanne T. Schroder. However some stories that do feature donkeys make worthwhile reading and are often memorable. A favourite of mine from my early teaching days is Lydia Pender's The Useless Donkeys and no doubt it can still be found in some school libraries. The newer The Wonky Donkey with its accompanying CD and toy is a favourite with the children and parents in my library. Michael Morpurgo's story about Jo-Jo which originally appeared as a Yellow Banana reader has now been re-illustrated and published as a picture book with Helen Stephens' illustrations. Don't forget all the Anzac stories that feature Simpson and his donkey or other stories where donkeys play an integral role. And, if you are looking for a fairytale you could always revisit Perrault's Donkey Skin where the princess wears a donkey skin in order to avoid the king.

Here are some donkey stories I have put out on display this week.
Donkeys by Adelheid Dahimene
The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith
• How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale by Margaret Read MacDonald
Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey by Michael Morpurgo
Crash Bang Donkey by Jill Newton
The Magic Donkey Ride by Giles Andreae
• The Useless Donkeys by Lydia Pender

Together with the humorous donkey and goat series by Simon Puttock:
Goat and Donkey and the Noise Downstairs
• Goat and Donkey in the Great Outdoors
Goat and Donkey in Strawberry Sunglasses

Sunday, May 4, 2014

28th April - 3rd May Stop Snoring Week

Whenever a book has snoring in it the children at school laugh and tell you stories about how their father snores. They love making the snoring noises as required for a story as well so I thought I would just explore how many books were in the library on the topic of snoring besides the children's favourite My Daddy Snores by Nancy H Rothstein There were more than I thought there would be. Here's some good ones.
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood.
Dinosnore! by John Bendall-Brunello
Bear Snores On  by Karma Wilson
Stop Snoring Bernard  by Zachariah Ohora
Snoring Beauty by Rachel Mortimer
Snorey Time by Meg Pybus, which strictly speaking isn't about snoring but about not wanting to sleep and many a parent wants what this book has to offer.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

30th April International Jazz Day

International Jazz Day is a yearly event on 30 April, organized by UNESCO to celebrate “the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.” The day was proclaimed during the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011.

Once I would have said that jazz music wasn't something my students were interested in, but I haven't had too much trouble getting them to borrow books such as these:
Ben's Trumpet  by Rachel Isadora
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt
The Jazz Fly by Matthew W. Gollub
Sheep's Jazzy Jumper by Carrie and David Grant
My Two Grandads by Floella Benjamin
and all the wonderful biographies that are part of the library's picture book biography collection:
Dizzy  by Jonah Winter ( the story of Dizzy Gillespie)
Mister and Lady Day by Amy Novesky (the story of Billie Holiday and the dog who loved her)
The Little Piano Girl by Ann Ingalls and Maryann MacDonald (the story of Mary Lou Williams)
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter (the story of singer Josephine Baker)
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka