Wednesday, January 25, 2017

31st January Bryan Collier (1967)

Bryan Collier is an American children's picture book illustrator whose work is not well known in Australia, but those that I have seen are particularly memorable. His better-known books are biographies of very famous black Americans such as Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks and Mohammed Ali.

I like telling my students about how Collier became interested in art at a very early age and  was inspired by the picture books of Ezra Jack Keats such as  The Snowy Day  and Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Look for these in the library:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

23rd January Georgia O'Keeffe (15/11/1887 - 6/3/1986)

Georgia O'Keeffe is a most amazing American artist and there is an exhibition of some of her work visiting Australia at the moment. Last week I was fortunate to see it and I was not disappointed. It is part of an exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. Her works are displayed with well known Australian woman artists Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith whose body of work are much easier to see if you live in Sydney.

Georgia made up her mind to be an artist at ten years old  and there are some wonderful picture book biographies about her so it is easy to share her work with young children. They are fascinated that she was so young when she decided on her vocation. They like the bones and the sheer size of her flower paintings. We have three biographies:
My Name is Georgia  by Jeanette Winter
Georgia's Bones by Jen Bryant and Bethanne Anderson
Through Georgia's Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez and Julie Paschkis
and a new one has just been published by Tate Publishing
Meet Georgia by Marina Muun

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way – things I had no words for. (Georgia O'Keeffe)

22nd January Brian Wildsmith (1930 - 2016)

Brian Wildsmith was born on the 22nd January 1930 and unfortunately died last year on 31st August. He has always been a favourite of mine and as school begins for yet another year I have promised myself to do more with his wonderful picture books this year. It is always easy to share his Easter and Christmas titles, but I thought I would make a bigger effort to use his fables and fairytales. This started when I pulled off The Bremen Town Musicians while I was looking for rooster books. I am also particularly fond of Professor Noah's Spaceship and what it says about air pollution. It is just as relevant or even more relevant than when he wrote it. I also like Hunter and His Dog and as the library year is starting with a display of books about sticks and stones this one will be included there because of how the dog always brings the hunter sticks instead of the wounded birds. Plenty to discuss with Year 2.  Cat on the Mat is the best beginning reader there is! Perfect layout, perfect picture clues and sight words with a worthwhile predictable story.  Publishers please bring back many of Brian's out of print titles, starting with Jack and the Meanstalk and The Rich Man and the Shoemaker.

Friday, January 13, 2017

13th January Preparing for Chinese New Year

The movable celebration of Chinese New Year this year starts on  28th January and it is the Year of the Rooster. I began thinking about 'rooster' picture books. There's not a huge number, but what there is, have some very interesting roosters as characters. They don't all fit the Chinese rooster who is   "...very observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented. Roosters are very confident in themselves", but they make interesting reading and should create lively discussions. There are books about the Chinese Zodiac which will include information about the rooster, but the best book is probably The Magical Rooster. This book is part of the series on the Chinese Zodiac animals by Li Jian. His books are beautiful, informative, bilingual and a big hit in my library with native Chinese speakers and Anglo children alike.

Then take a tangent and look at how roosters are portrayed in picture books. Could we use the same adjectives for these book characters? Start with the rooster in The Bremen Town Musicians who started off as a reject but ends up triumphant. The rooster and his friends were certainly resourceful and courageous.

The cockerel or rooster in Helen Ward's book The Rooster and the Fox (the book exists with two titles depending upon where it was published) is vain and self centred, but also triumphs by being courageous and resourceful. This is a beautiful book based on Chaucer's Chanticleer story.

Henry, the rooster in Chris Wormell's story, Henry and the Fox  cannot crow, is a squib and not at all confident, but with help manages to appear heroic. 

Eric Carle's rooster in Rooster's Off to See the World is adventurous and confident and keen to travel. He heads up an expedition with friends but makes no provisions for food or shelter so his friends leave him. What does he do then?

Rooster's Revenge  is part 3 of a series of wordless books by Beatrice Rodriguez which started with The Chicken Thief. Rooster and his friends leave the chicken to go home but get caught in a storm at sea. Which adjectives would you use to describe him?

The other titles below, Kip, Bob and  The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet all explore the noise that roosters make and whether it is appropriate for where they live. If you can find them in your library they are fun to read and make good readalouds with young children. Last year when Year 1 and I were looking at stereotypes in traditional stories with chickens and foxes we made lists of adjectives for characters and had a substantial list for roosters. Because in many traditional tales a rooster is referred to as a 'cock', one boy suddenly said "now I know where the word 'cocky' comes from". Most children had never heard the word so this comment started a whole new vocabulary discussion. It was impromptu, but fantastic and the students will remember the word 'cocky'.

Happy New Year. One more week and I'll be back at school... thinking about getting as many books off those shelves and into readers' hands as possible.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

11th January Brian Floca

American author illustrator Brian Floca celebrates his birthday on the 11th January. He won the Caldecott Medal in 2014 for his detailed, but beautiful nonfiction book Locomotive. The books he both writes and illustrates seem to be about transport and things that he says he was interested in as a child, but he has also illustrated picture books for other authors. My favourite is Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox. This story is based on a true story about Elizabeth, an elephant seal who keeps coming ashore in Christchurch, New Zealand and lies on the road and no matter how far away the boats take her she keeps coming back. It makes me smile and the children I have read it to love it. And thirdly, he illustrates chapter books. This began while he was studying under illustrator, David Macaulay who introduced him to the author Avi. This led to Floca illustrating all six of the Poppy books, wonderful stories about Poppy, a mouse, and her friend, Ereth, a porcupine as well as other more recent books also written by Avi. There is a very informative interview with Brian here.

Look for picture books by Brian Floca:
The Racecar Alphabet
Five Trucks

Picture books illustrated by Brian Floca:
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas  by Lynne Cox
Ballet for Martha  by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan

Chapter book series:
Max and Mo a set of early readers by Patricia Lakin about two hamsters who live in the art room at a school.
• The Tales from Dimwood Forest  series of six books about a mouse called Poppy, and her family's problems with the owl Mr Ocax.
Marty McGuire a series of books about third grade tomboy Marty written by Kate Messner and ideal for middle grade readers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

7th January Old Rock Day

Old Rock Day is an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate old rocks and fossils. Perhaps you can start a rock collection. You can go in search of fossils. You can read about rocks or, if you choose, you can just play with old rocks. Not only geologists like rocks. In fact, I'm starting the year off with a display of rocks in the library and all the associated books. Below are some of the books from that display, but you could go further and look at fossil fuels as well. If you do, don't forget Molly Bang and Penny Chisolm's wonderful book Buried Sunlight.

By definition, fossils are old rocks. Jewellery stones are old rocks. And, coal is an old rock, too. You can celebrate any or all of these old rocks today!