Tag Archive | 2014 books

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Strongheart

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

strongheartTitle: Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog

Author/Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully

Publisher: Henry Holt

Year: 2014

Genre: Fiction picture book (fictionalized history)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dogs; loyalty; film history

Opening: This is the story of Etzel von Oeringen, who became the first movie star dog. His life began a long way from Hollywood. Etzel was born in Germany during World War I. He was the son and grandson of champion police dogs.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Strongheart may have been a movie star, but he wasn’t always famous. He started out as a police dog who could sniff out criminals and march like a soldier, but he didn’t know how to have fun. Larry Trimble was a Hollywood director who wanted to put Strongheart in his movies—not just as a pet but as the lead actor. Larry taught him to play with toys and walk like a regular dog. In his films, Strongheart brought audiences to tears. He was a sensation! But when Strongheart’s military training led to trouble, was his career over? Set in the early days of silent movies, Emily Arnold McCully’s extraordinary story about a real-life hero will capture the hearts of dog lovers and movie fans everywhere.

What makes it great: A high-interest topic (dogs and movies) combined with history, and McCully’s beautiful watercolor illustrations made this book stand out on the shelf.

What readers notice: My daughter is a dog-lover in a house full of cat people, so she was especially pleased with this book. She was interested enough in the story that she let me read her the Author’s Note in the back, which tells more details about the real story of Strongheart.

What a writer notices: The fact that this book is listed as ‘nonfiction’ on the publisher’s website, yet is listed as ‘fiction’ on the copyright page, and shelved as ‘fiction’ in my library, speaks volumes about the blurred lines between fiction and nonfiction today. True stories are almost never as streamlined as fictional picture book stories, so I’m always curious to see what an author leaves out, or where she chooses to change details. For example, the climax of this story describes an episode where Strongheart attacks a visitor to his owners’ home, possibly ending his movie career. The book depicts his owners in the scene, but the author’s note at the back reveals that in fact, the owners were away traveling at the time and Strongheart was being cared for by a friend. How much can an author leave out or change before a story morphs from nonfiction into fiction? Does it matter to the story that this detail was changed? To some, it might, but to me it didn’t matter. The essential truth of the story was kept intact, and McCully used the author’s note effectively to explain the true circumstances.

Activities/Resources:

Kids might be interested in finding out about more movie dogs in history.

http://rulingcatsanddogs.com/dogs-famous-celebrity-movie-star-canines-celebrities.htm

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Me First

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

me_firstTitle: Me First

Author/Illustrator: Max Kornell

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen/Penguin

Year: 2014

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 6-8

Themes: Siblings; competition

Opening:

Hal was Martha’s older brother.

“Did you know,” he told Martha, “that I used to play checkers with Dad before you were even born?”

Martha didn’t mind that Hal was older or that he talked about it all the time. It made beating him more fun.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) If there’s one thing siblings Hal and Martha can agree on, it’s this: It is important to be first! But what happens when being first is suddenly not so much fun? Competing to explore a new route home one day, Hal and Martha discover that sometimes having a brother or sister right beside you is even better than being one step ahead of them.

What makes it great: The author does a great job portraying the two siblings. We don’t feel that either one is in the “right,” and neither dominates the storyline. That makes the book appealing to both younger and older sibling readers.

What readers notice: As much as my kids enjoy fantastical picture book and magical realism, there’s a lot to be said for true-to-life characters in familiar true-to-life situations. No one is flying to the moon or consorting with magical animals in this book. OK, the characters are donkeys, but they sound and act like real kids, and that holds strong appeal for both my 5 and 9-year-olds.

What a writer notices: I love the reversals that happen in this book. Hal and Martha go from each trying to be first, to allowing the other to go first. Meanwhile their parents get into a little argument about who first noticed how nicely Hal and Martha are now treating each other. The full circle ending, with Hal and Martha starting a new game of checkers, and wondering who should go first, is perfect.

Activities/Resources:

Many kids have a ‘me first’ approach to life. Here are some helpful resources to help teach and practice turn-taking.

http://growingcreativekids.com/games-and-activities-to-teach-taking-turns/

http://connectability.ca/2010/09/23/everyday-opportunities-to-practice-turn-taking/

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Water Can Be…

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

?????Title: Water Can Be

Author: Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrator: Violeta Dabija

Publisher: Millbrook Press

Year: 2014

Genre: Nonfiction picture book

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Water; natural world

Opening:

Water is water—

it’s puddle, pond sea.

When springtime comes splashing,

the water flows free.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website)

Water can be a…

• Thirst quencher

• Kid drencher

• Cloud fluffer

• Fire snuffer

Find out about the many roles water plays in this poetic exploration of water throughout the year.

This book is one in a series that includes A Leaf Can Be… and A Rock Can Be… (not yet released).

What makes it great: Fun rhymes and beautiful, evocative illustrations that directly relate to children’s own experiences with water.

What readers notice: My 5-year-old loved looking at the pictures and picked out her favorite (the last page with the ice sculptures). She also liked the invitation at the end of the story to think about what else water can be, and came up with ‘mist’ and ‘smoke’ (which led to a nice little discussion about the difference between smoke and steam).

What a writer notices: 

I was really blown away by the unique concepts that Laura came up with for this book and how she expressed them in rhyme. It would have been easy to fall back on the tried-and-true, but she went for the unexpected every time. This spread is just one example:

?????

 

 

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Laura Salas’ website includes trailers and classroom activities for her books. Activities for Water Can Be will be added soon.

http://www.laurasalas.com/nonfiction.html

 

Pinterest board of preschool-level water lessons:

http://www.pinterest.com/onlythroughhim/preschool-water-lesson/

 

Round up of water-related lessons for younger and older students:

http://www.seametrics.com/water-lesson-plans