Tag Archive | review

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Saturday is Dadurday

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.

booklovebadgeCALLING ALL CUPIDS!

I’m challenging my fellow book-lovers this month to show the books and authors they love a little extra affection by posting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other social media. Read more about the Book Love blog hop, and if you review books for PPBF, consider yourself tagged!

 

Title: Saturday Is Dadurdaysaturday_is_dadurday

Author: Robin Pulver

Illustrator: R. W. Alley

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Year: 2013

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Family life; fathers; dealing with disappointment

Opening:

After the twins were born, Mimi and Dad had an idea for their same favorite day. It came after Friday, and Mimi and Dad called it Dadurday.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) For Mimi, the best day of the week is always Saturday, because she gets to spend it with just her Dad. Every “Dadurday” begins the same way–Mimi and Dad make silly-shaped pancakes, read the comics section of the newspaper and make lists of fun things to do together. But when Dad gets a new work schedule, “Dadurday” is ruined. Can Mimi find a way to still make it a special day for her and dad?

What makes it great: Mothers loom large in the picture book landscape so it’s refreshing to read a book where the dad/daughter relationship is the focus.

What readers notice: My daughter liked the plays on words in the book, from “Dadurday” in the title, to “Badurday,” “Madurday,” and “Sadurday,” reflecting Mimi’s disappointment when she learns that Dad will have to work on Saturdays.

What a writer notices: I liked that Dad and Mom played essential roles in this story, while still letting Mimi come to a very realistic, child-centered solution on her own.

Activities/Resources:

Some resources for teaching days of the week:

http://www.schoolsparks.com/blog/teaching-your-child-the-days-of-the-week

 

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 – Black Is Brown Is Tan

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.

black_is_brown_is_tanTitle: Black Is Brown Is Tan

Author: Arnold Adoff

Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year: 2002

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Race; family life

Opening:

black is brown is tan

is girl is boy

is nose is

face

is all

the

colors

of     the     race

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website)

Brown-skinned mama, the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie. White-skinned daddy, not the color of milk or snow, but light with pinks and tiny tans. And their two children, the beautiful colors of both. For an all-American family, full of joy, warmth, and love,

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

When it was first published in 1973, Black is Brown is Tan featured the first interracial family in children’s books. Decades later, Arnold Adoff and Emily Arnold McCully continue to offer a joyous and loving celebration of all the colors of the race, now newly embellished with bright watercolor paintings that depict a contemporary family of the twenty-first century. And the chorus rings true as ever:

black is brown is tan 
is girl is boy 
is nose is face 
is all the colors of the race

What makes it great: There aren’t many picture books that feature interracial families. This one not only features a black/white interracial family, but is about race and skin color. The text mirrors what kids of all colors notice about the people around them.

What readers notice: We have an interracial extended family, and my kids have biracial friends and classmates. They have often brought up the subject of differences in skin color and it’s nice to see a book that mirrors their own observations of the world.

What a writer notices: I love the rhythmic language of this book and the child-centered descriptions of skin color.

This page describes the mother:

i am black i am a brown sugar gown

a tasty tan and coffee pumpkin pie

with dark brown eyes and almond ears

and my face gets ginger red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And this page describes the father:

i am white i am white

i am light

with pinks and tiny tans

dark hair growing on my arms

that darken in the summer sun

brown eyes

big yellow ears

and my face gets tomato red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And I love the beautiful, songlike refrain:

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

Activities/Resources:

HarperCollins has produced a teaching guide to go along with the book.

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Mañana Iguana

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.

manana_iguanaTitle: Mañana Iguana

Author: Ann Whitford Paul

Illustrator: Ethan Long

Publisher: Holiday House

Year: 2004

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Working together; friendship; fairy tales & fables

Opening: 

On Monday, lunes, Iguana twitched her tail happily.

“Let’s celebrate spring with a party on Saturday.”

Conejo hopped up and down. “Yes! Let’s!”

Tortuga poked out of his shell.

“A fiesta? On sabado? Count me it.”

Culebra shook his rattle. “Me too!”

“Good!” said Iguana. “We must start right away. Who will help me write the invitations?”

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Iguana is planning a fiesta. Tortuga the tortoise, Canejo the hare, and Culebra the snake all want to come, but they don’t want to help. The lazy trio lose out in this clever update of the story of the Little Red Hen with a Mexican twist. Glossary of Spanish words.

What makes it great: This unique retelling of The Little Red Hen story, set in the desert and featuring Spanish-speaking desert animals, is at once familiar and fresh.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old really loved this story. She latched on to the Spanish words and has been calling one of her stuffed animals ‘Culebra.’ As a parent, I liked that this retelling of the story ends with the other animals helping Iguana clean up, and then sharing the leftover party food with her. To me, it’s a more satisfying ending than some retellings which simply end with the Hen character eating all the food herself.

What a writer notices: I checked this book out of the library as part of my study of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul. She references quite a few picture books, including several of her own, and I was happy to find this one on the shelf.

This story is truly delightful, and I so admire how the author incorporated multiple hooks into the story. This is at once a Little Red Hen retelling with a unique setting (hook), a book about a party (hook) a book that introduces Spanish vocabulary (hook), and a days-of-the-week book (hook). Yet none of these feel forced. Instead, they all seem to be a natural part of the unfolding of the story.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

A crossword puzzle from the publisher, Holiday House, with some of the Spanish words from the book:

http://www.holidayhouse.com/docs/Manana%20Iguana%20Activity%20Shee.PDF

Pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading ideas, including a bibliography of Little Red Hen retellings:

http://meesterc.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/manana-iguana.pdf

A mural project for kindergarteners:

http://www.deepspacesparkle.com/2009/09/21/tortuga-time/

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Chico the Brave

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.

chico_the_brave_coverTitle: Chico the Brave

Author/Illustrator: Dave Horowitz

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-8

Themes: Courage

Opening: Once upon a time, in the mountains of Peru, a chick was born who was afraid of everything. [Yikes!] An when I say he was afraid of everything—I mean he was afraid of everything. This poor little guy was even afraid of his own shadow. [Help! I’m being followed…]

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Chico is afraid of everything, even his own shadow. His dad tries to bolster his confidence by telling him about the legendary Golden Chicken, but Chico doesn’t believe anyone could be that brave. So he sets off into the mountains to find the Golden Chicken, certain that the heroic bird will give him advice. Instead, his quest leads him to something he definitely wasn’t seeking–an adventure! Before he knows it, he’s soaring through the sky to the very place where a courageous hero is most needed–his own hometown, where the dreaded Llama Llama Gang is turning things upside down.

What makes it great: The quirky storyline and deadpan humor, plus a setting that gives the tale a mythical quality.

What readers notice: Both my 7- and 3-year-old enjoyed this story a lot and have asked to re-read it multiple times. They loved the idea of little Chico flying in to rescue the whole village and save the day.

What a writer notices: I really love how this book is crafted. Details that seem whimsical at first become essential to the storyline, and everything comes full circle in the end. I also enjoyed the author’s use of speech bubbles which added a lot of humor to the storyline without becoming too unwieldy for a read-aloud (which I often find true of books that incorporate speech bubbles).

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Book trailer: http://www.horowitzdave.com/movies.html

A preschool lesson plan about bravery: http://teachers.net/lessons/posts/2404.html

Bravery Badges: http://www2.crayola.com/lesson-plans/detail/bravery-badges-lesson-plan/

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Bringing Down the Moon

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.

bringing_down_the_moon_coverTitle: Bringing Down the Moon

Author: Jonathan Emmett

Illustrator: Vanessa Cabban

Publisher: Candlewick

Year: 2001

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-8

Themes: Perseverance; friendship

Opening: “Hot diggety!” exclaimed Mole as he burrowed out of the ground one night. “Whatever’s that?”

The moon was hanging in the sky above him, like a bright silver coin. Mole thought that it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) Mole thinks the moon is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and he wants to have it for his own. But as his friends Rabbit, Hedgehog, and Squirrel remind him, some things are not as simple — or as close — as they look! A lyrical text and cozy woodland illustrations portray this mole on a mission with gentle humor and charm.

What makes it great: The simple yet unpredictable storyline, a repetitive phrase, and gentle, encouraging characters make this a wonderful read. I also love stories where the reader knows something the main character doesn’t.  There’s a lot of humor that can be mined there, and with this book Jonathan Emmett struck gold.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old found this book very appealing. She liked seeing what Mole would try to get the moon down, and enjoyed the climax when Mole thinks he’s knocked the moon to the ground and broken it.

What a writer notices: I love the fact that the animal characters are true to their animal natures: Mole, a digger, has never seen the moon before; Hedgehog is a little prickly when he is awakened by Mole’s activity; Squirrel is playful.

I also appreciated the author’s use of a repetitive phrase. Each character gently explains to Mole that he won’t be able to bring down the moon because “It’s not as close as it looks.” This comes full circle in the end when Mole finally realizes that he won’t be able to capture the moon and acknowledges that “It’s not as close as it looks.” Having Mole repeat the phrase at the end brings the story full circle and adds an element of wry humor.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

See some interior illustrations, and read an extensive author’s note:

http://www.scribblestreet.co.uk/pictures/mole1/mole1.html

A lesson about identifying the problem and solution in a story:

http://www.readworks.org/sites/default/files/bundles/lessons-gradek-plot-lesson-4.pdf

This blog has discussion questions appropriate for toddlers on this topic:

http://toddlerbrain.blogspot.com/2009/08/bringing-down-moon.html

A science lesson on how distance affects perception of size:

http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/12sun_littlemoon.html

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Boxes for Katje

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.

boxes_for_katje_coverTitle: Boxes for Katje

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrator: Stacey Dressen-McQueen

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Year: 2003

Genre: Historical fiction picture book

Ages: 4+

Themes: Generosity; making a difference

Opening: After the war, there was little left in the tiny Dutch town of Olst. The townspeople lived on cabbages and seed potatoes. They patched and repatched their worn-thin clothing, and they went without soap or milk, sugar or new shoes.

One spring morning, when the tulips bloomed thick and bright, Postman Kleinhoonte pedaled his bicycle down the cobbled street.

“Oh ho!” he whooped. “I have a box for Katje—a box from America.”

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box – a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks – beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.

This inspiring story, with strikingly original art, is based on the author’s mother’s childhood and will show young readers that they, too, can make a difference.

What makes it great: The incredibly touching storyline and the vivid descriptions of how little the people in Olst had, and how thankful they were for the gifts from America make me tear up every time I read this book. But what really brings on the waterworks is the ending. This is a wonderful book for helping children understand how simple things can sometimes make a huge difference in people’s lives, and that even kids can play a part in this.

What readers notice: Hopefully they don’t notice the tears streaming down my face while I read this! Both my 3-year-old and 7-year-old enjoy this story. My 3-year-old loves seeing all the surprises that come out of the boxes, and she likes the letters written back and forth between the Dutch girl, Katje, and her American friend, Rosie. For my son, this has been a good way to talk about war, and some of what happened during World War II, as well as the idea that some people live with very little and we can’t take all the things we have for granted.

What a writer notices: The structure of the story keeps readers turning the pages to find out what will be in Katje’s next box from America. She included details that would make the deprivation of the Dutch people seem compelling to children (no chocolate; no sugar; no socks; no coat).

If you’ve read any other books by Candace Fleming, you’ve seen that she knows her way around an ending, and this one is no different. It is so touching and unexpected and brings full circle the idea of what it means to give something – even when it seem you have nothing at all to give.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

See some interior illusrations:

http://us.macmillan.com/boxesforkatje/CandaceFleming

A lesson plan for starting a class “Make a Difference Day” inspired by the book:

http://www.socstrpr.org/files/Vol%202/Issue%203%20-%20Winter,%202007/Notable%20Books/2.3.12.pdf

Reading Rainbow “Boxes for Katje” episode teacher’s guide:

http://server.shopdei.com/126.0153g.pdf

Teacher’s guide from the publisher’s website:

http://media.us.macmillan.com/teachersguides/9780374309220TG.pdf