Tag Archive | theme: animals

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 – Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

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.

This is the third in my series reviewing books for babies and very young children. This book was given to me as a baby shower gift, and I love passing it along.

Title: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Author/Illustrator: Bill Martin, Jr./Eric Carle

Publisher: Henry Holt

Year: 1967 (first version), 1983; 1996 (board book edition)

Genre: Board book/picture book

Ages: Infant-5

Themes: Animals; colors

Opening: Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.

Red bird, red bird, what do you see? I see a yellow duck looking at me.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) A big happy frog, a plump purple cat, a handsome blue horse, and a soft yellow duck– all parade across the pages of this delightful book. Children will immediately respond to Eric Carle’s flat, boldly colored collages. Combined with Bill Martin’s singsong text, they create unforgettable images of these endearing animals.

What makes it great: The lyrical text and signature collage illustrations in vivid, arresting colors by Eric Carle have clearly been delighting children for decades.

What readers notice: The high contrast animals in vivid colors on white backgrounds are perfect for even the smallest babies to be able to see. Both my kids loved this book from infancy, and I remember my daughter at 6 or 7 months would kick vigorously when we got to the page with the purple cat. She still loves purple!

What a writer notices: The simplicity of the rhyming and repetitive text makes it easy for kids to follow along, enjoy, and remember. And even in a story this simple, there’s a “twist” at the end, when after listing a bear, bird, duck, horse, frog, cat, dog, sheep, and goldfish, a page turn reveals a teacher, and then a group of children.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

With toddlers who know the story you can do a simple prediction activity by letting them say what will appear on the next page. And you can always get a laugh by saying the wrong animal name (e.g. say “pink bunny rabbit” when the page actually shows the green frog).

Activity Guide from the publisher

http://media.us.macmillan.com/activityguides/9780805047905AG.pdf

Eric Carle on Mr. Rogers

In a combination that’s, in my mind, even better than chocolate and peanut butter, this episode of Mr. Rogers shows a visit to Eric Carle’s studio where he demonstrates how he makes his illustrations, and then reads From Head to Toe.

http://pbskids.org/rogers/videos/index.html?pid=2DSAGhehLBrC7aU7WSwvnbU0NwY_CfMA

A Pinterest board with lots of links to Brown Bear activities

http://pinterest.com/mamajoyx9/book-activities-brown-bear-brown-bear/