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:

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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

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Tea Party Rules

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.

tea_party_rulesTitle: Tea Party Rules

Author: Ame Dyckman

Illustrator: K.G. Campbell

Publisher: Viking

Year: 2013

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-5

Themes: Friendship; manners

Opening: Cub was playing in the woods when he smelled something delicious. He followed his nose through the bushes and found…cookies! And another bear.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) When he follows his nose through the woods, Cub discovers a backyard tea party…with cookies!  He is just about to dig in when the hostess of the tea party shows up. And she has several strong opinions on how Tea Party must be played. Cub tries to follow her rules . . . but just how much can one bear take, even for cookies?

What makes it great: Like Ame’s earlier book, Boy + Bot, this book has a spare simplicity that is so much fun to read. I love that Cub’s motivation is cookies – because who hasn’t been motivated by cookies?

What readers notice: My kids loved the scene when Cub finally loses it and devours the cookies in such an UNdainty way.

What a writer notices: Editors today are demanding shorter and shorter texts, and reading this book is like a master class in that style of writing. There is not one word wasted or out of place. And yet, she manages to inject plenty of voice and personality into the text. In just 425 words, the author tells a complete, humorous, and emotionally satisfying story.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Mind Your Manners tea party ideas:

http://www.ladybirdln.com/2012/05/mind-your-manners-tea-party.html

Kids might be interested in learning about the different etiquette required at a Japanese tea ceremony:

http://kidscookingwithcricket.blogspot.com/2008/03/japanese-tea-ceremony.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKXUTc-K16A

Lots of activities about teaching general good manners here:

http://www.childfun.com/index.php/activity-themes/people-house-home/239-manners-activity-theme.html#sthash.JmdcJu7i.dpbs

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Flight of the Last Dragon

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.

flight_of_the_last_dragon_cover Flight of the Last Dragon

Author: Robert Burleigh

Illustrator: Mary GrandPré

Publisher: Philomel Books

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3-7

Themes: Dragons; Space/Stars; Imagination

Opening:

Come, if you dare,
Deep underground.
Make no whisper.
Shhh! No sound.

Below the city.
Far from the sun!
Beneath the subway,
Where sewers run!

Where mice squeak
And rats mumble,
And distant train wheels
Rattle and rumble.

For here is his home!
Oh, gaze upon
The last of the dragons—
Ultimon!

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) What if dragons were more than just imaginary creatures? What if long ago they soared through our skies? And what if there was only one dragon left? Where might it hide from our machines, from our technology, from us? And where would it go if it spread its wings for one last flight?

What makes it great: The unexpectedness of the story drew me in, and kept me turning the pages. First, there’s the unexpected setting – that the last of the dragons would be living in a cave below a modern-day city, in a weak and tattered body. Then there’s the unexpectedness of what this dragon does, and where he ends up.

What readers notice: I have no idea because my 8-year-old borrowed this book and had it in his room for 3 weeks. I saw him reading it at least twice in that time, so I think that says enough!

What a writer notices: 

The story takes place at night in the city, and the author could easily have told the story without incorporating people at all. However, on the ninth spread he gives us a glimpse of what Ultimon’s flight looks like from a human perspective:

A late-night worker
On the 90th floor
Spies a blur—
And nothing more.

A child turning
In her bed
Hears feathers whirring
Overhead.

This achieves this sense that the reader is in on a little secret that no one else notices. It also fires the imagination as young readers notice things in their own world. Is that rustling sound outside the wind? Or is it dragon feathers?

Activities/Links to Resources: 

Here’s a nice lesson plan about constellations for kids:

http://cas.sdss.org/dr7/en/proj/teachers/kids/constellation/lesson.asp

This website offers backgrounds on the myths and legends behind our constellation names:

http://frostydrew.org/papers.dc/papers/paper-myths/pss-fdo/

The Crayola website has a nice craft activity for making your own constellation:

http://www.crayola.com/crafts/found-constellations-in-outer-space-craft/

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 – Hush Little Baby

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.

Recently, someone was asking me to recommend some books for a baby shower gift. How often have you been to a shower where the mother-to-be opened up copy after copy of Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny? These are wonderful books and every baby should have a copy, but there are so many other great books for babies out there. We’ve discovered many along the way and I now often give these as baby shower gifts. For the next few weeks, I plan to focus my reviews on board books (and board book editions of picture books) that my children loved as babies.

Title: Hush Little Baby

Author/Illustrator: Sylvia Long

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Year: 1997 (board book published 2002)

Genre: Board book/picture book

Ages: Infant-5

Themes: Natural world; bedtime; mother/child

Opening: Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a hummingbird.
 If that hummingbird should fly, 
Mama’s going to show you the evening sky.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) From award-winning artist Sylvia Long comes a touching version of the well-known lullaby, Hush Little Baby. Each spread reveals a tender scene as a mama bunny lulls her baby bunny to sleep by enlisting a parade of bedtime wonders—the beauty of a hummingbird in flight; the magic of a harvest moon; the reassurance of a parent’s hug, all these and more combine to create a classic volume sure to be treasured for generations to come.

What makes it great: I’m going to share the author’s note from Sylvia Long which appears at the back of the book, because she says much better than I could what makes this book wonderful.

As much as I love being an artist, my favorite and most important profession has been being a mother. I sang and read to my children just as my mother sang and read to me. One of the songs that has bothered me as an adult is the original version of “Hush Little Baby. “ In it, a mama offers her baby comfort by promising to buy him or her all sorts of things (a mockingbird, a diamond ring, horse and cart, etc.) It seems much healthier to encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them and the warmth of a mother’s love. This belief was my inspiration for a new version, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I enjoyed creating it.

What readers notice: Besides enjoying the song, my kids loved looking at the patchwork quilt on the baby bunny’s bed in this book because it has pictures/symbols of all the things mentioned in the song.

What a writer notices: I admire how Sylvia long took a song that everyone knows, and created a version that is so much better (in my opinion) than the original. Within the framework of the original song, she wove several strands: it’s a bedtime book, and a book with a focus on the natural world, as the mama and baby explore the outdoors and get ready for bedtime. These interwoven strands make it feel like a connected story, not just a random collection of things that have no relationship to each other, as in the traditional song.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

For young babies, a great activity with this song is to add your own verses with language they can learn and understand. Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a kitty cat.
 If that kitty cat runs away, 
Mama’s going to show you your favorite ball. No, it doesn’t rhyme, but it still plays with words in a way that helps an infant developing language.

Older babies and toddlers might enjoy an exploration of the outdoors in the evening, as the mama and baby in the book do. Do you hear a cricket and see the moon like the baby in the book. What other things do you see and hear outside?

Interview with Sylvia Long

http://babybugmag.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/meet-this-months-cover-artist-sylvia-long/