Tag Archive | theme-siblings

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 – The Baby That Roared

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: The Baby That Roared

Author/Illustrator: Simon Puttock/Nadia Shireen

Publisher: Candlewick/Nosy Crow

Year: 2012

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: New baby/Siblings; Problem-solving

Opening: Mr. and Mrs. Deer had no baby of their own to love and cuddle and read stories to… But, oh! — how they wished that they did! Then one day, the found a bundle on the doorstep. The bundle had a note attached, which said: “I am a dear little baby. Please love me and cuddle me and read me lots and lots of stories.”

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) When Mr. and Mrs. Deer find a little antlered bundle on the doorstep, Mrs. Deer thinks their wish for a baby has come true; Mr. Deer thinks that the baby is very, very peculiar. It won’t stop roaring, so they ask advice from friends and family, who in turn send them off to fetch what they think the baby needs. But each time Mr. and Mrs. Deer return home from an errand, someone is missing and the baby is still roaring. It takes wise old Granny Bear to spot the problem. The baby’s not a baby – it’s a little monster! A very hungry monster at that. . . .

What makes it great: I always love books where the reader knows (or suspects) something the main characters don’t. This one is a silly and engaging look at life with a new baby — who turns out not to be a baby at all.

What readers notice: My 3-year-old loves pointing out that the hungry little monster has eaten Uncle Duncan, Auntie Agnes, and Doctor Fox who all come to give advice, but then suddenly disappear. At the end, when Mr. and Mrs. Deer adopt a little kitten (which is actually the monster, come back in disguise) she collapses into giggles. My 7-year-old, predictably, loves the giant BURP the monster gives, spitting out all the animals he has eaten and revealing himself as a monster.

What a writer notices: This book has a really effective use of repeated phrases to build tension in the story. For example:

Each time the Deers call on a friend for help, the friend replies with the phrase:

A baby? A dear little baby? I shall come at once!

Each time the Deers are sent away on an errand (fetching milk or diapers), they are told to “run along”

Each time the Deers return to find the friend missing, the phrase is:

How very peculiar! [Friend’s name] had disappeared and the baby was still roaring.

The establishment of this pattern makes it all the more humorous and surprising when the pattern is broken. And the fact that it is broken with a giant burp is just icing on the cake.

Also, it’s a minor point, but I love the way the author named the characters. While some of the animal characters have their animal names (Mr. and Mrs. Deer, Doctor Fox, Granny Bear) others do not (Uncle Duncan is an owl, Auntie Agnes a bunny). This makes the story feel unique.

Links to Resources: 

Candlewick provides a wonderful “Story Hour Kit” for this and several other books, including activities for younger and older children, as well as paper cutouts.

http://www.candlewick.com/book_files/9999999911.kit.10.pdf

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Earth to Clunk

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: Earth to Clunk

Author/Illustrator: Pam Smallcomb/Joe Berger

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Year: 2011

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4+

Themes: Making friends; differences; siblings

Opening:

Today Mr. Zookian said I have to write to my pen pal. His name is Clunk.

“He lives on the planet Quazar,” said Mr. Zookian.

“Write him a letter and sent him something from Earth.”

I don’t want a pen pal named Clunk from the planet Quazar. I’m not writing a letter.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) What do you send your alien pen pal Clunk to make it clear you do not want an alien pen pal? You send him your big sister. That’ll teach Clunk to have a pen pal from Earth-or so our intrepid narrator thinks. But then Clunk sends him a Zoid, an exasperating Zoid that follows him everywhere. After swapping dirty socks, three Forps, some old lasagna, a weird glob, and a string of Christmas lights, our hero seems to be having…could it be…fun? But then: Clunk stops sending stuff. Oh no! Earth to Clunk . . . ? Is he too busy being bossed around by our hero’s big sister? Will her ever send another package again? Maybe-or maybe not. More hilarious surprises await!

Deadpan comedy, vibrant artwork (a bit Calvin & Hobbes, a bit Eloise), a warm friendship theme, and an extraordinary surprise ending will have kids laughing all the way back to the first page of this sweet-in-spite-of-itself story.

What makes it great: The quite unique alien pen-pal premise is fun, and the voice of the main character is deadpan wonderful. It’s refreshing once in a while to find a main character with what can only be described as a bad attitude. This kid reminds me a bit of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

What readers notice: My 7-year-old absolutely loves this book. We’ve checked it out from the library 3 or 4 times now (I know – we should just go ahead and buy the thing) and he keeps asking for it. He thinks it’s very funny. He also likes the fact that the main character sends his sister off to another planet. I can’t imagine why that’s appealing…

What a writer notices: While the premise is sort of whacky, the author brings us into the world by mentioning planet Quazar right on page one. She keeps the world realistic – it’s basically just like our world today, but with aliens. So it’s easy to accept this altered reality. Also, she does a great job of letting kids play out a fantasy (getting rid of a sibling for a while) and since it is within the whackiness of the story we know it’s not “real.” I also appreciated how she carefully layered in the change in the main character’s attitude. For example, the main character at first hates the lovable Zoid that Clunk sends him, but a bit later in the story ends up sleeping with it, as a stuffed animal, signaling the beginning of the shift in his attitude.

I also noticed that of the four books I’ve reviewed so far for PPBF, three of them are published by Dial BFYR. Coincidence? Maybe…

Links to Resources: I did not find any specific resources for this book, but it would be wonderful to use as an introduction to a pen pal project in school.

Here’s a great interview with Pam Smallcomb

Perfect Picture Book Friday – King Jack and the 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.

Title: King Jack and the Dragon

Author/Illustrator: Peter Bently/Helen Oxenbury

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Year: 2011

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 3+

Themes: Imagination; courage; fears; siblings

Opening:

Jack, Zack, and Caspar were making a den—

a mighty great fort for King Jack and his men.

a big cardboard box, an old sheet and some sticks,

a couple of trash bags, a few broken bricks,

a fine royal throne from a ragged old quilt,

a drawbridge, a flag—and the castle was built.

Synopsis: (from book jacket) Night is falling…playtime is nearly over…but brave King Jack and his band of faithful knights are still protecting the castle from fierce dragons and terrible beasts! This captivating, joyful tale of make-believe is just perfect for brave children everywhere.

What makes it great: I’m always a sucker for a good rhyming story and this book grabbed me from the opening lines. The illustrations by Helen Oxenbury are fabulous, and her illustration of the dragons and beasts the boys fight is right up there with Sendak’s Wild Things. We’ve had this checked out 3 times from the library already – I should probably go ahead and buy a copy!

What readers notice: My 3-year-old loved seeing the baby brother fighting his own baby-sized beasts and dragons. She’s fond of the scary moment at the end when King Jack, all alone, thinks a monster is approaching – it turns out to be his parents coming to bring him home to bed.

What a writer notices: The simple storyline was so true to children’s actual play. It’s a great reminder that stories don’t have to be – really shouldn’t be – complicated. I loved how completely immersed the story is in the pretend play of the children. When King Jack’s friend has to go home, the line reads: “Then a giant came by and went home with Sir Zack.” Perfect. We also hear so much about how the “problem” has to be introduced very early in a picture book, and it was refreshing to read this satisfying story that doesn’t rigidly adhere to that structure.

Links to Resources: I couldn’t find any activities out there in cyber-land for this story, but a wonderful project would be to work with children to build a fort, out of whatever materials you have available. Large cardboard boxes work well. I personally have fond memories of forts made of couch cushions and blankets.

Many 3-4 year olds love dress up and pretend play. If knight-and-dragon stories appeal to them, try spending a day in medieval mode. Your car becomes a coach. Clothing becomes “royal robes.” See how far you can take your imaginative descriptions of the world.

A really fun activity for slightly older kids is creating a personal coat of arms. This can be featured on your fort’s flag, or on a cardboard shield you cut out.