Jun 30, 2011

Math Appeal

Math Appeal (Mind-Stretching Math Riddles),

Math Appeal (Mind-Stretching Math Riddles) by Greg Tang
Illustrated by Harry Briggs

    Math Appeal is a collection of rhymes/riddles, each one posing a different math problem to solve.  The riddles are challenging and fun.  Greg Tang wrote Math Appeal as a way to make math fun and engaging; he believes "language and art are the keys to make math more meaningful to children."  Each riddle encourages thinking outside the box and finding creative ways to solve math problems.  The illustrations are an essential part of the riddle and add clues to solve the problems.
     Math Appeal is a great book to read at home with kids 7-10 years old, as well as a perfect addition to the math classroom library.  At the back of the book you can find all the answer and explanations to each riddle.  Read it cover to cover or work on one riddle a day, either way, you'll enjoy it.

Jun 29, 2011

Round Trip

Round Trip by Ann Jonas

     "We started out as soon as it was light."  The family was going on a day trip to the city.  On their way they pass fields, mountains, the coast and the marshy inlets until they finally reach the city with it's bright lights and skyscrapers.  After going to the movie theater and climbing to the top of the tallest building, they watch as the sun goes down.  Then they begin their trip back home.
     There isn't much to say about Round Trip's plot: trip there and back.  Its magic lies in the illustrations and design of the book.  It's drawn completely in black and white.  You read the book straight through, looking at the landscapes described in each page until you get to the last page where the sun goes down and you are told it's "time to turn around."  The family turns around to head back home, and we readers need to physically turn the book around and begin reading going the other way.  It's amazing to see how the images that were meant to be one thing before, now match the new text when looked at upside down. It's a lot of fun and flat out impressive.

Jun 28, 2011

In the Small, Small Pond

In the Small, Small Pond

In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

     In the Small, Small Pond "wiggle, jiggle, tadpoles wriggle."  Other animals in the pond waddle, hover, shiver, drowse,  lunge, splitter, scatter, twirl, sweep, dip and flip. It's surprising how many inhabitants live in the small, small pond and makes the young ones wonder how much more could they find out there.
    This a a beautifully illustrated picture book with fantastic vocabulary.  It's lines flow and rhyme, helping the youngest learn the new words with ease.  It's  also a great introduction to nature and the outdoors.  I have to say that at first I thought it's vocab was too advanced for the youngest kids but I found my son was mesmerized by it's flow and even when months go by without reading it together, as soon as we pull it from our bookshelf he's back to reciting the whole book.

Jun 27, 2011

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Public Television Storytime Books)

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Julie Vivas

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge was a young boy who lived next door to and old people's home. He knew all the old people that lived in that home, but "his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did." They were good friends and Wilfrid shared all his secrets with her. One day, he overhead his parents talking about the fact that Miss Nancy had lost her memory. Not quite sure what a memory is, Wilfrid embarks on a quest to figure it out with the help of all the people at the old folk's home. He gathers different definitions of memory from all his friends. A memory is something: warm, from long ago, that makes you cry, that makes you laugh, "something as precious as gold. Wilfrid then collects items that fit each description and brings them to Miss Nancy.
This is one of the sweetest picture books I've ever read. I love the connection between the young boy and the old folks. Wilfrid's friendship with each one of them is memorable and the illustrations are gorgeous. It also has one of the most beautiful final images: "and the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy's memory had been found again by a small boy, who wasn't very old either." One for the favorite's shelf and a great one to discuss memories and memoirs.

Jun 26, 2011

Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say

     Allen Say's powerful book, has him retelling the story of his grandfather and his connection with him.  His grandfather moved from Japan to the US when he was a young man.  He explored the new country and "the more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places, and never thought of returning home."  Once he reached California, he fell in love with its seacoast, its sunlight, and the Sierra Mountains.  He returned to Japan to marry his childhood sweetheart and bring her back with him to California. While in the US he missed Japan, when in Japan he missed the US.  Allen Say admits to sharing that same feeling with his grandfather, so he too must travel back and forth between the two countries "when I cannot still the longing in my heart. The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other."
     Grandfather's Journey is a wonderful example of the immigrant story.  Allan Say's illustrations are breathtaking, each one  a work of art on their own.  The many historical facts and events he makes reference to during his reminiscing, offer a great opportunity to discuss history and culture with kids and students.

Jun 25, 2011

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards))

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen

     Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is a gorgeous book of poems around the theme of nighttime  and its inhabitants.  There are poems about bats, owls, spiders, slugs, mushrooms and even the moon. Each one deserves to be read slowly, savoring each verse and listening to its cadence.  Each poem stands alone perfectly but as a collection, it is a marvel.
     As a teacher, this is an amazing source of lyrical examples.  There are poems that exemplify repetition like Moon's Lament, personification like Oak After Dark, and even a shape poem like Dark Emperor whose verses make the outline of a horned owl.  There are too many verses I would like to copy here for you to read...From Dark Emperor:
     O Dark Emperor
of hooked face and 
hungry eye: turn that
awful beak away
from me;
the tiny hiccup 
of my heart 
as I flee.

Or from Night-Spider's Advice:

Use what you have.
Rest when you need to.
Dawn will come soon enough.
Someone as to remake
the world each night.
It might as well be you.

     The illustrations by Rick Allen truly complement the feeling of being immersed in nighttime.  
     There is a poem per page with its accompanying illustration and, as an added bonus, there is a side "mini-lesson" on the topic of each poem.  This provides a great nonfiction link to share with the kids, and for teachers it allows a great opportunity to bring literature and poetry into the science classroom. 

Jun 24, 2011

A Color of His Own

A Color of His Own

A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni

     I grew up reading Leo Lionni books and getting lost in his beautiful illustrations.  I had Frederick and Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse at home, but I hadn't read A Color of His Own until my son got it as a gift when he was a baby.
     All animals have a color of their own: "elephants are gray", "pigs are pink", "parrots are green"...all but the chameleon who changes colors all the time.  And he doesn't like it anymore, he wants A Color of His Own.  He decides to stay on a leaf so that he can be green forever.  The problem is that as the season change, the leaf changes color and with it, so does the chameleon.  Sad and "black in the long winter night" chameleon waited alone.  When spring came he found another chameleon and told him his "sad story": "Won't we ever have a color of our own?"  The other chameleon, who was older and wiser, explained that they will never have a color of their own, but it they stayed together, they will change at the same time and always share their special colors. And so they lived happily ever after.
     A Color of His Own is a sweet story of friendship and companionship.  It's a nice way of introducing colors and seasons to the youngest ones at home, so I highly recommend the boar book edition.

Jun 23, 2011

Lottie's New Beach Towel

Lottie's New Beach Towel (Lottie's World)

Lottie's New Beach Towel by Petra Mathers

     Lottie the hen gets a very special package from her Aunt Mattie.  Inside she finds a note "This might come in handy this summer," and a brand new red and white polka-a-dot beach towel.  The towel came handy right away since Lottie was having a picnic that same day with her best friend Herbie.  Through out the day, the beach towel keeps coming in handy and helping Lottie solve all sort of problems.  She gets to use the towel as a sail and a blanket.  The towel even saves a wedding day, when Lottie manages a to turn it into a veil that the bride had lost.
    The beauty of Lottie's New Beach Towel lies on its illustration and in the concise language that keeps the story moving quickly through many mishaps and situations.  I've used the book in class a couple of times, covering the text and having the students write the story themselves.  It's a very cool summer read aloud.

Jun 22, 2011

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Sally Mavor

     Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes is a collection of traditional nursery rhymes.  Some are very popular and some I had never heard of, but that's not the point.  The reason I picked this book is because it is a work of art.  The illustrations are  fabric relief collages made from a variety of materials (acorns, stones, driftwood, walnuts, beads, buttons, and even wire) all hand sewn together on dyed wool and photographed.  The result is stunning.  This book is a true treasure to be savored over and over...and try to resist the temptation to rip the pages out and frame them to decorate you child's room. 

Jun 21, 2011

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Age 4-8
      "You woke in the morning in such a bad mood...then sat at the table and fussed with your food. But then you blew kisses and waved from the door.  I love you, I love you, my dinosaur."  If you're not familiar with the How Do Dinosaurs...? series, dinos take the place of children in classic situations, displaying typical child behaviors.
     There are many books in the How do Dinosaurs... series but there is something special about How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?  It might be the fact that I find it calming to read out loud with my son after a difficult day, or the fact that this is the book in the series that my son seems to identify with the most:  "Mami, I do that too...and I'm also cranky in the mornings, just like the dinosaurs."  It's a great book to share with your kids to let them know that as parents, our love is unconditional, and that even when they make mistakes and misbehave, at the end of the day we'll always love them. It also shows that our children might drive us crazy but then they always find a way to show us how much the love us. The illustrations by Mark Teague are wonderful and there is a side lesson on dinosaurs since their scientific name is included on each illustration.

Jun 20, 2011

It's a Book

It's a Book

It's a Book by Lane Smith

     Monkey is reading a book.  Jackass is pestering him with questions about it. "How do you scroll down?" asks Jackass. "You don't. I turn the page. It's a book" answers Monkey.  But Jackass just doesn't get it.  What follows is a hilarious exchange between the patient Monkey and Jackass.  Jackass, who's carrying a laptop and is obviously tech savvy, wonders if the book can blog, or text, or tweet, or wi-fi, or if it needs a password. "No. It's a book."  Finally, Monkey just hands him the book and Jackass spends hours reading the book.  As Monkey heads to the library to get a new book -since Jackass won't give it back to him- Jackass holds up the book and says "Don't worry, I'll charge it up when I'm done!"  Monkey's reply is priceless...
     I had checked out It's a Book from the library, but I fell in love with it so I had to go out and buy it for my collection.  I don't get tired of reading it out loud and sharing it with every adult that will care to listen.   Just make sure you're comfortable using the word Jackass repeatedly.  Smith's illustrations are quirky, funny and endearing.  It's a Book is now on my bookshelf of favorites.   

Jun 19, 2011

Truckery Rhymes

Truckery Rhymes (Jon Scieszka's Trucktown)

Truckery Rhymes by John Scieszka
Illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long and David Gordon

     Since today is Father's Day, I wanted to change it up a bit and instead of picking a book about a father and son, I decided to chose the book that my husband and son share most often: Truckery Rhymes.  Jon Scieszka's Trucktown characters take on traditional nursery rhymes with a twist.  Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star becomes "Rumble, Rumble, Monster Max. Can you jump those junkyard stacks?" There is also "Rock-a-Bye Mixer at the site top. When the wind blows, the building will rock."  Or my son's favorite: "Patty cake, patty cake, Dumper Dan. Dump me some dirt as fast as you can. Slide it and drop it and mark it DD, and pile it in the lot for Melvin and me."
     My boy loves the rhymes, not only because he already knows the rhythm from the classic ones, but because the trucks all have personalities and he truly becomes immersed in the Trucktown world.  This is more evident in the new version of The Wheels on the Bus, now titled The Wheels on the Truck.  It includes all the different types of trucks with all sorts of sounds which are a blast to read aloud and sing around the house; and at the end of the song, there is a display of all the different trucks that are part of Trucktown.
     This is the sort of book that becomes a family classic that the kids want to keep going back to even after the original fever dies down -when they will ask you to read it a million times a day- It's the book version of a blankie.  The illustrations are exciting as well and I love the fact that it can be read from cover to cover or just a couple of rhymes at a time.

Jun 18, 2011

Iggy Peck, Architect

Iggy Peck, Architect

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts

     Iggy Peck has been an architect since he was two, "when he built a great tower -in only an hour- with nothing but diapers and glue."  By three his parents new his passion for architecture was going to stick: "he built churches and chapels from peaches and apples, and temples from modeling clay." His parents were always supportive, even when he built the St. Lois Arch during dinner using nothing but pancakes and coconut pie.  His passion kept growing but then he reached the second grade and met his teacher Miss Lila Greer.  She hated building and architecture! It all steamed from an unfortunate trip to a skyscraper when she was a little girl; she got lost and "was found two days later stuck, eating cheese with a French circus troupe.  After that day "she thought all building-lovers were nuts."
     Not being allowed to build anything, bummed out Iggy and turned second grade into a bore.  One day, the class went on a picnic.  The crossed a bridge to get to an island where they would have the picnic, but as the last kid got across, the bridge collapsed.  Miss Greer fainted and Iggy came up with a plan.  He designed a new bridge and built it with his classmates and when Miss Greer woke up, they where all safe back on the mainland.
     Iggy Peck, Architect is quirky and delightful book.  The story is funny and the illustrations are fantastic.  It's about finding your passion and sticking with it.  There are not many books out there about being an architect so this  is a good one to add to any classroom or bookshelf.

Jun 17, 2011

Tell Me the Day Backwards

Tell Me the Day Backwards

Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb
Illustraded by David McPhail

     "Let's play that game we used to play that summer" says little Timmy Bear to Mama Bear as he gets ready for bedtime.  The game is to retell the day backwards.  Timmy Bear starts going back through all the details of his adventure filled day.   The day ended with a relaxing picnic but soon we find out that Timmy had a scary incident:  Papa Bear had to rescue Timmy Bear from the river.  As he retells the story, always prompted by Mama Bear asking "what happened before that?", we are able to reconstruct the whole day.
     Tell Me the Day Backwards is an exciting and sweet tale that will have you and the kids wanting to play the game yourselves during bedtime.   The watercolor illustrations are beautiful.   The story provides  a great exercise to use in the classroom as well, not only the idea of telling a story backwards, but following the cause and effect pattern throughout the retelling.

Jun 16, 2011

Pecan Pie Baby

Pecan Pie Baby

Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

     It's fall and Gia is going to be a big sister very soon.  Her mom tells her the baby will arrive "by the time the first snow's on the ground."  Gia "looked out at the falling leaves and made a silent wish for winter to come and go quickly without bringing any snow."  A baby will change everything and Gia is just not ready for that.  Even when mom tries to make her feel better by offering her a piece of pecan pie and telling her that the baby likes it too, just like them, Gia says that "baby's just being a copy cat!"  The worst part is that the baby is all everybody seems to be thinking and talking about.  They keep fussing about that "ding-dang baby."  Gia can't help but think about all those years when it was just her and Mama: drinking chocolate, telling silly stories and cuddling in her Mama's bed in the early morning hours. "Now, that baby was going to change everything!" But when Mama shares with Gia that she will also miss those good old days and that together they'll have to share those memories with the new baby, Gia realizes there is love to spare...as well as more pecan pie.
     Pecan Pie Baby is beautiful.  The language and the illustrations are poetic and sweet.  It's a perfect book to share with everybody whose family is about to get larger.  For teachers, it offers good examples of showing passage of time through seasons and good openings:
     Just as summer started leaving us and the leaving brought all those colors to the trees, Mama pulled out my winter clothes
     An added bonus for me was the multicultural characters.  Not only is the main character African American, but the classmates, family friends, and "aunts" and "uncles" are from all different racial groups.  Great book to share in the classroom and at home.