Wednesday, January 28, 2015

29th January Curmudgeon's Day

It is Curmudgeon Day? Why do we need a day for curmudgeons? You may well ask what is a curmudgeon anyway? Well a curmudgeon is someone who is bad-tempered, difficult or cantankerous.

To celebrate this day you don't need to be grumpy or make others grumpy, just read this clever story, C.R. Mudgeon and have a good discussion about what can be done to help any curmudgeonly people the children know, and hope that the word 'curmudgeon' is added to their rich vocabulary.

Here is a synopsis of the story:
"A set-in-his-ways hedgehog gets a new worldview--and a new friend along the way. C.R. Mudgeon, a sensible hedgehog, likes knowing just what to expect. Always. No surprises, no excitement. So when a noisy new neighbour, Paprika the squirrel, arrives, C.R. Mudgeon is even less cheerful than normal. The sights! The sounds! The peppery, fiery smells! Everything about Paprika is just too much to handle, and C.R. is aching, sneezing, and seeing spots. But everyone needs quiet "sometimes," and when that time comes, C.R. Mudgeon will have just the thing for a new friend in need. And as for himself, he may even discover that a little spice is just what the doctor ordered! Nuanced, joyful humour permeates the pages of this heartwarming picture book that will make even the littlest, grumpiest curmudgeons want to jump up and dance!"

Sunday, January 25, 2015

27th January Chocolate Cake Day

There are a large number of picture books that feature cake and I have written about it before, but today I want to talk about a book that is very popular with my preschoolers. It is the first book in a wonderful series about Betty Bunny written by Michael Kaplan. It is called Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake. Betty Bunny is the youngest in her family and she is beginning to assert herself and make proclamations. She is hard to resist and preschoolers certainly align themselves to her. The story also has depth and touches on healthy eating and the importance of restraint and patience.

"But Betty Bunny doesn't want patience, she wants chocolate cake! In this funny tribute to chocolate lovers (and picky eaters), Betty Bunny's charming perspective on patience will be recognisable to anyone with a preschooler in their life."

Another book for preschoolers about chocolate cake is Tiberius and the Chocolate Cake by Keith Harvey and while this is not great literature when compared to something like Helen Oxenbury's cake making in It's My Birthday, it depicts a situation all to common to cake making with lots of helpers and the children laugh when they finally work out why the cake is so small.

I'm off to a birthday party today. Wonder if there'll be chocolate cake!

Friday, January 16, 2015

16th January Appreciate a Dragon Day

There are hundreds of great picture books and junior novels for the dragon-loving reader, so it is very hard to favour just a few when celebrating Appreciate a Dragon Day

If you want a general dragon picture book with magnificent illustrations though you can't go past Tell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris. And although there are many more recent titles I still love The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame and the edition with Inga Moore's illustrations makes it very accessible to young children.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

15th January Hat Day

It is National Hat Day in the US. It is not Hat Day in Australia until October, but whenever it is you will not believe just how many picture books feature hats. See my pinterest page and have fun deciding which is your favourite hat book. These are two very recent titles that you may not know:

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year ... no birthday just food for thought. As always I am looking for ways to use literature with children to increase their empathy and I need to get at the boys young before they stop reading any fiction because I believe that it is reading fiction that develops empathic readers. Therefore I really savoured Elizabeth Farrelly's article in the Sydney Morning Herald and began to think about what I could do differently this year in classes to make a bigger impact. There goes my thinking time for the next three weeks!

I thought I'd share two books though today that will make you smile and which offer a myriad of avenues for getting very young children to look closely at feelings, theirs and others'. Both are by European authors and illustrators but available in English. Both appear simple because of their minimal text but they are deceptive and thus somewhat ageless.

Happy  by Mies Van Hout. Have you ever seen so much expression on a fish? This Dutch author's website is available in English and she has ideas for what to do with her book. One of the teachers at my school has used it very successfully for art  and in circle time. My staff had great fun sharing and comparing the French and English version of this book and deciding whether the translation was precise. We now need the original Dutch version and a Dutch speaker to translate so we can discuss it some more.

 In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey.   This cover illustration doesn't do this book justice. It has beautiful die-cut pages which show the heart decreasing in size. I haven't seen the original French version of this book.

Happy birthday Olivier Dunrea. His series about Gossie  is ideal for preschoolers and talking about feelings too.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

27th December Erin E. Stead (1982)

Erin Stead is an American illustrator who has now many well-known books to her credit, some that she has illustrated for her husband, author Philip Stead. Look for A Sick Day for Amos McGee which won the Caldecott Medal, Bear Has a Story to Tell and the two she has illustrated for Julie Fogliano, And Then It's Spring  and  If You Want to See a Whale. Erin and Philip have a website called Number Five Bus which has interviews between themselves and other well-known children's book people.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

24th December Christmas Truce

Given the events of late in Sydney, the fact that I am on school holidays and my family are home for Christmas I have spent time recently thinking about what parents have told their young children about
the grim events in the news. At school I try to share tough events through literature that we can discuss at their level. I want them to experience discomfit but within a safe, scaffolded situation that they experience vicariously and where they get to empathise but also to ask questions. This helps then when an unpleasant event or experience is closer to home because they have some schema to fall back upon.

Then this morning I was thinking about Christmas stories and browsing through my Christmas picture book pinterest list,  I saw In Flanders Fields and thought of how a positive experience occurs amongst the grimness of World War 1 in the name of Christmas. A truce is called to the fighting, the singing of carols unites the warring troops and a time of reflection ensues. Similarly there has been an outpouring of goodwill among the people in Sydney and the flowers in Martin Place have allowed a time of reflection and the chance to think about what really matters to each of us.

In the year to come as we mark the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 it is nice to know that for at least a short time, it really was all quiet on the Western Front. I have read this story to my Year 2 children at Christmas and this year I also read them The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree on Remembrance Day because of its reference to this day. The students asked lots of questions, queried why it had taken Ruthie's father so long to come home after the armistice and made connections between this and other books we had read. This is the power of good children's books.

Now there are quite a few titles about the truce and all have good points, but the Jorgensen one works for me because the children relate to the hurt robin and his need of rescue, the black and white illustrations have a subtlety that removes the graphic horror of war and it is just the right length to read in one sitting, but by all means check out the others so you can match your students with the 'right' book.

In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen

Shooting at the Stars  by John Hendrix
Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepard
War Game by Michael Foreman
Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy
Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon 
The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy
The Christmas Truce: the Place Where Peace was Found by Hilary Robinson