Friday, January 13, 2017

13th January Preparing for Chinese New Year

The movable celebration of Chinese New Year this year starts on  28th January and it is the Year of the Rooster. I began thinking about 'rooster' picture books. There's not a huge number, but what there is, have some very interesting roosters as characters. They don't all fit the Chinese rooster who is   "...very observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented. Roosters are very confident in themselves", but they make interesting reading and should create lively discussions. There are books about the Chinese Zodiac which will include information about the rooster, but the best book is probably The Magical Rooster. This book is part of the series on the Chinese Zodiac animals by Li Jian. His books are beautiful, informative, bilingual and a big hit in my library with native Chinese speakers and Anglo children alike.

Then take a tangent and look at how roosters are portrayed in picture books. Could we use the same adjectives for these book characters? Start with the rooster in The Bremen Town Musicians who started off as a reject but ends up triumphant. The rooster and his friends were certainly resourceful and courageous.

The cockerel or rooster in Helen Ward's book The Rooster and the Fox (the book exists with two titles depending upon where it was published) is vain and self centred, but also triumphs by being courageous and resourceful. This is a beautiful book based on Chaucer's Chanticleer story.

Henry, the rooster in Chris Wormell's story, Henry and the Fox  cannot crow, is a squib and not at all confident, but with help manages to appear heroic. 

Eric Carle's rooster in Rooster's Off to See the World is adventurous and confident and keen to travel. He heads up an expedition with friends but makes no provisions for food or shelter so his friends leave him. What does he do then?

Rooster's Revenge  is part 3 of a series of wordless books by Beatrice Rodriguez which started with The Chicken Thief. Rooster and his friends leave the chicken to go home but get caught in a storm at sea. Which adjectives would you use to describe him?

The other titles below, Kip, Bob and  The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet all explore the noise that roosters make and whether it is appropriate for where they live. If you can find them in your library they are fun to read and make good readalouds with young children. Last year when Year 1 and I were looking at stereotypes in traditional stories with chickens and foxes we made lists of adjectives for characters and had a substantial list for roosters. Because in many traditional tales a rooster is referred to as a 'cock', one boy suddenly said "now I know where the word 'cocky' comes from". Most children had never heard the word so this comment started a whole new vocabulary discussion. It was impromptu, but fantastic and the students will remember the word 'cocky'.

Happy New Year. One more week and I'll be back at school... thinking about getting as many books off those shelves and into readers' hands as possible.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

11th January Brian Floca

American author illustrator Brian Floca celebrates his birthday on the 11th January. He won the Caldecott Medal in 2014 for his detailed, but beautiful nonfiction book Locomotive. The books he both writes and illustrates seem to be about transport and things that he says he was interested in as a child, but he has also illustrated picture books for other authors. My favourite is Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox. This story is based on a true story about Elizabeth, an elephant seal who keeps coming ashore in Christchurch, New Zealand and lies on the road and no matter how far away the boats take her she keeps coming back. It makes me smile and the children I have read it to love it. And thirdly, he illustrates chapter books. This began while he was studying under illustrator, David Macaulay who introduced him to the author Avi. This led to Floca illustrating all six of the Poppy books, wonderful stories about Poppy, a mouse, and her friend, Ereth, a porcupine as well as other more recent books also written by Avi. There is a very informative interview with Brian here.

Look for picture books by Brian Floca:
The Racecar Alphabet
Five Trucks

Picture books illustrated by Brian Floca:
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas  by Lynne Cox
Ballet for Martha  by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan

Chapter book series:
Max and Mo a set of early readers by Patricia Lakin about two hamsters who live in the art room at a school.
• The Tales from Dimwood Forest  series of six books about a mouse called Poppy, and her family's problems with the owl Mr Ocax.
Marty McGuire a series of books about third grade tomboy Marty written by Kate Messner and ideal for middle grade readers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

7th January Old Rock Day

Old Rock Day is an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate old rocks and fossils. Perhaps you can start a rock collection. You can go in search of fossils. You can read about rocks or, if you choose, you can just play with old rocks. Not only geologists like rocks. In fact, I'm starting the year off with a display of rocks in the library and all the associated books. Below are some of the books from that display, but you could go further and look at fossil fuels as well. If you do, don't forget Molly Bang and Penny Chisolm's wonderful book Buried Sunlight.

By definition, fossils are old rocks. Jewellery stones are old rocks. And, coal is an old rock, too. You can celebrate any or all of these old rocks today!

Friday, December 30, 2016

31st December Pangolins

I'm on holidays and enjoying having time to read all sorts of things I don't usually have time for like the newspaper. Today in the Sydney Morning Herald (page18 in an article by Lindsay Murdoch), I read something alarming about pangolins, an animal I first met in a wonderful picture book by Bert Kitchen called Tenrec's Twigs. This story is set in Madagascar and has an amazing array of obscure animals, supposedly native to there. A friend visited Madagascar recently and I told her to be sure to see a tenrec and a pangolin. Well she saw a tenrec, but not the pangolin. And reading this today I wonder if that is why.
" Among the environmentalists' biggest concerns in South-east Asia is the pangolin, a scaly aardvark-like mammal that is the inspiration for Pokemon's Sandlash, a character adept at battling foes. The real-life ant-eating and nocturnal pangolins have the dubious distinction of being the most poached animal on Earth...More than 100,000 of the shy and near-sighted animals are captured every year across Africa and Asia."

The UN's Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES) has banned global trade in pangolins in the hope that they do not become extinct, a good reason too, to ensure that the students we teach know about them. I bought these two books for the library, so that when I share Tenrec's Twigs I can offer the children more to read. Not a lot, but a start without having to look through an index in a general animal  nonfiction book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

14th November Supermoon (perigee-syzygy)

We had great fun in the library today putting together a display of books that had a 'fullmoon' pictured on their covers in time for tonight's supermoon that we probably won't see here in Sydney. I love the name perigee-syzygy and couldn't wait to use it with the children. On Kidrex we learned what it was and how "The Supermoon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest a Full Moon has been to Earth since January 26, 1948. The next time a Full Moon is even closer to Earth will be on November 25, 2034".

Here's some of the books:

Monday, November 7, 2016

13th International Tongue Twister Day

Today is a day to celebrate tongue twisters! What fun! The children at school love to hear them and try themselves to say them as quickly as possible. These phrases or sentences with alliteration or a sequence of similar sounds beg to be repeated as quickly as possible without stumbling.

There are many lists of them on the internet and they appear in children's anthologies and joke books. One Kindergarten class teacher loves to do 'She sells seashells by the seashore' with her class and this year her class have really got involved by following its recitation with finding out about its origin. They learned that the 'she' refers to Mary Anning, the great fossil collector who made a living for her destitute family by selling trilobite shells on Lyme Regis beach. Much has been written about her and now there are at least three picture book biographies about her life. These are: (from my blog on 8th March)

 • Stone Girl Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt tells the story of Mary Fanning who as a ten year old child found a fossilised sea monster which was a major prehistoric discovery at the time. 
The Fossil Girl by Catherine Brighton  
• Mary Anning by Kay Barnham.

On line here you can see this book about Mary Anning and the tongue twister. This includes information about Mary as well as a revamped version of the original song.

Whatever tongue twisters you choose to share you and the students are sure to have fun. Perhaps you can find out if Peter Piper and Betty Botter were real people too.


Friday, November 4, 2016

7th November Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)

Today is Marie Curie's birthday and I thought it fitting to see what picture books were available to share with my young audience. Because of books such as Ada Twist, Scientist and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World there has been renewed interest in the library for reading biographies and reading about science and women scientists. There's certainly much written about Marie Curie, but not all of it is easily accessible to under 10 year old readers. Therefore I am really looking forward to next March when another title, Marie Curie in the  Little People Big Dreams series by Isabel Sanchez Vegara  arrives in the bookshops. The other titles in this series that we have have proved to be popular and the perfect amount of words for prep school readers.