Saturday, November 22, 2014

23rd November The Twelve Days of Christmas

Browsing through the Christmas picture books I noticed that Alison Jay has done a new version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and I picked it up for perusal, and while it does have beautiful artwork in her trademark style, I did wonder how many copies one library needs of this song, especially a school library like mine where school finishes for the summer holidays three weeks before Christmas and the teachers do so little Christmas-wise with their classes. Some very well known children's illustrators seem to have enjoyed creating their own version - see among others Susan Jeffers, Rachel Isadora, Brian Wildsmith, Jane Ray, Jan Brett, Robert Sabuda, Britta Teckentrup and Jane Cabrera.

One of the most popular holiday songs of all time, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' probably originated in France during the late Middle Ages and became popular in England as a chant sung without music. The 12 days are traditionally those following Christmas, with the last day being the end of the season. Over the years the lyrics have changed but the song remains a perennial favourite. 

I sometimes use the song to explain to students that the twelve days are the twelve days after Christmas Day that take us up to Epiphany, the day when the three kings went to visit baby Jesus and the day when traditionally we take down our Christmas tree and decorations.

As well there are many spin offs designed to suit a particular place. There are African (A Stork in a Baobab) and Latino (A PiƱata in a Pine Tree) versions and here in Australia there are a myriad of innovations, with emus, kookaburras and platypuses up gum trees and even an underwater version by Kim Michelle Toft. The original by June Williams and John McIntosh is gentle and almost reverent, the newer ones such as the Heath McKenzie version and the Colin Buchanan version are loud and boisterous. At the Lifeline Book Fair this weekend near my home I could have bought a number of each version for as little as fifty cents each! Perhaps good for compare and contrast activities and as background to making your own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

12th November WOW (Wear Orange Wednesday)

It is Wear Orange Wednesday in celebration of everything the SES (State Emergency Services) do to help those in need. The children I teach have probably had little to do with the SES, but I thought it a good excuse to look for ways of celebrating 'orange' through books. This is what I found:

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater is an oldie but goodie that explores the themes of creativity and individuality.
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco is perfect for this time of year as it is a Christmas story based on the traditions of Polacco's own family.
Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch is one of the very popular titles from the Toon series of books.
It's an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall. A fabulous new book, it explores colour, has great holes and lends itself to lots of creative fun.
Big Wolf and Little Wolf, Such a Beautiful Orange by Nadine Brun-Cosme. One in a series of three books about a great friendship between two wolves who share adventures.
Once Upon an Alphabet, Short stories for all the letters by Oliver Jeffers. This is not about anything orange, but it has a spectacular orange cover and it is an absolute wonder.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

10th November Neil Gaiman (1960)

Happy birthday to English author Neil Gaiman. Neil's best known books are beyond the reading capabilities of my clientele, but there are some picture books and easier chapter books for my under 8s. Hopefully having read these they will be keen to read books such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book when they are older.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October missed birthdays

I have found four October birthdays that I haven't celebrated at school. I am writing them here so that next year I can remember to highlight them

3rd October 1948   Marilyn Singer
The American author responsible for a series of picture books about Talulah, a child ballerina. My girls love her, but even better known for her wonderful poetry, See Mirror Mirror; A Stick is an Excellent Thing  and A Strange Place to Call Home.

4th October 1944 Susan Meddaugh
The American author/illustrator of the series of books about a dog called Martha e.g. Martha Speaks. My favourite of her books Cinderella's Rat.

7th October  Andrea Beaty
The author of the outstanding Iggy Peck Architect  and Rosie Revere Engineer

18th October 1956 Eugene Yelchin
Is a Russian born American illustrator. See Lee Wardlaw's haiku Won Ton and the wonderful poetry book for two voices written by Carole Gerber Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More!

Friday, October 31, 2014

30th October Eric Kimmel (1946)

Jewish American author Eric Kimmel has published many children's books and there are quite a few of them in our library, but today I just want to highlight three. I Took My Frog to the Library just because it's fun and about libraries. The Spider's Gift  because it is based on the Ukrainian Christmas story of why we decorate trees with tinsel and Greek Myths because Year 2 study Greek mythology and we can never have enough books on this topic. Children just love good versions of  these myths.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

26th October Steven Kellogg (1941)

It is hard to believe that I missed writing about Steven Kellogg before this. He has so many children's books that still appeal. I was introduced to his work when I first started teaching and read The Mysterious Tadpole  to a class. They loved it and wanted it read again and again. Everyone wants an uncle to send a gift like that. Jimmy and his boa then became a favourite. The book in our library that goes out the most is How Much is a Million? The young children who this library caters for are fascinated by very large numbers. And of course there is always the dog, Pinkerton.

Monday, October 20, 2014

24th October Monica Brown

Monica Brown writes fantastic picture book biographies of people with Latino heritage. I have four of them in my library and use them when we do a biography unit with Year 2 students. They give white Anglo children an insight into people from cultures they may know little about and they expose them to the Spanish language as well.

I often wondered why someone with a surname like "Brown" seemed so knowledgable about South America so I went searching. Her website enlightened me:

Monica's books are inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and desire to share Latino/a stories with children. "I write from a place of deep passion, joy, and commitment to producing the highest possible quality of literature for children. In my biographies, the lives of my subjects are so interesting and transformational that I am simply giving them voice for a young audience. I don't think it is ever too early to introduce children to the concepts of magical realism, social justice, and dreaming big!" 

It was also interesting to learn that Monica is a professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specialising in Latino Literature and Multicultural Literature. She also has written picture books that are not biographies. A particular favourite of mine is about a non-conformist girl called Marisol McDonald. She really makes me smile. Marisol is a Peruvian-Scottish-American girl who just doesn't match! I wonder how autobiographical the story is?  Below are her two books about Marisol and two of her biographies, a stunningly beautiful one about poet Pablo Neruda and her newest about Pablo Picasso.

Monica's website will show you all her books, give you resources for teaching, film clips, book trailers and a very quick way to get to know her work. I'm not sure when Monica was born. I have taken the date 24/10 from Eric at Happy Birthday Author.