Saturday, October 3, 2015

4th October Jo Witek (4/9/68)

It isn't Jo Witek's birthday today, but I have just learned that it was her birthday a month ago and she isn't already on my birthday list, so I am adding her now. Also I have just bought her new book ready to use in the library with my preschoolers this coming term. It is called Brave As Can Be.

Jo Witek is an author, journalist and screenwriter who lives in France. Her three picture books available in English are illustrated by Christine Roussey, a French illustrator who also lives in Paris. The three stories, Hello in There; In My Heart  and Brave as Can Be feature the same small girl.

In each book she 'tackles' big issues for preschoolers, getting a new sibling, feelings and being brave. The sibling title doesn't work as well with a large audience, but is better one on one with a child who is awaiting the birth of a sibling. The feelings title is very popular in my library. It includes multilayered die-cut pages featuring decreasing rainbow coloured hearts, big white expanses, and a cute girl who explores her emotions stated as similes... "My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside." My heart "is as heavy as an elephant", "like a plant reaching toward the sky".  It has wonderful vocabulary for empowering young children when talking about emotions.

Jo's new book on bravery empowers young children to confront  scary situations head on, but in a playful manner. No doubt there will be more winning titles to come!

Monday, September 28, 2015

28th September Good Neighbour Day

There are not a lot of picture books with 'neighbour' in their title, but nevertheless it is easy to define what a neighbour is and does using stories in picture books, and what better way to celebrate Good Neighbour Day than by reading with your neighbours, even if they are school 'neighbours'. Many of the books I like to share are now old, but that doesn't mean they aren't still good and worth sharing. These will probably be in your school library too, and they are perfect for giving that sense of neighbourliness and community.


    • Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten by Bob Graham. Here Rose and her                                                      family move into the house next door to a recluse whose yard has become overgrown. Rose is determined to befriend him.

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham. Here a young girl called Stella creates a haven for her neighbourhood in a dumped bus.

Amelia Ellicott's Garden by Liliana Stafford and Stephen Michael King. Here a storm damages Amelia's garden and chicken coop and the neighbours rally to help her recoup her belongings and restore them.

That's Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey. Here Tom's elderly neighbour gives him a bulb that they plant and watch grow.

Nobody's Granny by Tessa Brady. Here the children in an elderly lady's neighbourhood collaborate to build her a fence in exchange for playing in her garden.

Leaves for Mr Walter by Janeen Brian and David Cox. Here Emilia befriends grumpy Mr Walter who lives next door and together they create a treehouse.

And if you do want a book with 'neighbours' in the title, dig out  Mum, Midge and the Neighbours by Phil Cummings and Ritva Vitoula.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

24th September Punctuation Day

National Punctuation Day started in America but reading about it on the web, it seems that Australia and New Zealand share its zeal for identifying examples of incorrect punctuation. It is always easy to find examples of incorrect apostrophe use. Have fun planning 'punctuation police' activities with a class. There are books that can add to the fun. Among them, but not part of a specially written punctuation series are:

Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis
Fun, light-hearted and for a young audience.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
What happens with a misplaced exclamation mark?

Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver
What would happen if there was no punctuation. Mr Wright's class find out.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves  by Lynne Truss
This is a more sophisticated look at punctuation, but even young children laugh when you explain examples in this book and how a comma can really change the meaning.

Monday, September 21, 2015

22nd September Elephant Appreciation Day

I can't believe I haven't written about this celebration before. There are just so many wonderful books for young children about elephants or which have elephants as main characters. I have a pinterest page for elephant books so I don't intend to list all of these. Instead as part of my elephant appreciation I have decided to categorise and then tell you my favourites. Here they are!

Picture Book:
My favourite to read to preschoolers is The Elephant and the Bad Baby  by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs. While not really about elephants one of the main characters is an elephant and the children find him a loveable villain.
My favourite picture book about elephants, which also has a loveable main character is Little Elephant, Thunderfoot by Sally Grindley and John Butler.

It is a toss up between two, both of which I have had success with reading to classes.
1. Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
2. Akimbo and the Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith

With amazing photographs: Elephants a Book for Children by Steve Bloom
With illustrations: Grandma Elephant's in Charge by Martin Jenkins and Ivan Bates
This title is part of the wonderful Read and Wonder series which intersperses story with facts.

The Elephants' Ears by Catherine Chambers and Caroline Mockford
This story explains the differences between African and Indian elephants.

Biography/True story:
Queenie: One Elephant's Story by Corinne Fenton and Peter Gouldthorpe
This story is sad, but shows children a problem that may come with keeping wild animals in captivity.

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems

Sunday, September 20, 2015

21st September World Gratitude Day

World Gratitude Day is a day when we should all stop to be grateful for all that is good in our world. At school we do talk to children about what they are thankful for, we talk about bucket filling and being good community members. Many families and teachers have a Blessings Jar or Gratitude Journal. I have just read an adult novel called The Happiness Jar where a girl with cystic fibrosis, despite all her health issues lives life to the fullest and records all the things that she is grateful for in her happiness jar. Perhaps it is something we should do more about with our privileged students at a time when many children still do not have the opportunity to go to school or live in a safe environment. We could do this without scaring them as much of the current refugee news is prone to do with the very young students I teach.  Americans have Thanksgiving, but here in Australia we don't have a specific day to say thank you or express gratitude and perhaps we should. These four books could help you start a discussion with very young children.

 Today is also World Alzheimer's Day. If you are not affected by this awful disease you have another good reason to be grateful. I have written about this day before and while many new books have been published since, such as Phil Cummings' Newspaper Hats and Ellie Royce's Lucas and Jack you still might find these other titles useful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

12th -20th September NSW Bike Week

The weather here has been superb. It is Spring and you just want to be outside doing things. On the weekend the Festival of the Winds was on in Bondi. It is NSW Bike Week  from Saturday, 12 September until Sunday, 20 September and there are children in parks, at the beach and on the move. Hopefully it will still be like this in a week's time when it is school holidays. When I think of Spring at school I like to read Will Hillenbrand's Spring is Here to my preschoolers. It is one of the books in the series about Bear and Mole. Coincidently there is a title about kites, Kite Day and another title in the series about bike riding  is Off We Go! Here Bear is encouraging Mole to give up his training wheels. This too is the premise in other titles about bike riding (see list of titles below). 

I am often asked by parents for books about bike riding because their child is fearful and unwilling to take risks. I recommend Jeanne Willis' Don't Let Go! which hasn't failed me yet. Here a little girl persuades her father to teach her to ride a bike. She has all the trouble with balancing and speed control that every learner remembers - but at last she is whipping down the path in the park screaming: 'It's all right - you can let go now!' 

I notice that there has been a number of new books which feature bicycles lately including Byron Barton's My Bike, Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike by Chris Raschka and two more about bears on bikes, Bike On, Bearby Cynthia Liu and Bear on a Bike by Hannah Shaw which is coming soon.

I like to share two books set in Africa with older children who take having a bike for granted,  Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and My Rows and Piles of Coins with fabulous illustrations by E.
B.Lewis.  These two show how for a child without a bike the yearning for the freedom that comes with a bike is paramount.

And don't forget Mulga Bill's Bicycle. Read it with gusto and explain the history of it and penny farthings.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

6th September Pet Rock Day 16th September Collect Rocks Day

September seems to be the time to think about ROCKS! There is Pet Rock Day on the 6th or 14th depending on which website you look at and then there is Collect Rocks Day on the 16th. I grew up in an area where there was large amount of igneous rock and I had a science-teacher father who was besotted with geology and physical geography. I loved collecting rocks, especially those pieces of basalt that had been made into smooth pebbles by the pounding of the sea. These rocks were great for drawing on, decorating, making into people and rock art. And now I'm an adult I still have a 'thing' for rocks. Recently in Ireland I found myself picking up rocks and making totems on the pebbly beaches. I wrote on beaches with stones and made rock art constantly. old habits resurfaced because of the abundance of rocks to work with...and yes I did bring two rocks home! One of them is from the beach that the movie Ryan's Daughter was filmed on, the other from a town called Greystones just south of Dublin where as you guessed the beach is made from large grey pebbles. As you can also probably guess I loved The Giant's Causeway which makes rocks appear so clever.

The children at school do borrow books about rocks and crystals. They seem to run in bursts and if one child gets interested I often find the interest spreads. Below are some of my favourite rock books in the library and here is the connection to my pinterest page where I have both children's books and projects that use rocks. If you decide to 'adopt a rock' read Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock. Children probably won't choose to read this book themselves because of the illustrations and their lack of colour, but the text is perfect and once you read it, the children understand and are keen to choose a rock.