Sunday, February 28, 2010

1st March

Wow, I've been doing this for a whole month. I have managed to do an entry every day and only eleven months to go! I do not have a birthday listed for today, but as there are so many for tomorrow and one of them is Dr Seuss, I thought I would do the other two today.

Firstly, Leo Dillon who is half of the the wonderful Leo and Diane Dillon collaboration. Both these illustrators were born in 1933, just thirteen days apart, Leo on the 2nd and Diane on the 13th March. They met while studying art and have worked together since. They illustrated Verna Aardema's Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears which would definitely be on my top-ten list of picture books. In fact in 1976 they won the Caldecott Medal for their illustrations and in doing so, Leo became the first African-American artist to win the Caldecott. They followed this award up, by winning it again the next year with Margaret Musgrove's Ashanti to Zulu.

Secondly, Patrick John (P.J.) Lynch, the Irish illustrator was born on the 2nd March, 1962. He too, has won a prestigious picture book prize, the Kate Greenaway Medal twice. Like the Dillon's first winning book, his The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey would be on my list of favourites. A Christmas would not pass without me reading it to a class or small group of children. The story is heartwarming and the warming of the pictures match the theme beautifully. His second medal was for When Jessie Came Across the Sea written by Amy Hest. He has also illustrated many fairytales and his style of illustration works well for these. See his Oscar Wilde collection and his Snow Queen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

29th February Mara Bergman(1956) Kim Michelle Toft (1960)

I know there isn't a 29th February this year, but these two were lucky enough to be born in a leap year and are too prolific and too good to miss.

Mara Bergman was born in the US but moved to London in 1983. As well as many other titles she is the author of three books about Oliver Donnington Rimington-Sneep. They are wonderful 'adventure' stories that all occur around sleep time. Nick Mallard's illustrations add to the fun and the rhythmic text. You have to see the reading picture in the first book Oliver Who Would Not Sleep. Wouldn't it make a great card for all your reading friends? In the second book, Oliver Who Was Small But Mighty, Oliver has given up his rocket and is off in a boat. By the third book, Oliver Who Travelled Far and Wide he is on a train. Given that one title came out each year for the last three, can we safely predict there will be a fourth this year? What mode of transport will Oliver choose this time?

Kim Michelle Toft's books are reams away from Mara's. She is an Australian illustrator who specialises in silk painting of beautiful marine creatures in books that explore environmental themes. Her pictures highlight the amazing blueness of Australian tropical waters and often display a tranquil, idyllic marine environment that you would love to explore. Her website shows her books and how she does the amazing artwork.

Friday, February 26, 2010

28th February Megan McDonald (1959)

I found several dates for Megan McDonald's birthday, some said 18th, some 28th and one even said 29th of February, but as 1959 was not a leap year I have discounted that one and opted for the 28th. Megan needs no introduction. She is the author of the ever so popular series of books about Judy Moody and now Judy's brother, Stink as well. They are very popular and always out of the library. Judy is in grade 3 and like Megan herself, (self-confessed) she is moody.

For fun in the library I like to share When the Library Lights Go Out which is illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. We make a list of predictions before reading and often the children feel their ideas are more exciting so I encourage them to use their ideas in their own writing. In Library Week, when we display books about libraries, this book is popular because of the concept and the fact that there are so many toys and puppets in the library.

All you want to know about Megan, except perhaps her actual birthdate, and her books can be found at www.meganmcdonald and

27th February is Polar Bear Day!

I don't know who decided that 27th February is Polar Bear Day, but I don't need an excuse to celebrate polar bears using literature. Of course it is probably more pertinent to study polar bears in the Northern Hemisphere where you are much more likely to see a polar bear, e
ven if it is only in a zoo, but with global warming and the shrinking of the ice caps, it is important that children read about animals that are at risk. Polar bears are special and the quality of children's books about them make them even more special.

To date there was always Liliana Stafford's Snow Bear, Nicola Davies' Ice Bear, and Sally Grindley's Polar Star, but then last year I added the Hatkoff's Knut and Christa Holtei's Nanuk Flies Home to the library.

Shopping for the library at the beginning of this year though, I found a plethora of new titles that were published in 2009 and these you have to see for the sheer brilliance of the illustrations:

* The Last Polar Bear by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor
This story is idealistic and improbable but touching and message-laden. It has beautiful illustrations and some very interesting vocabulary such as 'flailing' and 'squall'.
* Big Bear Little Brother by Carl Norac and Kristin Oftedal
This story too, is about a small boy befriending a polar bear but here the relationship is playful and protective. Norwegian Oftedal's illustrations capture the vastness and coldness of the setting while still showing the warmth and exuberance of the c
hild and bear's relationship. This story doesn't deal necessarily with the plight of polar bears.
* My Little Polar Bear by Claudia Rueda
This story has a very simple text and is designed for very young readers but it is beautiful. Colombian Rueda's combination of blue and white text and illustration begs you to touch it and makes the relationship between mother and cub so poignant. there is a little 'sparkle' which will make it easy to sell to children.

And lastly, not for its illustrations but for the concept and the information on polar bears...
Once I Was a Cardboard Box...But Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears by Anton Poitier and Melvyn Evans (Five Mile Press).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

27th February Florence Parry Heide (1919) Uri Shulevitz (1935)

For me both Heide and Shulevitz are 'one-book wonders', albeit very good one-book wonders. What I mean is I only know one of each of their books well. Everyone knows Florence Parry Heide's The Shrinking of Treehorn. It is a classic and I have used it with classes as old as Year 6. The concept is so universal and the class discussions are always very heated. Children always have very strong views about Treehorn's parents.

Uri Shulevitz I know less well and his books have not been prominent in Australia. I have seen and read How I Learned Geography and can see why it was made a Caldecott honour book, but it is not a book that I would get to use very often with my clientele who know very little about this kind of geography. Perhaps they should! If so, this would be helpful.

26th February

I haven't got a birthday to celebrate today, but yesterday was Renoir's birthday and I thought I would mention two books that are in my library that could be read to young children as part of a celebration of Auguste Renoir's life. He was born in 1841 and died on 3rd December 1919.

The first book For the Love of Auguste is by an English born Australian resident by the name of Brenda V. Northeast. She uses Bearre-Auguste Renoir ( a teddy bear) to tell Renoir's life-story. The illustrations are faithful to Renoir's original paintings even if there is a bear in many of them and these illustrations could be used next to prints of the originals as an observation activity. Brenda has a similar book For the Love of Vincent which does a similar thing with Van Gogh's story. And, now that I know her birthday is 3rd February (1948) these books could be used on the 3rd. I have added her to my calendar.

The second book is American...Renoir and the Boy With the Long Hair by Wendy Wax and Nancy Lane. It too is biographical, but it focusses on Jean, Renoir's second son whom he painted often because of his beautiful hair. The illustrations in this book are secondary to the text and do not emulate Renoir's impressionistic style in the way Northeast's do, but the story is interesting and longer than Northeast's. So read one for the illustrations and the other for the text!

25th February Cynthia Voight (1942) Narelle Oliver (1960)

While I love Cynthia Voigt's books, she writes for young adults and not for the age group I deal with on a daily basis. An author who does write for the clientele of my library though is Narelle Oliver. She is an Australian, lives in Brisbane and does wonderful things with linocuts, my favourite art medium.

I first got hooked on Narelle's work when I used The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay in a circle- time-type discussion about how everyone has a special talent and something to offer the whole group. It was so successful and became a class favourite, with students often referring back to it in class discussions when wanting to make a point about strengths and weaknesses.

After that I made a point of following her and 'hanging out' for the next book. When Home came out, I was immediately smitten. I sang its praises to anyone who would listen. I spoke about it at literature workshops, I read it to children and drooled over the art work. Here Narelle has combined linocuts with coloured pencils, pastels, collage and photography. The book is set in Brisbane and like many of her books it explores the loss of natural environment and features the victim animal's point of view. And I can't wait to use it again during Book Week because with 'Across the story bridge' as a theme you have to use a book with such stunning illustrations of the real Story Bridge in Brisbane!

Then last year there was Fox and Fine Feathers and she did it again, a wonderful book with linocuts, a theme from nature and birds who triumph once again. Look at her website and discover everything she has to offer!

Monday, February 22, 2010

24th February Wilhelm Grimm (1786 - 1859)

I much prefer the bleaker tales from the Grimm Brothers to the more romanticised versions from Perrault. I really like the Grimm version of Cinderella which doesn't have a fairy godmother, but instead has a hazel tree that she planted as a twig on her mother's grave. As Cinderella weeps on the grave, the tree grows. Not many of the Cinderella picture books use this version. There is only one version in my library and it is in tatters, out of print and thus irreplaceable. In the Grimm version the sisters mutilate their feet, in an attempt to fit their feet into the glass slipper. I don't need this grim detail as much, but the Grimm Brothers do need to be congratulated on their diligent collecting and recording of traditional tales, even if their intended audience wasn't children. Imagine a childhood without Rumplestiltskin, Rapunzel, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Snow White and Rose Red.

A collection of ten of the Grimm fairytales that I like is The McElderry Book of Grimms' Fairy Tales retold by Saviour Pirotta and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. And, Michael Morpurgo's Hansel and Gretel also illustrated by Emma, is an amazing retelling of the traditional story with lots of added thematic depth for discussion.

It is often hard sharing fairytales with the children I teach because they are very quick to tell you that they know them, but when I delve a little, too often their way of knowing is through a Disney film or a television cartoon. Fairytales are an important source of rich book vocabulary. Where else will they read words such as 'gown', 'slipper', 'leagues', 'spindle', 'cobbler', 'thorns' and 'enchanted'? And, if they don't have a thorough introduction to fairytales how will they enjoy books such as The Sisters Grimm, spoofs such as those by Ann Jungman and Allan Ahlberg, the twisted tales of John Scieszka and the myriad of modern fairy tales?

23rd February Francesca Simon (1955)

What do you say about someone who has been as successful as Francesca Simon? Her Horrid Henry series is a huge hit with the children I teach and not only with the boys! The children are always surprised when they find her name on other books because for them she is synonymous with Horrid Henry. When you read the sales statistics on her website you can't fail to be in awe.

If you haven't discovered Helping Hercules or Don't Cook Cinderella, two of her other novels for 7 to 10 year olds, they are well worth a look too. Where I work, Year 1 study fairytales and Year 2 Greek myths so these two books make good read-aloud serials while the unit of enquiry is underway or extension reading for the able readers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

22nd February Michelle Knudsen (1974)

The library only has one title by Michelle Knudsen, the wonderful The Library Lion which I have already spoken about in relation to starting the year in the library with a new set of children, such as Kindergarten. It has so much scope for discussion of your library rules. The children love Miss Merriweather and the lion and I often have children draw a lion and write something that he says about the library. The children often comment too on the paleness of the illustrations. They think they are old fashioned so I go to great lengths to convince them libraries are not old-fashioned!

This week I covered and catalogued a new book called Chicken Cheeks. The illustrations are brightly coloured, humorous and cheeky! I was surprised to see that they were Kevin Hawkes' illustrations! So different from those in The Library Lion. He certainly is versatile. Back to Chicken Cheeks,you'll love it. How many words can you list for 'bottom' before you need a thesaurus? I doubt you will come up with as many as Michael Ian Black does here. Here there is an abundance of animals displaying their butts to the reader and each sitting on top of another. Each animal has a different word for their posterior, carefully chosen to rhyme, alliterate or just simply amuse. The book does have a plot though and rollicks along well right to the final pun on the back cover!

Friday, February 19, 2010

21st February Sally Rippin (1970) International Mother Language Day

Sally Rippin is a fabulous Australian author/illustrator who has a wealth of books, some written by her, some written by others, which give children a very positive view of Asia, children of Asian appearance and Chinese celebrations. I wondered why so many of her books had this influence so I went searching for information about her and found her website. Wow, what a fountain of information! Here I learned that although she is not Chinese herself, she has lived in South-East Asia and studied art in China, so no wonder her work feels so authentic. In the last fortnight I have purchased two new books for the library that she has illustrated. The first, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is written by Gabrielle Wang and illustrated by Sally and Regine Abos. It tells the story of the Chinese zodiac in much the the same way as many other picture books have done before, but the illustrations and the layout of this book set it above the rest, with perhaps the exception of Ed Young's Cat and Rat. The large white text on olive green provides the perfect background for the orange, rust and yellow characters. You feel as if the Chinese block stamps of the twelve animals are raised and textured, and the explanation of each at the end of the book adds to the reader's overall satisfaction.

The second book, Peeking Ducks, written by Krista Bell and illustrated by Sally, has lovely wash paintings with black ink outlines. Like other duck stories before it, here there are enterprising ducklings who do not always do what their parents suggest. Luckily they escape all the dangers upstream and learn from their adventure, just like Ping. But just in case you think you have enough duck picture book stories in your library for very young children, buy this one for the illustrations! Then use it too, to encourage children to make text-to-text connections . How is it like The Story of Ping; Borka: The Adventures of a Goose Without Feathers; and Make Way For Ducklings?

As well today is International Mother Language Day, a day when we should revel in our mother language and for many children that we teach that is not English. As Hillary Clinton said in her remarks about the Day,

"It is a time when we remember the power of language—to tell us where we came from, to share our story with others, to persuade, to educate, and to preserve our cultures. Let us take this opportunity to reaffirm our respect for the great diversity of languages and cultures we see around the world and to working together to promote mutual understanding and cooperation."

My library has a very small collection of picture books that are written in a language other than English, but they will be on display and this week children will be encouraged to borrow them. We have more books where there are two languages in the book, be it French and English as in Diane Goode's Mama books, or Spanish and English as in some of Pat Mora's books. As well there is a small collection of titles written in an Aboriginal language and English. Many authors who write in English or whose books are read in English have another language as their mother tongue. The children I teach are always fascinated to know that Marcus Pfister's books were written firstly in German, Dick Bruna's in Dutch and even Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales were in Danish.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

20th February

This has become an addiction, collecting and recording birthdays. I keep finding new sources and because of this I find authors whose date I have missed. There are also a large number of younger authors and illustrators who seem to have a reluctance to include their birthdays in their biographies.

Two author/illustrators who were born in February, but who I missed are Mark Teague and Simms Taback. Mark's birthday is the 1oth (I don't know when), the day before his co-conspirator in his dinosaur books, Jane Yolen's. This week I purchased their newest dinosaur title, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? and I am sure the children will enjoy it just as much as the other titles.

Simms Taback's birthday is on the 13th. He was born in 1932. Examining his website , I learned that he has a large number of books I have never sighted. These appear to be for a very young audience and include flaps and 'feely' books. They are very brightly coloured too, unlike the darker titles we have in the library, namely There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and The House That Jack Built. These books may appear dark, because of their predominantly black pages as backgrounds, but the details are colourful and the layouts interesting. If you only know the Childs Play Pam Adams version of Old Lady, have a look at this one to see a much more 'grown up' and artistic one. While on the website I saw some wonderful posters that I would love to purchase for the library. Why do you need an American address and bank account? Someone needs to bring a pile to Australia!

19th February

No birthday today, but a couple of nights ago I read that it was Nancy Ekholm Burkert's birthday on the 16th February. She was born in 1933. As I didn't include her on the 16th, I thought I would visit her work today. I went to the library shelves and found her books. A long time ago in the 1980s I was introduced to her work in a course while I was studying fairytales. At the time I fell in love with Nancy's Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, any work by Susan Jeffers and Errol Le Cain. I didn't think I had ever seen such wonderful illustrations in children's books. Of course now there are so many more to choose from, but then I was in awe of such considered, time- consuming, detailed work that was just so evocative. Through this wonderful picture book I was also introduced to Randall Jarrell and then I went off to learn more about him and his writing. As much as I love Mosel and Lent's The Funny Little Woman, if I had been a judge for the Caldecott in 1973 Snow -White would have been the winner, not the Honour Book! Rereading Snow -White today I can honestly say I still love it!

18th February Barbara Joosse (?)

I don't know what year Barbara was born, but I read somewhere that today was her birthday. I have only read three of her books too, but each of them is well worth seeking out. The most recent, Roawr! is amazing. It celebrates noise and rowdy boy behaviour. There are several boys whom I have taught who remind me of Liam and sometimes I find myself behaving like his mother, right down to requesting children use an inside voice! The comic-like illustrations by Jan Jutte add to the sense of mischief and the whole tone of the book leads me to make connections with Where the Wild Things Are.

The other two books that I know are Mama, Do You Love Me? and Papa, Do You Love Me? These two are ideal for Mothers Day and Fathers Day activities, liturgies and discussions about parent/child relationships. The mother title depicts an Inuit family and the father title is set in Africa and depicts a Masai family, but this does not limit them or decrease their relevance to the families of your students. In fact it adds to their appeal and range of use.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

17th February A.B. (Banjo) Paterson (1864 - 1941)

Banjo Paterson is arguably the best known Australian ballad poet, probably because he wrote Waltzing Matilda and even though he wrote a long time ago now, children in Australia still know his work. This is made easy for children and teachers because so many of the poems are published as picture story books and come with accompanying CDs. My favourite books are Freya Blackwood's Waltzing Matilda and The Man From Snowy River, but my favourite poem is Mulga Bill's Bicycle and it is easy to explain to children when it is accompanied by pictures such as the humorous illustrations in the version by Kilmeny and Deborah Niland.

Monday, February 15, 2010

16th February Chris Powling (1943)

Chris Powling is a British author who is quite prolific, but the majority of his books are not for my early childhood clientele. His 'Harry' series, while old now, are worth fishing out. Look for Hiccup Harry; Harry With Spots; and Harry the Superhero. Two Powling titles I refer to quite often though are children's biographies of Roald Dahl and Dick King Smith. They are particularly useful when doing an author study.

Yesterday was Galileo's birthday and I forgot to mention a favourite book by Peter Sis called Starry Messenger. The subtitle; A book depicting the life of a famous scientist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, physicist Galileo Galilei. This book appeals to a very wide audience. Young children will look at the illustrations and read the straight text while adults and older children can read all the added script and diagrams. It is an amazing book and no wonder it was a Caldecott honour book.

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day! This is always a fun day to celebrate with a class of children even if you don't cook pancakes. There are so many wonderful picture story books about pancakes. My favourite is an Australian title Princess Priscilla by Stacey Apeitos and Beth Norling. The library's copy is in such a bad way, but I cannot discard it as the book is out of print. Why? It is a modern fairytale with a particuarly enterprising non-stereotyped princess who defeats the dragon using pancakes and a skateboard!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

15th February Norman Bridwell (1928)

Norman Bridwell needs no introduction. He is the author/illustrator of the ever-so popular Clifford books. Our library has more than forty titles and two plush toys that are fondled and borrowed very frequently.

On the Scholastic website Bridwell sums up Clifford's characteristics matter-of-factly: “He's red and he's warm. Clifford does what you'd like to do but can't. Because Clifford is so big and also because he's a dog, he's able to do the most unbelievable and imaginative things. But not too unbelievable or imaginative. You won't see Clifford traveling in outer space, for example." Bridwell is firm about his decision that Clifford won't do anything that a real dog wouldn't do!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

14th February Paul O.Zelinsky (1953)

I know very little about Paul Zelinsky apart from his Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin. These are wonderful retellings of the Grimm fairy tales with amazing artwork that looks as if it should be hanging in art galleries with other masterpieces from the past, even though it was done at the end of the 20th century. I love the notes in the back of these two titles which gives the reader some history of the tales and the changes they have undergone over time.

What does the O. stand for and why is it necessary? While visiting his website in search of an answer which I didn't find, I did learn that he had done a class at university with Maurice Sendak. That must have been very special and no wonder children's books drew his attention.

On a lighter note, it is Valentine's Day. To date my favourite Valentine's book has been Dear Bunny by Michaela Morgan and Caroline Jayne Church. It is sentimental, but the tenderness of the relationship between two bunnies too shy to talk to each other, but who write notes, matches the sentimentality of the whole idea of Valentine's Day. But, this week I bought The Love Bugs by Simon Puttock and Russell Ayto and now it might be my favourite. It too has letters and an unexpected turn in the plot, but with insects instead of rabbits. The pictures and the idea are quirky. Insect dating internet style!

Friday, February 12, 2010

13th February Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965)


What is poetry? Who knows?
Not a rose, but the scent of a rose;
Not the sky, but the light of the sky;
Not the fly, but the gleam of the fly;
Not the sea, but the sound of the sea;
Not myself, but what makes me;
See, hear, and feel something that prose
Cannot: and what is, who knows?

Eleanor Farjeon is a British writer who is probably best known for her poetry. She wrote this 'definition' of poetry which always makes for a good poetry lesson and /or discussion with a class. She also wrote the hymn 'Morning Has Broken' which was made famous by Cat Stevens as well as a myriad of children's poems such as the well-known 'Cats Sleep Anywhere'. This one even has a picture book of its own illustrated by Anne Mortimer and numerous websites with classroom activities.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

12th February Judy Blume (1938)

Judy Blume is very well known for her novels, starting with the wonderful stories about Fudge for lower primary classes, moving through the teens with stories for every teenage dilemma or angst right up to those for adults, but as none of those are going to be read by the clientele who frequent an early childhood library, I thought today I would look at her lesser known picture books, The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and The Pain and the Great One. Both are family stories that deal with normal family and sibling concerns. They are particularly good at 'point of view' and I often use them when teaching this.

The Pain and the Great One tells about family events from the older sister's (the Great One's) point of view and then again from the younger brother's (the Pain's). It is like two books in one both told in the first person, but where the narrator is not the same in both bits.

As well there is a short chapter book about these two, The Pain and the Great One: Soupy Saturdays which continues this telling of family events with changing narrators. And although I don't have any others I have found from looking at Judy's website that there are other titles about Abigail and Jake. Now I need to search for them!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

11th February Jane Yolen (1939) Mo Willems (1968)

Years ago when I was a new teacher I came upon the picture book, Greyling by Jane Yolen. It was the story of a selchie, an element of folktales that I knew nothing about. I loved the writing, the concept and the book. I was besotted with Jane Yolen and went in search of more. Unfortunately this book is now out of print, but there are still a myriad of her titles that aren't. Her book Owl Moon won the Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr and even though I have never lived with snow or owls when I read it to children we can all 'feel' what it is like to be there.

Recently I bought Yolen's story The Seeing Stick for the library. It is newly illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. Daniela's pictures are magical. They are done on glossy paper, which in places is almost translucent. The pages are textured and beg to be touched. The angle that the viewer is positioned at in the beautiful double-page spreads makes for an involvement that renders you transfixed. The text is small and feels secondary to the illustrations but this is part of the metaphor as the main character Hwei Ming, the Emperor's daughter is blind. As her world is transformed the pictures lighten and her world shows promise. Terrazzini’s magical gift here, will now send me in search of other works illustrated by her.

Jane Yolen's website is a fountain of information. See

Now to the younger person's birthday. So much has been written about Mo Willems, the author/ illustrator of all the Pigeon books, Knuffle Bunny and Gerald and Piggie books. His books are such hits with children that as a librarian I need to do little more than put them on display. I certainly do not need to sell them. I have boys lying on the floor finding 'pigeon' in the non-pigeon titles and then when they find him rushing off to advertise to everyone else in the library that they have found him. Far more exciting than finding Wally! We have the accompanying toys and they always arrive back at the library needing to be washed because they have been so loved and have been included in every activity. Rather than say more here, if you haven't had the pleasure of Mo's books check out his website:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

10th February E.L.Konigsburg (1930) Lucy Cousins (1964)

I don't have any picture books by E.(Elaine)L.(Lobl) Konisburg in my library, but I couldn't not mention that it was her birthday because I love her novels. I read and loved Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinlay and Me, Elizabeth and then quickly followed it up with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I was hooked. The second of these titles makes a great serial for grades 3-6. The situation, the plot and the sibling relationship initiates fantastic discussions and creative writing. Her other Newbery Medal winner A View From Saturday fits well into any unit of work on the environment, turtles or lifecycles. In each of these books there are dynamic children as characters who are looking for answers to big questions and during their search they discover much about themselves and their own identities.

Now moving from America to Britain and from novels to picture books with illustrations that just explode with colour, it is also Lucy Cousins' birthday. She is well known for her Maisy books. Three year olds who visit the library rush straight to the Maisy box, yelling 'M
aisie' all the way from the door to the box. They are so excited to see her. She is like their very best friend. They know all the books well, know if you miss a page when reading and know all the characters so well. They sit on the mat or on the lounge reading them to themselves or to any teddy who'll listen. Their mothers say that we are not borrowing that one , we have it at home, but they still want to take it home!

Two of Cousins' books that you may have not discovered are Hooray for Fish! and Jazzy in the Jungle. They are both big and bright. Jazzy won the Smarties Book Prize for 5 and under in 2002. I'm sure that was for the paper-engineering as much as for the text, colour and size. The pages combine a variety of shapes, cutouts and foldouts to make a gloriously lush forest. Fish has amazingly beautiful fish which work well when doing a display or frieze for a sea theme.

P.S. I almost forgot her new collection of eight fairy tales, Yummy. This is different from her usual 'safe' artwork! Lucy says, "It’s brilliant to be able to pass on these stories like this, with all their drama, excitement, and comedy. They are such fun and they touch such deep emotions. My paintbrushes were practically dancing on the paper."

9th February Duncan Ball (1941)

Happy birthday, Duncan Ball! You may have been born in America, but we think of you as an Australian and claim Selby and Emily Eyefinger as our own. While not all my my readers can read these two series of books independently they certainly enjoy them as serials and my good Year 2 readers revel in them. Who wouldn't want to read about a talking dog or have an extra eye in the end of one of their fingers?

And for younger readers there is always the picture books My Dog's a Scaredy-Cat and Jeremy's Tail. The latter is a great world travel yarn which begins with a game of 'Pin the tail on the donkey'.

To find out more about Duncan Ball and to research Selby see Duncan Ball's website at

Monday, February 8, 2010

8th February

No birthday again. So I thought I'd look at some resources that can be used in early childhood settings in conjunction with Chinese New Year. Grace Lin and Roseanne Thong have come up with the perfect books. Roseanne Thong lives in Hong Kong and was looking for resources to use with her students and couldn't find what she wanted so she wrote her own which have been illustrated beautifully by Chinese-American Grace Lin. Grace also has books of her own that she has both written and illustrated. Her illustrations are large, bright and joyous.
Look for these by Grace Lin:
• Fortune Cookie Fortunes
• Kite Flying
• Dim Sum for Everyone!
• Bringing in the New Year
and these by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin
• Round is a Mooncake
• One is a Drummer
• Red is a Dragon

Saturday, February 6, 2010

7th February

Another day without a birthday, a free-choice day! Yesterday was an English author/illustrator and the day before an American, so today I have chosen to highlight a book by Australians. Every early childhood library and teacher should have this book, Can You Keep a Secret? by Mark Carthew and Jobi Murphy. It is a stunning anthology of verse, songs and rhymes. Some you will know, some may be new, but which ever it is they will remind you of what fun it is to share these sort of rhymes with small children. There is an accompanying CD for those like me who don't sing well and who can't play a musical instrument.

Both Mark and Jobi have a history with publishers and educational publishing so it is no surprise that this is so 'perfect'!

Friday, February 5, 2010

6th February

No one that I know of is celebrating a birthday today so today I am writing about the English author/illustrator Daniel Postgate whose birthday was yesterday. His illustrations are the antithesis of David Wiesner's. They are cartoon style and thus his books have a very humorous tone. For a long time I have been a fan of his version of The Hairy Toe, but my current favourite is Smelly Bill a book which is written in verse about a dog that stinks. Bill meets his match when he is left with Great Aunt Bleach. The illustration of her, complete with yellow and red polka-dot bloomers swooping down on Bill in the compost bin is wonderful. Even the snails are amazed!

While researching Daniel Postgate on the web I have learned that there are two more books about Bill, Smelly Bill Stinks Again and Smelly Bill in Love Stinks which I have not seen so as you can guess they have been added to the library wishlist. I'm thinking of putting Smelly Bill in Love Stinks out for Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

5th February David Wiesner (1957); Daniel Postgate (1964)

I am the same age as
David Wiesner, and I am certainly in awe of him, for I do not have any friends who have experienced this much success in their chosen field of endeavour. He has won the Caldecott medal three times! Wow! Each of his books is so different from the one before. There is no 'sameness' about his books. The winning books are Tuesday which won the 1992 medal, The Three Pigs which won in 2002 and Flotsam in 2007.

Wiesner's books have minimal text and rely very heavily on visual literacy and the reader's ability to read pictures and then make inferences and connections. The layout of his illustrations varies with every double-page spread. Nothing is predictable or governed by a preconceived pattern. I love the surrealism, especially in Flotsam, but my favourite is The Three Pigs. I love the way Wiesner uses white, perspective and literary and artistic imagery. This book reminded me of David Macaulay's books, so I wasn't surprised when I read that he taught Wiesner at art school and then read that this book is dedicated to Macaulay.

You too, can read the article at .

Read tomorrow's entry to find out about Daniel Postgate.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

4th February Russell Hoban (1925)

I have had some of the best Aidan Chambers' Book Talk sessions with books written by Russell Hoban. I love looking at the language in How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen. I have had groups of children try to play and or write rules for the games depicted in it. I have had groups of children laugh out loud at Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong and argue at great length about her bustle and iron hat and what she keeps in them. The two books about Tom and Captain Najork are 'not to be missed' books.

Another one that works equally well with classes is Ace Dragon Ltd, also illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is fun to discuss what Ltd stands for and then once the readers know to ask whether they think Ace was indeed limited. The concept of the moon being made of gold and being able to turn it into straw leads to comparisons with the fairytale Rumplestiltskin.

And lastly how could anyone ignore the books about Frances the badger. We don't have badgers in Australia, but that is irrelevant to enjoying these books. Frances could be any animal because she is just such a great example of anthropomorphism. Children relate to her rivalry with her sister, with her stalling of bedtime and her reluctance to try new foods and laugh at her. They wouldn't laugh at a child who does that because it would be too close to home. These stories were first published in the sixties but they have certainly stood the test of time. They are illustrated by his then wife, Lilian Hoban and in 1992 more colour was added to her original illustrations. Look for Bread and Jam for Frances, A Baby sister for Frances and my favourite Bedtime for Frances.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

3rd February

No one's birthday to celebrate today that I know about, but yesterday was World Wetlands Day and it is held every year so next year it might be a good topic to use as the starter for a display or some teaching sessions. Finding nonfiction books will be easy but two books I would definitely use are Storm Boy by Colin Thiele and Wetlands by Tricia Oktober, both well known Australian authors with many books to their name.

Storm Boy, probably Thiele's best known book is set in the Coorong, a wellknown Australian wetland. The descriptions of the environment are vivid and Robert Ingpen's illustrations add greatly to the atmosphere and your feeling of being there with Storm-Boy and Mr Percival. And if you want to cheat, there is always the movie.

Tricia Oktober's Wetlands is accessible to younger children and her illustrations allow for a very artistic addition to any other books with photographs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

2nd February Judith Viorst (1931)

Today is Judith Viorst's birthday and of course at school we had to visit her books about Alexander and his brothers. Despite what the children say about the lack of colour in the illustrations, once they have heard the stories they are fans. Alexander's Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day is of course their favourite and you see and hear the younger children having fun saying the repeating refrain over and over again. It has always fascinated me how the American version of the book has Alexander saying 'I think I'll move to Australia' whereas ours has him going to 'Timbuctoo'. Do the American readers think he is going to a 'bad' place or just somewhere a long way away?

Secondly The Tenth Good Thing About Barney is still the best book for when a child's pet dies, especially a cat. It is soothing, reassuring and proactive all at once.

Next you have to read some Judith Viorst poetry. Like her books they are about everyday family events, pertinent yet often humorous. If you don't know them, seek out If I Were In Charge of the World and have a good giggle. Keep The Lizzie Pitofsky Poem to share with a class on Valentine's Day.

Judith Viorst stories and poems certainly make good therapy!