Friday, July 30, 2010

1st August Gail Gibbons (1944)

American Gail Gibbons seems to have written and illustrated a book on every conceivable subject there is. She is a prolific non-fiction writer and while many of her books seem simple compared to a more robust non-fiction title that includes photographs, headings, a glossary and a myriad of other non-fiction components, they do provide factual information, and often just the right amount, for the very young children who frequent my library. Used together with photographs they still have a place.

1st August National Tree Day

Each year, around 200 000 Australian school students participate in a special National Tree Day event designed just for children – Schools Tree Day! It's a wonderful opportunity for children to make a tree-mendous contribution to Australia's natural environment and have lots of fun at the same time.

As well as planting trees, this is a good time to look at trees and their role in the greening of our world. Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter and Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola are two picture books that look at Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and her quest to plant trees in Kenya.

"One Spring day, little seed wanted more. She didn't know why, but she did." So begins Gav Barbey's Little Seed, a book that celebrates the beauty and importance of trees as the seed travels around the world, visiting the Joshua tree, the cedar of Lebanon, the boabab in Africa until arriving at the flowering wattle.

And lastly, We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow and Bob Staake, a poem about two families on opposite sides of the world who plant a tree and watch it grow.

31st July Lynne Reid Banks (1929) J.K.Rowling (1966)

English author Lynne Reid Banks is probably better known for her series of books about An Indian in the Cupboard but it is her series about Harry the Poisonous Centipede that the children I teach know her for. The Year 2 teachers like to serialise this squirmy adventure story where Harry disobeys his mother and goes up the Up-Pipe to the world of Hoo-Mins. Having been introduced to book one, they then rush to the library for book two and three. The book has also started a craze with many children, and the library, having a soft rubbery centipede that fits easily in a pocket and feels lovely and soft when rolled through your fingers. The library's well-loved centipede is called 'Barry'.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

30th July Peter Gouldthorpe (1954) Marcus Pfister (1960) Anna Pignataro (1965) Jane Cabrera (1968)

As four is a lot to write about at once, I wrote about the Australians Peter Gouldthorpe and Anna Pignataro yesterday and will write about the other two now.

Marcus Pfister is the Swiss author of the very well-known Rainbow Fish series of books. The first of these was translated from German into English in 1992 and has been popular ever since. His books are illustrated in beautiful watercolours and his books always seem to favour blue. They explore themes such as sharing, co-operation, courage, dependability, independent thinking and acting responsibly all of which are highly relevant to the classroom and young children. As well as the Rainbow Fish there are other series, one about a small penguin, Penguin Pete, another about a white hare named Hopper and the two books about Milo, a small mouse. The Milo books are unique in their format, having two possible endings, a happy one and a sad one. The Rainbow Fish and Milo books were among the first books to have 'foil' (silver and gold) in their illustrations and while this certainly attracted children, the books would still standout as good stories without this 'gimmick'. Pfister has said, "For me, there is one major criterion in determining the value of a book: if it brings adults and children together and makes them interact intensely, then it has achieved its purpose. A good book acts as a bridge between a child and an adult, sparking lots of questions, and expanding the imagination of the child."

Jane Cabrera is an English illustrator who seems to specialise in books for very young children. They are either concept books or well known songs or rhymes. Her pictures are bright and the animals endearing. Her first book Cat's Colours is a favourite with the preschoolers who visit my library.

29th July Sharon Creech (1945)

I need to tell you that it is Sharon Creech's birthday. She is one of my favourite authors. I just love Walk Two Moons, but unfortunately she does not write for the clientele of my library. There are no Sharon Creech novels in it at all. The children at the school I teach at have three libraries, and they need to be in the Junior School to access her books.

So as there are four birthdays tomorrow I plan to mention the two Australian illustrators that are celebrating their birthdays tomorrow now. Firstly, Peter Gouldthorpe who was born in 1954. He lives in Tasmania and does beautiful illustrations and landscape paintings. The books that he has illustrated show his love of place and landscape very clearly. He has illustrated books for many well-known children's authors - Gary Crew, Libby Hathorn, Colin Thiele, Paul Jennings and Corinne Fenton. I particularly like his illustrations for C.J. Dennis' poem Hist! and the children I teach like Queenie: One Elephant's Story and the idea that once you could ride on the elephant at the zoo.

Secondly, it is Anna Pignataro's birthday. She too has illustrated books for well-known authors, such as Colin Thompson, Natalie Jane Prior and Libby Hathorn, but in my library she is best known for books she has written as well as illustrated...the series about the make believe world of rabbits, Princess and Fairy and her gentle books about a bear called Oli and his patient and reassuring mother, in Always and Together.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

28th July Beatrix Potter (1866 - 1943) Jon J Muth (1960)

Jon J Muth is an amazing artist. Everyone of his books is like a new revelation to me. I am awestruck and wonder how he can do such perfect pieces of art. Therefore finding out that he was the son of an art teacher, drew and drew and drew as a child, has studied art in Japan, Austria and America and that he has studied sculpture came as no surprise to me. I love his version of Stone Soup. While it may be very different from the French versions, such as Marcia Brown's, the Chinese setting seems very natural. Three Questions continued my love affair and just recently I purchased his latest offering, City Dog, Country Frog, which is written by Mo Willems. What a duo! This is not what you expect from pigeon and piggie Willems, but this whimsical picture book is a tale of friendship written in five chapters, to correspond to the seasons that the friendship endures. The animals are two very specific characters, not just two animals. They experience great joy, genuine friendship and loss before moving on.

One question - what does the J stand for?

27th July

Tomorrow is Beatrix Potter's birthday, so I will write about her today rather than do two birthdays tomorrow. Jemima Puddle-Duck and Samuel Whiskers are celebrating their 100th birthdays this year, and while I hear many adults say Beatrix Potter's books are old-fashioned, many of the children I spend time with still love them, and work their way through the whole stand of books. They like the size of the books and how they fit in their hands. They like that they fit in their blazer pocket. They borrow the toys, especially Jemima, and when Year 2 look at what life was like for seven year olds in the past and their teacher immerses them in the books and Beatrix Potter's life, there is always a resurgence of interest, by children and parents. The films and Youtube versions of her tales also mean that they are accessible to all.

While there has been plenty of attempts to modernise and/or reimage Beatrix Potter's stories, it is still the original words and artwork that work the best and it is still naughty Peter Rabbit who epitomises her love of nature, natural wildlife and the English countryside. If you are looking for information books about Beatrix Potter that are suitable for young children and which provide information in 'bite-sized' amounts Beatrix Potter: A Journal and The Story of Beatrix Potter: A Junior Biography are a good choice. The cover pictures above are not indicative of the size of the books.

Monday, July 26, 2010

26th July Jan Berenstain (1923 - 2012) Terry Denton (1950)

Jan Berenstain is half of the husband and wife team who invented the Berenstain Bears, a series of very popular books about a family of bears who behave like and have the same problems as any family of humans. Their first book The Big Honey Hunt was done for the Cat in the Hat books in 1962. It was so popular that they kept on coming up with new titles, and now 48 years later, Jan is still producing Berenstain Bear books with her son Mike. Her husband, Stan died in 2005.

The books are popular because they are fun and easy to read family stories, but they do tackle some serious subjects, such as sibling rivalry, teasing, friendship problems and stranger danger.
In an interview with Scholastic Jan and Stan answered questions that children often ask me, like how old are Sister and Brother?

How old are the Berenstain Bears?
Mama is 27 and Papa is 29. Sister Bear is in first grade and Brother Bear is in third. They won't ever get older!

Why won't the bears grow older?
Stan: Because the books are written for children who are about the same age as Sister and Brother Bear. And we think they'll be more interesting and more fun for our audience. We also do Berenstain Bears Chapter Books, and there are older cubs in those books.

Terry Denton is an Australian illustrator/author whose style is usually of the humorous cartoon type. He has illustrated several series of books, two that Andy Griffiths has written and his own series, one about a very wayward fish called Gasp and another about an adventurous wombat and fox. These series are very popular with the children who use the library. Look on Terry Denton's website for more details about these books.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

25th July Ruth Krauss (1901 - 1993)

Ruth Krauss was a prolific children's author and many of her books are still in print. There are biographies that say she was born in 1901 and others that say 1911. Whichever she lived a long life. She was fortunate with her illustrators, getting to work with many well-known illustrators, namely her husband Crockett Johnson (of Harold and the Purple Crayon fame), Maurice Sendak (who she published eight books with between 1952 and 1960), Marc Simont and Helen Oxenbury. Maurice Sendak was so enamoured of Ruth Krauss' writing that he has been quoted as saying, "Prior to the commercialisation of children's books, there was Ruth Krauss."

Ruth Krauss' best-known book is probably The Carrot Seed. It was published in 1945 and has never been out of print. It tells the story of a very young boy who plants a carrot seed and patiently waits for it too grow. He tends it with love and has faith that it will grow despite all the adults who assure him that it will not. In contrast her story with Helen Oxenbury, The Growing Story has everything else growing as the seasons change, but the young boy feels that he hasn't grown at all. Both stories are very relevant to the age-group that I teach.

Friday, July 23, 2010

24th July Sherry Garland

Sherry Garland's website confirms that today is her birthday. She doesn't reveal the year. She is an American author and as the only two books of hers that I know have Vietnamese content or settings, I incorrectly assumed that she was either Vietnamese or had lived in Vietnam. Not so, as I found out. In the FAQ part of her website she explains why seven of her twenty seven books have Vietnamese content - Seven of my twenty-seven books are about the Vietnamese culture. I befriended many Vietnamese families when I lived in Houston. They taught me about their culture and I was so fascinated that I did a lot of research. I even traveled to Vietnam. It is a beautiful and fascinating country.

The two books with Vietnamese content that we have in our library are The Lotus Seed, a story about a girl's grandmother who came to America from Vietnam bringing lotus seeds with her. This book is wonderful for looking at family traditions and relationships, the effects of emigration on families and their hopes for the future. There are several units of work on the web for this book if you are looking for lesson plans. The story is made even better by Tatsuro Kiuchi's illustrations. This was this Japanese illustrator's first book, but he has since won awards for other artwork. The other, Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam, is a collection of six folktales with beautiful illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.

23rd July

No birthdays, so I thought I would share some photos of the library. It is the beginning of Term 3, the term when we celebrate Children's Book Week in Australia. The theme for this year is Across the Storybridge, so the library displays incorporate many bridges. The children will have opportunities to share all the books on the shortlists for the Early Childhood and Picture Book awards as well as stories that feature bridges. Of course there are the obvious ones like The Three Billy Goats Gruff and all the spinoffs from this, but there are others worth using with classes and I'll say more about activities I have planned later.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

22nd July Margery Williams (1881 - 1944)

Author Margery Williams was born in London, but her father died suddenly when she was seven and her mother moved the family to America. Wanting to be a writer and publish books in England Margery moved back there when she was 21. After marrying an Italian and surviving the Great War she moved once again to America. Here, she wrote and published in 1922, her best known book, a book for children The Velveteen Rabbit. This beautiful story about a toy rabbit that is so loved he becomes real combines the themes of loss and love. While some see death as an inappropriate theme for young children, this story handles sadness, sickness and loss poignantly and no doubt builds on her own childhood experiences.

The original book was illustrated by William Nicholson in pastel line drawings, but subsequent versions of the book have had much bolder illustrations. The illustrations by Michael Hague and Donna Green instil more vigour into the story and rabbit without losing the original sensitivity.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

21st July

Yesterday, the 20th July was the anniversary of the First Moon Landing. The Apollo II landing occurred in 1969 and to the children of today, probably it does not feel like the big deal it was for my generation of children. However there are many wonderful books that tell this story in pictures and texts that are very accessible to young children. Look for these factual texts:
Reaching For the Moon by Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor
Moonshot by Brian Floca
The following are stories about going to the moon:
Grandpa Take Me to the Moon by Timothy R. Gaffney and Barry Root
Footprints on the Moon by Mark Haddon and Christian Birmingham
• The Sea of Tranquility by Mark Haddon and Christian Birmingham
If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty and Steven Kellog
I Wish I'd Gone to the Moon with Neil Armstrong by Leonie Young and Avril Janks

Monday, July 19, 2010

20th July Paulette Bourgeois (1951)

Canadian, Paulette Bourgeois is the author of the popular series of books about a turtle called Franklin. Franklin has all the fears and experiences that five year old children have and thus children like to read about him and laugh at him because he is a turtle and not a child like them. As Paulette's books need very little introduction and her website is extremely comprehensive, I do not feel the need to say much other than happy birthday and thank you for books that make the children I teach very happy.

19th July Eve Merriam (1916 - 1992) Victor Kelleher (1939)

Victor Kelleher was born in London, moved to Africa as a teen, moved to New Zealand as an adult and then came to Australia in 1976 and has been here since, so we claim him as an Australian writer. He writes for all age groups up to adults, but in my prep library he is loved for his Gibblewort the goblin books. I like to watch the children read one, come back for another and another and another in a similar way that they do for Anna Fienberg's Tashi books. We need more! Seven isn't enough.

American poet, Eve Merriam was so enamoured of poetry when she was a child that she wanted everyone to love poetry in the same way. In an article in Poetry Foundation it states that
"one of Merriam's chief aims as a writer of children's poetry was to instill in youth the same fascination with language that she experienced: " Out Loud is not only the title of a book of poems by Eve Merriam, it is also her teaching philosophy in two words. She maintains that no one learns to love poetry without hearing it read out loud . . . [and Merriam concludes that] 'if we can get teachers to read poetry, lots of it, out loud to children, we'll develop a generation of poetry readers; we may even have some poetry writers, but the main thing, we'll have language appreciators.'"
I agree with Eve Merriam. Some teachers seem scared of poetry. They need to read and recite and teach my favourite Eve Merriam poem, How to Eat a Poem. I have used it many times to teach children that poetry is not something to be feared. It should be as much fun as eating and it illustrates what Merriam is often quoted as saying 'whatever you do, find ways to read poetry. Eat it, drink it, enjoy it, and share it.'

How to Eat a Poem
    Don't be polite.
    Bite in.
    Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
    may run down your chin.
    It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

    You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
    or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

    For there is no core
    or stem
    or rind
    or pit
    or seed
    or skin
    to throw away.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

18th July Felicia Bond (1954) Melanie Walsh (1964)

Felicia Bond is the illustrator of Laura Numeroff's mouse books and their offspins. She has illustrated other books, but in my library we do not have any of them. Felicia says,' "I couldn't wait to grow up and be an artist." Her illustrations of mice, pigs, moose and cats all look like they are having fun, so they send the message that she seems to be having fun doing them.

Melanie Walsh is an English author/illustrator whose books are for very young children. Books such as My World, Your World and My Nose, Your Nose, have minimal text, but very pertinent messages for preschoolers - that differences don't matter! Her newest book 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World makes saving the environment very accessible to very young children.