Thursday, September 30, 2010

2nd October Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948) International Day of Non-Violence

Mahatma Gandhi, the famous peace activist was born on this day in India. He is honoured in India as the Father of the Nation and as such today is a national holiday in India, known as Gandhi Jayanti. It is also commemorated world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence.

While much has been written about Gandhi, there is very little for very young children. Gandhi by Demi and Jaydn and the Magic Bubble: I Met Gandhi by Brigitte Benchimol are two that would be helpful. They would also be worth a look while the Commonwealth Games are on in Delhi.

Ist October Deborah Hautzig (1956) World Vegetarian Day

Deborah Hautzig, an American author and the daughter of author Esther Hautzig (of The Endless Steppe fame), has written a large number of books. As well as novels she has written many stories which are part of the Step Into Reading series. Her most well known readers for the age group I teach belong to a series about Little Witch.

One might wonder why I would choose to highlight World Vegetarian Day, but as the mother of a daughter who is a vegetarian I feel obliged and in my time in the library I have had two vegetarian families who have asked about books. Among the aims of the day are that "it brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle." To be serious about promoting this aim I would feel as if I was on thin ice at school, but a book that you might read for yourself might be Ruby Roth's That's Why We Don't Eat Animals. In my library I have two fun vegetarian books that come complete with a great bendy toy...Herb the Vegetarian Dragon and Cooking With Herb. The first is a story about Herb, a fire-breathing dragon who has a vegetable garden and does not eat meat. The story by Jules Bass is hilarious and appeals whether you are vegetarian or not. The illustrations by Debbie Harter are extremely colourful with lots of orange and lime green and like all Barefoot Books an artistic feast. The second is a cookbook of vegetarian recipes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30th September Edgar D'Aulaire (1898 - 1986) Alvin Tresselt (1916 - 2000)

Although not many of these birthday boys' books remain in print, the ones that do are well worth revisiting. Edgar D'Aulaire was born in Munich, married Norwegian artist Ingri and migrated to the United States in 1929. Together they illustrated a large
number of books using lithographic techniques. In my library we have a beautiful copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Animals which was first published in 1940 but reprinted in 2007. This unusual book can be read page by page or unfolded to create an eight foot panorama so that the reader and the child can share in an animal safari. The frieze shows the animals in the daytime on one side and then when it is flipped over the animals are in a night-time setting.

Alvin Tresselt was an American author. I first was introduced to him through the delightful Ukranian folktale The Mitten. In retelling this story Tresselt has created a progressive tale about a series of woodland animals who seek refuge in a child's mitten that has been lost in the snow. It was illustrated by Yaroslava and looks a little old-fashioned by today's standards, and compared to other picture books of the same folktale, but the language is better here as it is detailed and descriptive and the story fun.

Monday, September 27, 2010

29th September Stan Berenstain (1923 - 2005)

Stan Berenstain is half of the husband and wife team responsible for the Berenstain Bears series of books. I wrote about Jan, his wife on her birthday, 26th July, and everything I said there is applicable here. Each of their titles usually deals with an issue or concern common to children and families. Reading them may then open discussion and allow children to express their feelings about the situation.

28th September Lila Prap (1955)

On 23rd September, some sources say that it was the Japanese artist Hokusai's birthday. Other sources say it was more likely to be October or November. It doesn't matter when it really was as he certainly needs to be remembered as a prolific and influential artist. Hokusai was born in 1760 and died in 1849 and in that time had many name changes and artistic periods. He is famous for his 36 views of Mt Fuji woodblocks which includes his most famous painting 'The Great Wave'. I have spent time looking at his artworks lately because so many of them feature bridges and they became of interest during Book Week where the theme was Across the Storybridge. While searching for books about him that very young children and their teachers could use I came across two books that I want to focus on here. One, is a fictionalised information book from Prestel, the publishers who produce the spectacular Adventures in Art series, One Day in Japan with Hokusai by Julia Altmann. Here Kiku and Yoshi go to visit, their grandfather, Hokusai and he tells them about his life, travels and paintings. The other The Old Man Mad About Drawing: A Tale of Hokusai by Francois Place tells about Hokusai through the story of Tojiro, an orphan boy who becomes Hokusai's assistant. The strength of both of these books is the illustrations, not the text, but they soften what could otherwise become wordy expository texts that are not as accessible to such a young audience.

Lila Prap (Lilijana Praprotnik Zupancic) is Slovenian. Her beautiful pastel-on-paper illustrations are beginning to be well-known in many countries. Her books work particularly well with preschoolers. Why? is wonderful at helping parents laugh at that perennial question. This week I purchased her newest title Dinosaurs and it looks just as endearing and no doubt will be as popular.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

27th September Bernard Waber (1921 - 2013)

Today is the birthday of Bernard Waber, the creator of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile! Lyle lives with the Primms family in a city home, hardly the place for a crocodile as we learn from reading all the stories about him. Waber also wrote and illustrated Ira Sleeps Over and But Names Will Never Hurt Me, two books that are often used in early childhood classrooms in circle time. Waber's more recent title Courage, a book about conquering fears, continues his reputation for books that make for good discussion between adult and child or teacher and class.

Friday, September 24, 2010

26th September T.S.Eliot (1888 - 1965) Libby Hathorn (1943) Rob Scotton (1960) Mark Haddon (1962)

With so many birthdays, this will be one of those a-little-bit -about-each-with-no-meat entries. For children T.S Eliot is probably best known for his poem Macavity - The Mystery Cat which I could recite movingly by mid-primary school. I think I even recited it at an eisteddfod one year. This poem comes from Eliot's book Old Pussum's Book of Practical Cats, a new edition of which was published last year. It is a beautiful book with illustrations by Axel Scheffler (of Gruffalo fame) which make it even more appropriate for young children.

Libby Hathorn is an Australian author who writes novels and picture books. I especially like her novels, but for my clientele her picture books are more relevant and recently I discovered one I hadn't read, Zahara's Rose. This wordy picture book (complete with six chapters) is set in the Middle East and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It has the feel of an exotic fairy tale with the added bonus of garden images. To learn more about Libby and her books see her website.

Rob Scotton is the English author/illustrator responsible for those irreverent characters Splat the Cat and Russell the Sheep, both of which now have a series of books about them. Rob's recent Splat title Scaredy-Cat, Splat has arrived just in time for Halloween. I had a giggle at the page where Splat's cat friends, Spike and Plank are dressed as a mummy and a skeleton. Splat is a sock spider. That's the sort of dress-up idea my mother would have had!

And lastly, Mark Haddon, famous for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an English author who writes novels, but has several picture books that we have in the library.
See Ocean Star Express; The Ice Bear's Cave and The Sea of Tranquility. The last of these is beautifully illustrated by Christian Birmingham and it is about the first moon landing.

25th September Shel Silverstein (1930 - 1999)

Shel Silverstein is an American poet who became one of the best-loved children's authors there is. If you are starting teaching make sure you have copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic and you will have enough poems to read everyday for the next year. You will see the children laugh, cry, discuss animatedly and argue about the message Silverstein wishes to impart. Add the picture book The Giving Tree and you will own three resources that you will use again and again and you will have children in your classes who love poetry and talking about it. My favourite of all? It's between 'No Difference' it is and 'Sick', both in Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Small as a peanut
Big as a giant,
We're all the same size
When we turn off the light.
Red black or orange,
Yellow or white
We all look the same
When we turn off the light.
So maybe the way
To make everything right
Is for God to just reach out
And turn off the light!

24th September National Save the Koala Day

No birthday, but a day where the aim is to raise awareness in Australia of the plight of the koala and to educate people as to its vulnerability. During September which has been designated as Koala Month and in particular on the last Friday in September which is Save the Koala Day, the Australian Koala Foundation wants the Australian Government to acknowledge that currently koalas are not protected under national laws. There are as few as 43 000 koalas left and the Foundation wants the species listed as "vulnerable".

A good place to find out about koalas is in Dr Mark Norman's Koalas: The Real Story.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

23rd September Jan Ormerod (1946 - 2013) Gary Crew (1947)

This is a Australian day. Jan Ormerod is an Australian illustrator who lives in England, but who started her career as an art teacher in Western Australia and all Australians in the world of children's books like to think of her as one of us. As I write she is visiting Australia and I wish I could be in Canberra next week to see her at a local bookshop signing books. She has illustrated many well loved books such as Sunshine and Moonshine, textless books that tell the story of a child's day and evening. Many of Jan's early books were based on family life. Her later ones that she has written as well as illustrated such as Lizzie Nonsense and Water Witcher are set in an historical Australian context and her latest Shake a Leg which is written by Boori Monty Pryor brings Aboriginal dance and song to life. See the trailer. Most of her other books are written by English authors such as Lindsey Gardiner and Sarah Hayes.

Gary Crew is an Australian author who started his writing career while working as an English teacher and as such tends to write for adolescent audiences. He has won many awards for his novels and innovative picture books. Most of his picture books require mature and insightful reading but some of his books are suitable for my young clientele. In the library there are Tracks; Bright Star; First Light; In My Father's Room; Arno the Garbo and Memorial.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

22nd September Esphyr Slobodkina (1908 - 2002) Charles Keeping (1924 - 1988)

Esphyr Slobodkina was born in Siberia, grew up in China, studied art and architecture and then migrated to the USA at 19 and enrolled in an art course in New York. She became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists and a well thought of artist. She met children's author, Margaret Wise Brown and was encouraged to illustrate and then write children's books. Her best known children's story is the wonderful Caps For Sale. This book delights young children and lends itself to drama activities. There are other activities here which use the monkeys as stimulus.

Charles Keeping was a British artist and illustrator. He won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal twice. One of these medals was for an illustrated version of Alfred Noyes' epic poem The Highwayman. The black and white illustrations in this book create the haunting atmosphere of the poem perfectly and defy you to stop reading. It is not surprising that there are so many lesson plans on the web for this book. Keeping's wife has maintained a gallery dedicated to his work.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

21st September International Day of Peace Taro Yashima (1908 - 1994) Hans Wilhelm (1945) Hazel Edwards (1945)

International Day of Peace is a day when many events could be organised to draw attention to peace or more specifically the lack of conflict, both globally and locally. Many websites state the aims of this day, outline its history and make suggestions as to things that could be done.

Crow Boy by Taro Yashima is a particularly good book to read on this day. The theme of exclusion highlighted by this story allows teachers to discuss with children how pretending something is not happening, or keeping quiet about something is not 'keeping the peace', but rather a form of bullying. Taro Yashima's life is an extremely interesting one and when you read about why he changed his name rather than be identified by the militaristic Japanese Government as a dissident you also better understand the themes of his books and why he moved to the USA. If your library does not have a copy of this book, view it on Youtube here.

Hans Wilhelm is also an immigrant American writer. He was born in Germany, lived in Africa and then moved to the USA. He has been particularly successful as he has sold millions of books. He writes stories which also require readers to empathise with children who are being bullied, excluded or who are struggling with inner turmoils. His series about Tyrone, a dinosaur bully are really stories about life in the school playground. His lovable white dog, Noodles is learning about himself and his place in the world and his classic I'll Always Love You is how many children grieve the death of their beloved pet.

Lastly, Hazel Edwards is an Australian author who writes across a large age-range, but is best known in my library for her series about a cake-eating hippo.

20th September John Prater (1947) Barbara Firth (1928 - 2013)

John Prater and Barbara Firth are British illustrators of children's books. Between them they have produced a large number of favourite books with endearing animal characters, in particular bears.

John Prater both writes and illustrates. He has written many books with mischievous children as characters. He is also a master at storytelling with minimal text. He says, "my own daughters and their mischievous ways were the source of my early books...When they grew bigger I began sifting through my own childhood experiences. "He has also illustrated many of Vivian French's picture books.

Barbara Firth is best known as the illustrator of the award-winning, Martin Waddell written series of picture books about Little Bear, which began with Can't You Sleep Little Bear. In fact many of her books were written by Martin Waddell and many feature bears. She says, "I have always been biased toward illustrating natural history, so it was a joy to be able to draw pages and pages of bears." She spent many hours at a zoo, watching and recording the movements of bears.

19th September Libby Gleeson (1950)

This week at school I showed Year 1 an old episode of the ABC television series Book Bug, a dramatised version of Libby Gleeson's junior novel, Skating on Sand. The children sat transfixed except for the odd giggle at Hannah struggling to skate. When it was finished there was considerable discussion about how Hannah was treated by her older sisters. The viewers empathised with Hannah. They knew what it was like to be scared. They listed words to describe Hannah and came up with stubborn, determined, brave and persistent. We also had fun listing palindromes, an aside initiated by the children. When I showed them the novel and its sequels, they expressed surprise that it was by the same author who wrote Amy and Louis and Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House which they know much better. Someone said, 'I didn't know she wrote chapter books!' This would have been the ideal time to look at the catalogue and make a collection.

Libby Gleeson is a very versatile writer, writing right across the age spectrum. In the past I have enjoyed Eleanor Elizabeth and I Am Susannah with older classes and I would love to be teaching older children now so that I could share Mahtab's Story. Instead with my Year 2 classes next term I will get to share my favourite of Libby's picture books The Princess and the Perfect Dish. Each of her picture books is a delight, made very different by the choice of illustrator. Armin Greder, Julie Vivas, Ann James and Freya Blackwood, are so different in style that each book is fresh, and a new experience to be savoured.

Friday, September 17, 2010

19th September Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a Pirate Day can be lots of fun and an easy day to organise for some kind of event in a school setting. This year we are keeping it low key with just a display in the library. We have so many pirate stories, but many of them are on loan to one of the preschool classes, some such as Captain Pugwash have been the focus of displays before, so this time we focussed more on the three Pirate Pete picture books by the brother and sister team of Kim and Doug Kennedy and the chapter books. There are so many series which have a pirate theme - there is
Pirate Princess by Judy Brown. There are four in this series, Pandora, Portia, Pancake and Poppy.
• Captain Clawbeak by Ann Morgan. There are three of these - Red Herring; Ghostly Galleon and One and Only.
• Dragon Blood Pirates by Dan Jerris. There are 18 books about the adventures of Al and Owen.
• Brother and sister Billy and Heidi encounter pirates in Pirates Eat Porridge and Pirates Drive Buses by Christopher Morgan.
Scratch Kitten by Jessica Green. There are about six titles now, but perhaps the most appropriate here is Scratch Kitten on the Pirate's Shoulder.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

18th September

Australian twins, Deborah Niland and Kilmeny Niland are both illustrators of children's books. They were born into a very literary family as both parents, Ruth Park and D'Arcy Niland were well known novelists. Instead of writing, their daughters initially illustrated books, both together and separately, but more recently they have written and illustrated their own books.

Sadly, Kilmeny passed away last year. Her website gives an insight into all of her other artistic pursuits as well. Deborah continues to illustrate her own and others' books. Her website announces that she has illustrated a book that will be released in November called The Tall Man. It was written by Kilmeny and Kilmeny's son, Tom. This year, her book There's a Hippopotamus on the Roof Eating Cake which Hazel Edward's wrote, celebrated its 30th anniversary. To commemorate this a new edition with 'sparkles' was published and another book was added to this successful series ... Hooray! There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Having a Birthday Party. Deborah's book Annie's Chair won the Book of the Year for Early Childhood in 2005. She followed it up with Annie to the Rescue.

An illustrated version of Mulga Bill's Bicycle, the poem by Banjo Patterson, and the illustrations for Ruth Park's When the Wind Changed, both books published many years ago, continue to be my favourites among the sister's works. They bring these books to life and they still work for audiences in 2010.

17th September

Julia Donaldson is a very prolific author of picture books. She creates very memorable characters and with the help of illustrators such as Axel Scheffler some of these characters have become very endearing. The children in my library love the Gruffalo. We have a stuffed toy version of him and he gets plenty of hugs! In the last school holidays many of the children went to see a live stage version of the Gruffalo and came back to school eager to report back about how good it was.It is hard to believe that The Gruffalo was first published over ten years ago. It is still fresh and exciting for young readers.

Many of Julia's books are written in verse or have accompanying song books. She says that this is because she comes from a musical family. It must be wonderful to live in Britain and to have Julia visit your school. I particularly like Room on the Broom and Zog which are also illustrated by Axel. Julia has other books that have been illustrated by Nick Sharratt, David Roberts and Lydia Monks and her newest book Cave Baby is illustrated by Emily Gravett. She certainly has been fortunate to attract such illustrators.