Thursday, October 28, 2010

31st October Halloween Katherine Patterson (1932) Holly Hobbie (1944)

I have already written about Halloween this week.

Katherine Patterson is a much-awarded author of children's books, the 1998 Hans Christian Anderson Medal winner and the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the USA, a position that I imagine is similar to the British Children's Laureate. She is probably best known for her very moving novel, Bridge to Terabithia which I can no longer read to a class. The last time I was reading it to a class, a child from my previous class died at school. If you haven't read it to a class it is a very rewarding experience. So too, is reading The Great Gilly Hopkins, but presently I am teaching much younger children and have to be content with Katherine's picture books and easier reads. As the wife of a minister, she has written very accessible picture books about stories from the Bible. See The Light of the World and The Angel and the Donkey.

Holly Hobbie is also American. Growing up I was exposed to 'cutesie' greeting cards and ornaments that had Holly Hobbie written all over them, so when I began in the library and found books by Holly Hobbie I thought it was a joke, but I have subsequently learned that she is responsible for both. Nowadays she is best known as the author of Toot and Puddle books and her newer books about Fanny. Toot and Puddle are pigs, but they behave like children and the stories are about, friendship, adventures and everyday things.

30th October Morris Lurie (1938)

Morris Lurie is an Australian author and while quite prolific, he is not chiefly known as a children's writer. He is however the author of the novel that I most enjoy serialising for children. I have never met a child who has not been left hanging at the end of a chapter, dying for more. Every young child laughs at, empathises with and relates to its hero, Edward. The book, you must read The Twenty-Seventh Annual African Hippopotamus Race. Gosh!

29th October World Teachers' Day (Australia)

Internationally World Teacher's Day is celebrated on the first Friday in October, however this is usually in the school holidays in Australia, so we celebrate on the last Friday of October. With the theme 'Recovery begins with teachers', World Teachers' Day is a tribute to teachers' vital role in social, economic and intellectual rebuilding.

Teachers are a vitally important education resource. Quality education cannot happen without them. UNESCO estimates that just to reach the goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015, an additional 1.9 million new trained teachers are needed worldwide.

If you feel undervalued or you have had a bad day check out Youtube, a teacher appreciation website or read one of these books. Suddenly you will feel inspired to keep going, you'll be reinvigorated and feel you can be just like 'Ms Frizzle'.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

28th October

Continuing the Halloween theme...hoot, howl and haunt. Recently I purchased five books that fit right in here as well. Firstly, Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara. This book has a limited colour palette, black, white and orange, but there is nothing old-fashioned about it. The orange is dense and the white is translucent creating the 'ghostly' phantoms that seem to float on the pages. It is a beautiful book.

Secondly, The Story of the Jack O'Lantern by Katherine Tegen and Brandon Dorman. I purchased this because many children and parents were asking questions about the origins of the Jack O'Lantern and why it was of such significance. This story answers these questions.

Thirdly, a new addition to the Gossie series. Gossie is an endearing gosling who features in a series of small books for preschoolers by Olivier Dunrea called Gossie and Friends. This new story is called Ollie's Halloween and in it Gossie, Peedie, Ollie, Gertie and BooBoo all get dressed up for Halloween. It includes all of the usual Halloween images, cornstalks, pumpkins, treats etc.

Fourthly, Scaredy-Cat Splat! by Rob Scotton. This is the fourth book about Splat and this topic will ensure he continues to be popular. Splat is indeed a scaredy cat in this book. He just doesn't cope with all that Halloween entails, even with a spider.

And lastly, a new Stillwater, the Zen Buddhist panda, book by Jon J. Muth, Zen Ghosts. This book is longer than the others listed here and for older children. It will elicit and probably require considerable discussion as it contains a story within a story. But as with the previous two stories, the gentle watercolours are exquisite and add to the contemplative nature of the book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

27th October

Halloween is nearly here and the children I teach have been talking about costumes and where they are going for Halloween since school came back for Term 4. I take the opportunity to put out on display all the books that are remotely related to Halloween. My shelves are so tightly packed that gems won't be borrowed unless displayed. Out come books on ghosts, witches, wizards, monsters, the dark, is a real smorgasbord. The books are borrowed though which is good, even oldies like Vivian French's Little Ghost; Colin and Jacqui Hawkins' Come for a Ride on the Ghost Train; Spooks and Vampires; Frank Rodgers' Who's Afraid of the Ghost Train?; Ruth Brown's A Dark, Dark Tale; Linda Williams' The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything; and Daniel Postgate's The Hairy Toe.

Then there's the newer, very popular ones such as:
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart
Spookyrumpus by Tony Mitton
Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan
Pumpkin Moon by Tim Preston
Boo! by Lois Ehlert
Mona the Vampire by Sally Holleyman

Monday, October 25, 2010

26th October Christobel Mattingley (1931) Eric Rohmann (1957)

Christobel Mattingley is a revered Australian author. She is commited to social justice, cultural issues and the natural environment and uses these as themes in her many books. She often writes about the effects of war and refugees. See The Miracle Tree; The Angel With the Mouth-Organ and her trilogy of novels about Asmir which begins with No Gun For Asmir.

Christobel began her working life as a librarian and teacher librarian before becoming a full-time writer. She writes for a wide audience. She has picture books such as The Race which is a story of injustice in a school setting, easy chapter books such as the ones she has done for the Aussie Bites series, Ginger and Hurry Up, Alice and then novels such as her recent Chelonia Green: Champion of Turtles, which is perfect for class discussions about threats to the environment with Year 2 and 3 classes.

Eric Rohmann is an American illustrator. He has illustrated books for others and written some for himself. His beautiful hand-coloured relief prints in My Friend Rabbit won the Caldecott Medal in 2003. He is also the illustrator of the covers for Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

25th October International School Library Day

Today is International School Library Day which has been extended this year to make October International School Library Month. What a wonderful thing to celebrate. I put a display on the noticeboard outside the library reminding parents and children of all the wonderful things libraries do and why their library is particularly good. The theme for 2010 is Diversity, Challenge, Resilience: School libraries have it all. There are good posters on the websites here and here.

I also displayed the conclusions from the report Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement; A Review of the Research that says "Existing research shows that school libraries can have a positive impact, whether measured in terms of reading scores, literacy or learning more generally, on student achievement. " It also says among other things, that there is evidence to show that
* a strong library program that is adequately staffed, resourced and funded can lead to higher student achievement...;
* the quality of the collection has an impact on student learning;
* test scores are higher when there is higher usage of the school library;
* a print-rich environment leads to more reading, and free voluntary reading is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary growth, spelling and grammatical ability and writing style;
* the extent to which books are borrowed from school libraries shows a strong relationship with reading achievement whereas borrowing from classroom libraries does not;
* libraries can make a positive difference to students' self-esteem, confidence, independence and sense of responsibility in regard to their own learning.

I am lucky, the school library I work in and am responsible for is well funded and has an exceptional collection of resources, but they do not 'walk' off the shelves without the commitment of the staff to using literature to teach in all curriculum areas, not just when teaching English.

I found this lovely picture and verse above. Thank you to Peter Golkin and Melissa Sweet. No one could have said it better. You need to go to the library no matter the weather or the mode of is a pressing need in those of us who love libraries and sharing their many benefits with others.

25th October Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

There seems too be so much written about the famous artist, Picasso and so much of it is in picture book format and accessible to young children. For this reason, I am always happy when a class in the Prep school choose to do an artist study on Picasso. The books start at the board book level with Painting With Picasso by Julie Merberg and Picasso For Kids by Margaret Hyde. Then there are picture story books such as Laurence Anholt's Picasso and the Girl With the Ponytail, P.I.Maltbie's Picasso and Minou, Nina Laden's When Pigasso Met Mootisse and Paris in the Spring With Picasso by Jean Yolleck.

And amongst the many informative non-fiction titles these four stand out. There is the biographical The Boy Who Bit Picasso by Antony Penrose, My Little Picasso by Marie Sellier and the Adventures in Art title, A Day With Picasso by Susanne Pfleger, but the not-to-be-missed-by -anyone book is Alain Serres' And Picasso Painted Guernica. While the young children I teach see the absolute magnificence and horror of the painting, older children can follow the text and put the painting in a context and adults can revisit and learn more about the painting and the complex political events surrounding it. There is so much to contemplate here and French children's writer, Serres, whose birthday was on 21st October (1956) has produced a truly beautiful book, perfect for all audiences despite the context of the painting.

24th October Meilo So

Meilo So is Hong Kong born Chinese, but she was educated and lives in Britain. She has illustrated many picture books, including folktales, poetry and original stories. A favourite in the library is Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop: The Tale of a Very Greedy Cat which is a retelling of an Indian folktale. In it a greedy tabby cat swallows a parrot, an old woman, a farmer and donkey and then all in the sultan's wedding procession. The cat gets fatter and fatter just like it does in the Danish folktale, The Fat Cat, until two crabs end the greed and just as in the Jack Kent version all the victims emerge from the cat's stomach unscathed. Certainly it is a preposterous story, but the children love the silliness and joining in with the repetitive refrain. I also particularly like Wishbones which is a Chinese version of Cinderella where the bones of a fish have magical qualities. It is written by Barbara Ker Wilson.

23rd October

On November 5th it will be Divali, or the Festival of Lights. This is India's biggest holiday and it marks the Hindu New Year. The Year 1 teachers study Celebrations with their children this term ansd as part of the unit of enquiry they look at Divali. While there now are quite a few non-fiction information books, two that imbed the information in a story format are Jonny Zucker's Lighting a Lamp and Rama's Return by Lisa Bruce. The latter is part of the Flying Fox series of readers. In it Jaya's mother tells the story of Rama and Sita, upon which the New Year celebrations are based. They make rangoli patterns, those beautiful, symmetrical patterns made with chalk or coloured rice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

22nd October Marjorie Flack (1897 - 1958)

Marjorie Flack was an author and illustrator, sometimes illustrating books written by other authors, as she did in The Country Bunnies and sometimes writing herself but having someone else do the illustrations as she did in her most popular book The Story of Ping. She did both in her series of books about her Scottish terrier, Angus, and it was while she was doing research for her book Angus and the Ducks that she became fascinated by Peking ducks and had the idea to write The Story of Ping. She asked Kurt Wiese to illustrate it because he had lived in China. This book is still popular with the children who use my library. They quickly ascertain the moral or the theme about how home with rules is still better than what freedom might offer. The discussion about smacking is always interesting too and it gives you a chance to talk about how books reflect the time in which they were printed.

21st October Ursula Le Guin (1929) Janet Ahlberg (1944 - 1994)

Ursula K. Le Guin is an American writer, known for writing fantasy, science fiction and magical realism. Catwings, a series of four books, is an allegorical text written for younger readers than her other novels. Book 1 begins when a homeless city cat, Mrs Jane Tabby has four kittens who are born with wings. The stories chart the kitten's adventures as they try to survive and ultimately escape poverty.

Janet Ahlberg, wife of writer Allan Ahlberg was an illustrator of his books and others. She won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice, once for Each Peach Pear Plum and then again for The Jolly Christmas Postman which followed on from the success of the earlier The Jolly Postman. In my library she is revered by the children for the ever popular series Funnybones.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

20th October Crockett Johnson (1906 - 1975) Bob Graham (1942)

Crockett Johnson (David Johnson Leisk) was an American cartoonist who became a well-known children's book illustrator because of his wonderful character, Harold of Harold and the Purple Crayon and illustrations that he did for authors such as his wife, Ruth Krauss. While his Harold books may not always seem to be in print, they do come and go in new formats and just recently I purchased an attractive, yet of its time, edition of Magic Beach.

Bob Graham is an Australian author illustrator, who is well known here and overseas because of the quality of his writing and illustrations. He has won many awards. Many of his books have been shortlisted or won Children's Book Council awards, probably more often than any other Australian children's writers. Bob Graham's stories focus on family life and ordinary events in children's lives. They are suffused with warmth. They are gentle and often have tolerance or human kindness as themes. Even stories where the title suggests one thing such as in Crusher is Coming there is that gentleness and tenderness. In a more recent tile, How to Heal a Broken Wing that humanity is never far from the surface as the young boy cares for the bird that fell from the sky. Bob says that he is old-fashioned because he still uses pen, paper, chalks and scissors and not a computer but I hope he keeps writing and illustrating this way because whatever he does it works.

19th October Ed Emberley (1931) Lisa Westberg Peters (1951)

Ed Emberley is the patriarch of a very creative family. Together with his wife Barbara, a librarian, who retold the folk tale for him to illustrate, he published award winning Drummer Hoff. By himself he has produced a large number of drawing books, that children can use to make their own illustrations, and which a group of adults have used to produce large public storyboards. Together with daughter, Rebecca he has produced many lovely, brightly coloured, very distinctive picture books, many of which are about monsters. His other child Michael Emberley is a well-known illustrator, his granddaughter Adrian has published books with him and her mother and he is the father-in-law of author/ illustrator Marie -Louise Fitzpatrick. What a family! The Red Hen, his newest collaboration with daughter, Rebecca ids just about to be released. Of course it is a twist on that favourite, The Little Red Hen.

Lisa Westberg Peters is an American author who has a strong interest in science and her best books reflect this. Two books that are in the library that Year 1 make good use of during their unit of enquiry that looks at what is under the ground are Earthshake; Poems From the Ground Up and Volcano Wakes Up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

18th October Colin Thompson (1942)

Colin Thompson lives in Australia and now we say he is Australian. How he came to be here I think is one of the best romance stories in the world of children's literature... an Australian teacher librarian raises money with her students to bring Colin Thompsonout from England on a visit to their school. He comes and likes it so much, he decides to stay and marries the librarian! Now he does his amazing artwork and writes his novels in Bellingen in northern New South Wales. You can read all about him and his work on his very comprehensive website. The readers in my library like to pore over the detail in the picture books that he illustrates himself, such as The Tower to the Sun; How to Live Forever; Castles and The Paradise Garden.

17th October Alan Garner (1934)

Alan Garner is a very well-known British author, but I don't think of him as an author for young children. His much-loved fantasies such as Elidor are for much older readers, but he has three books in my library, and it is these I want to highlight here. Each is a retelling of stories you will know, but Garner has a wonderful way with words and the two illustrated by Norman Messenger have art work worth savouring. Once Upon a Time... includes three different types of cumulative tale, The Fox, the Hare and the Cock; The Girl and the Geese and Battibeth.