Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1st December Jan Brett (1949)

Jan Brett is an American author illustrator with a long list of books to her credit. Her website is a teacher's treasure trove. It has teaching ideas, reader's theatre scripts, worksheets, craft templates, videos and interviews. There is everything you would ever need to do an author study! At this time of year you could just do her Christmas titles! My library has Twelve Days of Christmas, The Night Before Christmas, and Christmas Trolls and there are others. Yesterday a class at school cooked Christmas biscuits. This could have been done using Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby book, the gingerbread recipe and video from her website. My favourite of Jan's many books is Honey...Honey... Lion! because having read about a honey badger in Mwenye Hadithi's Lazy Lion the children wanted to find out more about them and we found this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jan Brett's animals are always a joy, full of personality, very detailed and in realistic contexts. She does hedgehogs so well, like Jackie French does wombats and I have just read on her website that she has a pet hedgehog, so no wonder. Jan has illustrated a myriad of fairytales, fables and poems.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30th November Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745) L.M. Montgomery (1874 -1942)

Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, poet and Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. He is best known as the author of Gulliver's Travels. Is this a children's book? The idea definitely appeals to children even if the length and language doesn't appeal to modern children. A good way to introduce the idea is to use a book like Usborne's Young Reading Gulliver' Travels or serialise an abridged version such as the one written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by award winning Chris Riddell, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver. This book contains all of Gulliver's voyages and because Riddell has brought to life Swift's imagination in his depictions of the people, creatures and kingdoms, it is more accessible to younger readers than the original.

L. M. Montgomery was a Canadian author. She always published her books using her initials in this way. Her name was Lucy Maud, but she was known to family and friends as Maud. She is best known for her series about a young orphan called Anne. We first meet her as an eleven year old in Anne of Green Gables. As for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, children often first meet Anne in a movie or television series, however also like Gulliver, young children can get to know her through abridged versions such as Mary-Claire Hellendorfer and Ellen Beier's Anne of Green Gables which is a picture book version.

29th November Louisa May Alcott (1832 - 1888) C.S.Lewis (1898 - 1963) Jane Tanner (1946) Jackie French (1953) Adrian Reynolds (1963)

What a lot of birthdays! The first two, Louisa May Alcott and C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis need very little introduction and their classics, Little Women and the Narnia series of books were written for children older than those I teach, even though they know of them from movies, so I do not intend to write about them.

Jane Tanner is an Australian illustrator who lives in Melbourne and was a secondary school art teacher before becoming a fulltime illustrator. Each of her illustrations looks like a painting that could be framed and as such her illustrations are meticulous. She rarely does more than a book every year or so. She has said, "I've always been fascinated by the changes in mood created by the play of light in a particular place and time..." and this can beseen clearly in her Children's Book Council Picture Book of the Year winner Drac and the Gremlin which is written by Allan Baillie. There's a Sea in My Bedroom is another popular book that Jane illustrated.

Jackie French is also Australian. She is an author and far more prolific than Jane Tanner. She writes for a broad age group, doing humorous picture books, short stories, historical novels for young adults, historical non fiction and even gardening books. Her website tells you all about her and her myriad of books. For my children it is hard to go past her Shaggy Gully Books, in particular Diary of a Wombat. This book with its very minimal text amuses readers of all ages. And her Wacky Families series amuses my good Year 2 readers. They like to work their way through the lot once they been hooked with the first one, usually My Auntie Chook the Vampire Chicken.

Adrian Reynolds is the British illustrator responsible for Harry and the Dinosaurs with the author Ian Whybrow. Their website is amazing. It provides you with all sorts of reading record proformas, information for parents who are reluctant to read to their children, and things to use in the classroom. Of course Adrian has illustrated other books as well. A favourite in the library is Who's in the Loo? by Jeanne Willis, but as well as other Jeanne Willis books , he has done Michael Rosen's books about Bear and books for Jonathan Emmett.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

28th November Tomi Ungerer (1931) Ed Young (1931) David Wyatt (1968)

Today is the birthday of three amazing illustrators! Each has a very distinct style and each has many memorable illustrations worth perusing.

Tomi Ungerer, the French illustrator was born Jean-Thomas Ungerer in Strasbourg. He has had a colourful career, moving a number of times, changing work focus often and being an inveterate collector. He moved to the USA in 1956 and had his first children's book published very soon after. As well as children's books he published many adult books. Many readers say that his books are 'unusual' which is probably a polite way of saying they don't like them, but I do. I particularly like The Beast of Monsieur Racine, Crictor and his twisted fairytales. I remember reading his version of Red Riding Hood to a year five and we were talking about the ending where she ate the wolf for weeks to come. Ungerer won the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1998 and in 2007 Strasbourg honoured him by opening the Tomi Ungerer Museum.

Ed Young is an American illustrator who was born in China, living in Shanghai and Hong Kong before moving to the USA to study architecture. While there he turned instead to art and illustration. He has illustrated a multitude of books, mainly for other authors. He won the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story From China and has been nominated for the Hans Christian Anderson Award twice. Ed's illustrations often include collage and often they appear dark, but they are very dramatic and add a dimension to the author's text that certainly enhance the words and make the book long lasting. His best books often have an Asian origin and he is able to bring the story alive authentically. This is obvious in Tsunami; Wabi Sabi; Beyond the Great Mountains; Monkey King and Cat and Rat. Ed Young would make my list of top ten illustrators!

David Wyatt is an English illustrator, best known for his illustrations of fantasy for authors such as Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Dianne Wynne Jones. Look at his website to see just how detailed and beautiful his illustrations are. In my library there is very little of his work except in Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet which is a beautifully illustrated 'gift' book.

27th November Lilith Norman (1927) Kevin Henkes (1960)

Lilith Norman was a librarian and an editor of the School Magazine in New South Wales. She did not become an author until her time at the magazine. She wrote mainly novels but has picture books to her credit as well. She has said, "I like to write about ordinary children trying to cope , for I believe that most of us can cope with whatever is thrown at us...". Her book Grandpa depicts a family of three generations living together until the grandfather dies. This book looks at memories and death in a compassionate way and is perfect for a family who is grieving the death of a grandparent. Noela Young's very realistic illustrations make it all the more authentic. The Paddock also offers the opportunity for genuine involvement. It encourages readers to consider the environment and their place in it.

Kevin Henkes is an American author/illustrator He is popular in my library for his 'mouse' books. Several of his best known characters are mice. There is Lilly, Sheila Rae, Chester, Wemberly, Wendell and of course Chrysanthemum. Each of these books is wonderful for Circle Time as they have so much to discuss in relation to children and how they behave. A teacher I work with often uses Wemberly Worried to reassure the worrywarts in her class. Another teacher always starts the year with Chrysanthemum. Kevin does do picture books without mouse characters and one of them, Kitten's First Full Moon won the Caldecott Medal in 2005, but for me these don't work as well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

26th November Sally Odgers (1957) Simon French (1957)

Sally Odgers is a prolific Australian author who writes for a large age range and on a wide variety of subjects. In my library she is popular because of her series Jack Russell:Dog Detective which she writes with her husband. In these a dog also named Jack Russell lives with his friend Sarge and together they solve mysteries. Her website says that she has a number of Jack Russell dogs so it is little surprise that she has chosen them as characters for books. She is also responsible for another series of books, Little Horrors, about bad fairies, which she writes as Tiffany Mandrake. The main characters in this series are based on traditional bad fairies, the sort present in literature and life before the Victorian era, but they also behave like and have a lot in common with girls around seven to eight, the audience who read them. This year Sally released a large picture/information book called Fantastic Creatures which is illustrated by Mark Salwowski and it is constantly being borrowed and at times almost fought over.

Simon French is also an Australian author. He started to write his first novel while he was still at high school and went on to write many more novels for young adolescents, but as a teacher of very young children he has also written picture books. Two that are set in a multicultural infants classroom are Guess the Baby and What Will You Be? Both are illustrated by Donna Rawlins.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

25th November P.D.Eastman (1909 - 1986) Marc Brown (1946) Crescent Dragonwagon (1952) Jim LaMarche

It is the birthday for four Americans today:
P.D. Eastman is the name Philip Dey Eastman used on his books that he wrote and illustrated for Ted Giesel's (aka Dr Seuss) series of Beginner Books. He wrote several books, but is best known for Are You My Mother? which turned 40 this year. It is still very popular with beginning readers who enjoy the plot and feel amazed that they can read a whole book!

Marc Brown is the author of the Arthur books. Next year Arthur will be 35, so he is another 'stayer' in children's literature. My children often ask,"but what is he?'' Arthur is an aardvark, an animal that they know very little about. Last year during our safari for Book Week, one class researched aardvarks and decided that Arthur didn't act much like an aardvark. He was more like a child just like them! Marc Brown is interviewed on a Reading Rocket Video.

Crescent Dragonwagon is a name that each time I see I have a little chuckle to myself and think that it can't possibly be her real name, and I have just read that it is not the name she was born with. It is a great story if you are interested in people and how they think at certain points in time. I knew that she was Charlotte Zolotow's daughter, so I guessed it was a pseudonym, but not so. Although Crescent has written a number of books, there is only one in my library, a lovely, lyrical poem Half a Moon and One Whole Star illustrated very evocatively by Jerry Pinkney.

Jim LaMarche is an illustrator of beautiful books where the children in them seem larger than life and so close to the eye. See the interview with him here. I first met his work in Dennis Haseley's A Story For Bear, Laura Krauss Melmed's The Rainbabies and Little Oh, but more recently I have purchased The Elves and the Shoemaker and Up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

24th November Carlo Collodi (1826 - 1890) Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849 - 1924) Yoshiko Uchida (1921 - 1992)

Today there is three authors and the first two are best known for one particular book. The third is better known for her novels but I want to highlight a picture book.

Carlo Collodi was the pen name for Carlo Lorenzini, an Italian journalist who wrote The Adventures of Pinocchio, initially as a serial for an Italian children's magazine. This story of a wooden puppet who comes to life has a big impact on very young children, possibly because of the fact that his nose grows if he tells a lie. The story has inspired many movies, abbreviated versions and spin-offs.

Frances Hodgson Burnett was born in England, but travelled backwards and forwards several times between there and the USA. She is the author of the classic, The Secret Garden, a book that has also been made into movies and a multitude of variants. Many of the versions have been illustrated by quite illustrious members of the children's literature world.
like Inga Moore and Robert Ingpen.

Yoshiko Uchida was born in USA to Japanesse immigrant parents. During WWII she was taken from her university and interred in a camp because USA no longer felt comfortable about its Japanese immigrants after Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. Because of this Yoshiko's many novels focus on the Japanese-American experience and highlight bigotry and racism. However, in my library the book we have is the picture book The Magic Purse which is a retelling of a Japanese folktale. It tells the story of a poor farmer who meets a maiden on his way to the shrine and then takes a detour to the Red Swamp to deliver a message to her parents. Keiko Narahashi illustrated the story with watercolours and bold black strokes that evoke Japanese scroll paintings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

23rd November Marc Simont (1915) Jeannette Rowe (1954) Anna Fienberg (1956)

Marc Simont was born in Paris to Spanish parents. His father was a painter and illustrator. Simont went to New York in 1935 to study art. He has illustrated nearly a hundred books, but is probably best known for his Caldecott Medal winning book A Tree is Nice and his illustrations for Marjorie Weiman Sharmat's Nate the Great series of books. My personal favourite of Simont's books is James Thurber's wonderful fairytale The Thirteen Clocks.

Jeannette Rowe is an Australian illustrator who is an infant and preschool phenomenon. She has three very popular series which are brightly coloured, have clear and simple text, good-quality paper and interesting formats. Her website tells you everything you need to know and the colour and layout gives you a lift too!

Anna Fienberg is also Australian but she is an author, the one who together with her mother is responsible for the Tashi stories which the children in my library cannot get enough of. They hang out for the next instalment and are constantly asking 'when'? Recently a complete compendium of Tashi stories was produced and children could be seen in the playground 'cuddling' their 'big fat book'. Of course she has written other things that are just as worth reading like the Minton books, Horrendo's Curse, Madeline the Mermaid and The Magnificent Nose and Other Marvels.

22nd November Jamie Lee Curtis (1958)

You might think of Jamie Lee Curtis as an actress, famous for movies such as A Fish Called Wanda, but she is also an author and together with Laura Cornell she has produced many picture books. I love Is There Really a Human Race? because it looks at how easy it is to misunderstand the English language when you are small and concerned about matters that adults might not even contemplate. It will certainly make you laugh. There is a particularly interesting five minute interview with Jamie here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

22nd November World Hello Day

Yesterday was World Hello Day. I thought that it was a funny thing to be having, so I looked up why it is celebrated. It was interesting to learn that anyone can take part simply by greeting ten people so as to emphasise how important personal communication is for preserving peace. So in classes today we talked about it and decided we would try to say hello to ten people each today. We read Say Hello by Jack and Michael Foreman and Duffy Everyone's Dog by Patricia Bernard and Cathy Netherwood. Both of these books stress how important it is to speak to and include others. They also are multicultural in that they look at the word for 'hello' in a multitude of languages. We then used the Say Hello to the World website to look up how to say hello in even more languages. Researching I also found that Rachel Isadora has a new book called Say Hello which is about Carmelita who goes walking with her mother and dog through her neighbourhood stopping to say hello to friends and shopkeepers along the way. As in Duffy, which is no longer in print, the greetings are in many languages, so if your library does not have Duffy and you are looking for a book this may prove to be a good purchase. I will certainly look out for it as I like Rachel Isadora's books.

21st November Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 - 1991) Elizabeth George Speare (1908 - 1994)

There is some debate about the year in which Isaac Bashevis Singer was born, but this does not affect his place in literature. This Jewish, American writer who is best known for his short stories won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978. He was born in Poland and emigrated to USA in 1935, four years before the Holocaust. He wrote in Yiddish and his books were translated into English. He published fourteen children's books, my favourite being Why Noah Chose the Dove. This story gives a new perspective on a story that most children know well. Each animal tells Noah of their special qualities and why they should be allowed aboard. They are all taken aboard by Noah but when it comes time to choose a messenger, Noah chooses the dove because he did not boast. Singer says, "The dove lives happily without fighting. It is the bird of peace." Eric Carle illustrated the book and his animals, as always, add to the text to make it a book that no one should miss.

Elizabeth George Speare was also an American author. She was well known for her historical fiction and won the Newbery Medal twice. Her best known book The Witch of Blackbird Pond is now considered a 'classic' in children's literature. She didn't write for the age group I teach so I have nothing of hers to recommend for prep school children.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

20th November Universal Children's Day

I think Universal Children's Day is a good time to remind children that not every child in the world has a life like theirs. I like to start with A Life Like Mine, that book from Unicef that compares people's water consumption, resource usage, education etc all over the world. The children in Year 2 look closely at water as a resource so the statistics given in this book always shock them. David J. Smith's If the World Were a Village also puts their life in perspective. For younger children Kathryn Cave's W is for World is a good place to start. So is Kate Petty's series of books Around the World, which are published in association with Oxfam , because they highlight similarities while showing differences. They do this by photographing children from all over the world doing similar things. There are six books: Playtime; Home; Hair; Bicycles; Our Animals and At School. Alternatively, you could use a book to reiterate the Rights of the Child (see For Every Child or We Are All Born Free) and then choose one as a focus such as education and read Jeanette Winter's Nasreen's Secret School which enables children to see the ramifications of the lack of girls' education in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

19th November

Claude Monet is probably the most studied artist in my school and because of this I have collected a large number of books about him and his paintings. He is the subject of an artist study in Kindergarten. His waterlily paintings are revisited when Year 2 study water and he seems to 'pop up' at other times too, as he did this year when we looking at bridges in art. If he is popular at your school too and you are looking for books for a very young audience these are perfect:
* A Picnic With Monet by Julie Merberg & Suzanne Bober (board book)
* Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies by True Kelley
* Claude Monet: The Magician of Colour by Stephan Koja (Adventures in Art)
* For the Love of Claude by Brenda V.Northeast
* Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
* Linnea in Monet's Garden by Cristina Bjork & Lena Andersen (there is a DVD too)
* Monet's Impressions by Claude Monet
* Once Upon a Lily Pad: Love in Monet's Garden by Joan Sweeney & Kathleen Fain
* Philippe in Monet's Garden by Lisa Carmack
* The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt